just say it

Anyone who has ever been groped knows that it’s a power play. There are no doubt people in the world who get a specific rush from touching people in public, but the span of people who have touched me - and half of the women I know - inappropriately suggests that it’s not about pleasure as much as it is about selfishness and dominance, the idea that something looks nice and must therefore be for them. The way you squeeze an avocado or a melon at the grocery store. They’re both things, not people, so their wants don’t matter.

I read a quote from Jeff Flake recently that he doesn’t believe Brett Kavanaugh is “a serial sexual predator.” It boggles my mind how much this misses the point, and how much we are still missing the point despite all of our so-called “progress” over the last few decades. A rapist doesn’t have to be someone who repeatedly seeks out women under dark of night. It just has to be someone who thinks that other people exist for them - not with them, but for them. Or who did, at one point, even if they no longer do. But I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised anymore. This is what money and privilege give you - the reinforced belief that your needs are paramount, because no one else has the power to fight you back.

You would probably be shocked at the number of “nice boys” I’ve seen behave badly in exactly this way. Because they can, because no one has ever shown them any kind of consequence. Boys who were active in church, boys who held office. Literal choir boys. Nice nerdy boys and nice jock boys. Boys from good families. Boys with good grades. I have known them. All of us have, even if we chose not to look.

They were not all beyond repair - I have seen boys who changed their ways, who were repentant when confronted with the idea that a woman might have a different idea in mind. Boys who made a sincere effort to be kind and respectful and treat girls as equals, even if they had made mistakes before. That is not what we see here. Even if Brett Kavanaugh is somehow innocent - and if you ask me, I have my doubts - his rage, his dismissiveness, his tolerance of a pageant designed to make a woman feel like gum ground into the floor does not suggest that he is one of them.

In case it is not obvious, I am nearly inarticulate with rage at every aspect of this scandal. I just got back from Afghanistan, where I was working with a project that focuses on female empowerment, and the Afghan men I met on that team were more respectful of women and engaged in their progress than any of the men who disgraced themselves at yesterday’s hearing. I cannot believe that I have come back to see this. I do not want to believe that this is where we are as a country, and yet I have no choice. I am a woman. Of course I have no choice.

(And because I am having trouble stringing my thoughts together, what with the blinding fury and all, I suggest you go read Simcha Fisher’s take on this. As she says:

There is no sober, cautious examination of the facts, here, from his supporters. All of these arguments rush to the conclusion that he did do exactly what Christine Blasey Ford accuses him of doing. And they are okay with that. They’re willing to wave away the violent attempted rape of a 15-year-old girls as inconsequential. Why?

Because  . . . she was just a girl, and that’s what girls are for.

Even if you don’t agree with her politics, it’s worth reading.)

When I think about these boys, I keep coming back to this very specific memory from my freshman year of college. A classmate I considered a friend - a churchgoing boy, a boy in the nice nerdy fraternity, a boy I’d known from an honors program - told me that girls like me were fine for dating, but that he wanted to marry a “nice girl.” At that point, I’d never had a real boyfriend, and my experiences with men were limited at best. I didn’t know then, and don’t know now, exactly what caused him to classify me like that; it might have been my outspokenness, or my use of profanity, or the fact that I went out and drank on some weekends, just like 80% of the rest of the student body (and 90% of his friends). It didn’t matter. He had made his judgment, and I was just there to live with it.

At the time, I was livid. But in retrospect, I am grateful to him for being explicit about his own biases. He said out loud what these honorable public men are trying to disguise behind their bloviating: that not all women were worthy of respect, especially not the inconvenient ones. Sometimes I wish they would just say what we can all see, that what women want doesn’t matter to them. But of course they won’t. That would assume that we deserve to hear the truth. And besides, it’s not nice.



a few miscellaneous thoughts

Mostly so I don't forget that this blog exists *and* that I am capable of using it. (The number of saved draft posts climbs ever higher.)

  • If you've ever wondered if The Book of Face is listening to you through your device's microphone, this Reply All episode offers an (unsatisfying) answer. They also talk about how to see the way the site's algorithms categorize you. Which was oddly reassuring, because while that sounds scary, when I looked at my profile, I learned that they got a very important thing about me very wrong. (No, I'm not telling you what it is.)
  • Alison Krauss & Union Station's "The Lucky One": the bluegrass counterpart to "You're So Vain." Discuss.

(Also, what an amazing description of male privilege.

Well you're blessed, I guess
By never knowin' which road you're choosin'
To you the next best thing to playin' and winnin' is playin' and losin'...

  • Went hiking in Shenandoah and, in addition to spending an afternoon in lovely weather, saw a pretty badass spider and an impressive stick bug. Which reminds me of one of my favorite jokes: what's brown and sticky? (A stick.)


  • My parents moved to DC (sort of) this spring, which means I get to hang out a lot with Odie, who most people agree is the World's Greatest Dog. Here he is watching Stranger Things 2 with me. 

And here he is being a good boy on a walk and clearly enjoying himself a little bit more.


Happy fall, y'all.


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Mom and Dad at my sister Candace's wedding.

Mom and Dad at my sister Candace's wedding.

Judgment - the ability to make reasoned decisions that help more people than they don't - seems, sometimes, like an unsung quality. At my sister's wedding, it was the quality I most singled out in her, but she's not alone in that. I think she probably got it from my mom.

My mom straddles the line between rationality and mercy better than anyone that I know. She is eminently practical, but it's a practicality that encompasses self-care: she recognizes the intractable nature of human foibles. Is it a good idea to keep that nice shirt you got at a bargain? Not if it makes you feel terrible and you're never going to wear it. Should you spend a bunch of money on skincare when your budget is limited? Well, if taking care of yourself is the only thing that's keeping you sane as you try to expand your budget, it might not be as terrible as it sounds. Is it worth it to stop talking to someone who's not being a great friend? Consider waiting it out for a bit, if it doesn't hurt you.

I am an adult woman who is capable of most adult things, but I still call my mom all the time. I call her to ask how I should word a potentially contentious email. I call her to see if she thinks that it's worth it to pay for a nonstop flight. I call her to ask if jersey pants are unacceptable for the workforce. I called her yesterday, when I baked a cake in the wrong type of pan and it exploded all over the oven, both to get her opinion on how to handle the cake and to ask if it would be okay to clean the oven the next day. (Cake: crumble it up and serve it with ice cream. Oven: if you don't have a self-cleaning feature, then yes, but also consider a self-cleaning feature if you have the opportunity to choose your ovens in future.)

My mother has *such* good judgment, in fact, that it's become a standing joke among a couple of my friends: #istandwithrobin. Much like women across America stood with Wendy Davis as she countered SB5 in Texas, a few of my friends have decided that, wherever possible, they stand with Robin, to the point where they will sometimes ask what Robin would say or do. Which is funny not just in the way it personalizes a meme (although that's pretty much always funny), but also because my mother (Robin, in case you missed that) is both extremely humble and a hardcore introvert, the kind of person who would probably not enjoy filibustering or nationwide attention for very long. I am 99% sure that her response to this blog post will be, "That was very sweet, but you didn't have to do that." Nope. I didn't have to. I wanted to. 

And I wanted to do it partly to pay tribute to her, but also to point out the lie in the idea that leadership has to be people standing on a stage or people yelling. Robin is a leader, in that she sets an example for us in how to live better lives and how to treat other people. We - my siblings and I - want to be people that would make her proud. She is very shy. She has never been interviewed for anything on national television. She would probably not qualify for any institute on social entrepreneurship, now or in the past. But I would rather get advice from her than from any TED talk on the planet.

I've had to make a lot of big personal decisions lately, things that have an impact on where I'll live, and how, and with whom. Mom has been a neutral sounding board, supportive of my decisions but also hardcore in helping me think through their consequences. For that, and for everything else, #istandwithyou. Happy Mother's Day.


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remembering while forgetting

I think part of the reason that the events of recent days have caused so much anguish is that they call to mind a few very basic problems that are part of the human condition. How we make room in our lives for each other. Why we hurt each other, and how we recover from pain, and how it changes us. How we, as people, voluntarily create intolerable conditions, and what it means to know that those who do this are still our brothers and sisters, that any of this could have happened to - or been done by - any of us.

While there's clearly an immediate issue to address re: the refugee ban, if we want to keep moving forward as a society, there's another thing we can't forget: arriving is just the beginning. To a certain degree, I think, you never stop being a refugee. And dealing with the consequences of that, the trauma and the pain that gets passed down, isn't something we're very good at yet.

A few days ago I found this poem by one of my favorites, Li-Young Lee. He says all this better than I can.

Self-Help for Fellow Refugees

- Li-Young Lee

If your name
suggests a country where bells
might have been used for entertainment,
or to announce
the entrances and exits of the seasons
and the birthdays of gods and demons,
it's probably best to dress in plain clothes
when you arrive in the United States. 
And try not to talk too loud.

If you happen to have watched armed men
beat and drag your father
out the front door of your house
and into the back of an idling truck,
before your mother jerked you from the threshold
and buried your face in her skirt folds,
try not to judge your mother
too harshly. Don't ask her
what she thought she was doing,
turning a child's eyes away
from history
and toward that place all human aching starts.

And if, one day, you meet someone
in your adopted country and believe
you see in the other's face an open sky,
some promise of a new beginning,
it probably means
you're standing too far away.

Or if you think you read
in the other, as in a book
whose first and last pages are missing,
the story of your own birthplace, a country twice erased,
once by fire, once by forgetfulness,
it probably means you're standing too close.

In any case, try
not to let another carry
the burden of your own nostalgia or hope.

And if you're one of those
whose left side of the face doesn't match
the right, it might be a clue
looking the other way was a habit
your predecessors found useful for survival. 
Don't lament
not being beautiful. 
Get used to seeing while not seeing.
Get busy remembering
while forgetting. Dying to live
while not wanting to go on. 

Very likely, your ancestors decorated their bells
of every shape and size
with elaborate calendars and diagrams
of distant star systems,
but no maps
for scattered descendants.

And I bet you can't say
what language your father spoke
when he shouted to your mother
from the back of the truck, "Let the boy see!"

Maybe it wasn't the language you used at home. 
Maybe it was a forbidden language. 
Or maybe there was too much screaming
and weeping
and the noise of guns in the streets.

It doesn't matter. 
What matters is this:
The kingdom of heaven is good. 
But heaven on earth is better.

Thinking is good. 
But living is better.

in your favorite chair
with a book you enjoy
is fine. But spooning
is even better.


No maps for scattered descendants. Maybe those are what we need to write.


how to use Facebook (etc.) slightly more productively, or: facts plz

If you don't have the patience to read this blog post, here's what I want you to take away from it: you can't win an argument without a) making sure you have reputable facts and b) understanding where the other person is coming from. So stop sharing random stuff on Facebook without checking it first if you want to get anywhere. /tl;dr

Okay! So. A bit more on those two ideas.

Somewhat paradoxically, the two biggest influences on my thought and reasoning processes are my career as a HS debater and my mediation training. And man alive, they have never seemed more relevant than today.

Re: the first one: I was a Lincoln-Douglas debater in high school. I strongly recommend doing this, at least for a year or two, for anyone who has the stamina, because it is GRUELING. But what it does is teach you, quite literally, how to argue; you can't win a debate without proving the "value" that you're arguing for to be superior, and you can't do that without having both facts that stand up to scrutiny and counter-arguments that anticipate and address your opponent's claims. That's not a strategic recommendation - that's a requirement. (If you don't successfully address your opponent's claims, no matter how ridiculous they are, they officially stand, which is a point against you.) As a result, you learn quickly to check your sources for bias and to ensure that the facts you offer aren't limited to one or two instances. Or you're hosed. That's just how it works.

Which is why it pains me so to see people in the current political climate repeating claims without having bothered to check their sources or the nuances of an issue. It's true on both sides of the aisle, and it bugs me mostly because it is the FASTEST WAY TO LOSE AN ARGUMENT, full stop. Even if you're correct, nothing undermines your credibility more than revealing that the same source that you're citing on healthcare policy also claimed that you could cure your cancer with magnets and a glass of milk.

One would think that this stands to reason, but all one has to do is spend some time on one's social media platform to realize that hysteria - and the sharing of questionably sourced articles - is easier to give in to than one might think. Even the best of us will rely sometimes on a heartrending story, but that story isn't very useful unless it's representative of a larger argument. (Repeat after me: THE PLURAL OF ANECDOTE IS NOT DATA.)

And I get that this is annoying and exhausting and stressful, particularly when you're dealing with people who don't feel the need to do the same (again, both sides).  It doesn't seem like it should be necessary. But hell, it doesn't seem like it should be necessary for me to be telling you to check your facts, and here I am, writing this instead of doing something else, so.

However: there's a larger question about whether "winning an argument" is the framework we should be using at all for this. Which is where the mediation training comes in. (Don't worry, you're still going to need reliably-sourced facts for this.)

When I was in grad school, I took a training in order to become a court mediator. It's not an exaggeration to say that this training completely changed my way of thinking. The point of mediation is not to "win" per se; it's to come up with a mutually satisfying outcome for both parties. What that means, in practice, is that you have to understand what the other person wants, but more importantly, you have to understand why they want it and where that overlaps with what you want and why you want it.

There are probably a few people in the world who can see a completely different set of facts and say "Okay, you're right, I was wrong," but I don't know them. Most people, when they take a political stance, have a deeper driver that needs acknowledgment: I feel unsafe. I feel ignored. I feel overlooked or disrespected. Which is why just getting up and saying "Here are the facts, asshole" doesn't tend to work super well. It works in debate, of course, because there are judges there and pre-existing rules that everyone has agreed to abide by. But in life, and on Facebook, there's no one there to keep score and declare a winner.

So if you decide that you want to undertake the exhausting endeavor of getting someone else to agree with you, or at least disagree with you less, it's vital to acknowledge their concerns, EVEN IF YOU DON'T SHARE THEM. You don't have to share them to say "I understand that you feel that way." "I understand that you're concerned about safety." "I understand that you're worried about healthcare." And - I know this is crazy - TRY TO UNDERSTAND THEM. You're probably not going to agree! That's okay! You can at least use this as a metric to assess the arguments they present. And if you can find some common ground that way - "I am also concerned about safety, and can agree at least on X" - then the tenor of the argument has already gotten less vitriolic. 

And this is where the debate training comes back in. Your facts still need to be credible. You'll be much better prepared to understand where they're coming from if you've anticipated the counter-argument, and who knows, you might even have found some facts to address their concerns. But - thanks to the mediation approach - you won't be dealing with someone anymore who finds it actively painful and humiliating to agree with you. You don't want to put people in that position. It doesn't work.

Of course, I'm something of a hypocrite in this regard, because I try to stay out of social media-based arguments; as noted, they're exhausting, and I find it more effective for me personally to direct my energy in this area elsewhere. And I should also note that you may still not win, because emotions and power make people unreasonable. You're not going to be able to come to a civil agreement with everybody.

But - call me naive - I believe that people can change, and that more people than not can be at least spoken with. Nonetheless, you can't engage at all if all your "facts" are yelled and come from some rando's Twitter feed. This is an annoying baseline to begin with, but we've got to start somewhere.

I will leave you with this graphic, which I think is hugely important. You may disagree with a few of the placements (particular apologies to my friends who work at and/or read USAToday and CNN - I don't think that's fair), but the overall idea, I think, stands up pretty well.


A few important caveats:

1) If you use social media to vent to your friends and family and not to try to engage people, this does not apply to you. Yell all you want. I'm not judging you.

2) Yes, there is a useful debate to be had about who defines "credibility" and why some sources are viewed as more official than others. Unfortunately, in the current climate, I think you need to provide that context if that's going to be the basis of your argument. Fair? Nope. Exhausting? Yep. But, again, this is what we're dealing with.


beside the golden door

Dear refugees: We are sorry. I am sorry.

I just want you to know that. This America, the one you're seeing, the hateful one, the mean one, that's not us. At least, it's not us all the time. It's us at our worst and weakest. We're a mess right now, and we're not handling it very well.

And I am horrified that this could become your vision of our beautiful country: of ignorant policies driven by fear, that fly in the face of both facts and logic. I would understand where you might think that this is what all Americans believe, that we don't care about you. But I promise you that this is not the case.

Look, I'm not going to kid myself that you or anyone else is sitting around wondering what I have to say about this. But I am the daughter of a refugee, and I can't go to sleep tonight without joining my voice to the chorus of protest. I can't live with myself without trying to amplify in some way the message that we have not forgotten you, that you are not alone. There are millions of us, refugees and allies, followers of Jesus and Allah and the Buddha and nobody at all, and we love you and welcome you and believe that our world is better with you in it.

And for those of us lucky enough to have gotten here already, I am here to tell you that we will not pull up the ladder behind us. We will fight for you. Not just for better policies, because that's not enough; rightly or wrongly, people here are acting out of fear and ignorance, and those of us on the other side haven't always been very good at addressing that. We will do everything we can to advocate for you, our brothers and sisters, to understand why this has happened, to try and change that and build this country again into a place that welcomes you. It's not going to be easy. Changing hearts and minds never is. But that doesn't make it less necessary.

It may look like our lamp has fallen and our door has closed. It hasn't. Even in the dark, there are some of us still here, trying to start a fire that will lead you home.




not for all my little words

Growing up in Florida, I think I always took the existence of palm trees for granted.

If you've never seen one, if you've only ever grown up with maple and pine and birch trees, a palm tree could be difficult to imagine, because it probably challenges all your notions of what a tree should be. There are no real branches, and its leaves only appear at the top of the tree. Its bark often grows in layers, like a series of stacked funnels, and it usually lists a little to the side, as though it's responding to a wind that isn't there. 

But even if you've never seen one, believing that they exist isn't that hard. There are photographs. You have my testimony, but even if you don't trust me, there is probably someone in your life whom you do trust who has seen one and can vouch for the plant's existence. In all likelihood, you have eaten a coconut. (At the very least, coconut is available at your grocery store.)

If you've never seen one, you can, of course, insist that they're not real, because no one can stop you. I can say that I am actually a dragon if I want to. But just because I say it doesn't make it true. I know that palm trees exist, and even if I hadn't seen them myself, there's enough evidence out there for me to believe in them.

This is how I feel about privilege, and racism, and inequality in America. Telling me they don't exist is like telling me that palm trees aren't real. You can say whatever you want, but it doesn't change the facts.

When I was six or seven years old, my father and I went to the customer service kiosk in DeSoto Square Mall to get a gift certificate for my friend's birthday present. While we were there, the people working the desk tried to give us a toddler. 

She had gotten lost, or been abandoned, or something, and aside from the color of her skin, she looked nothing like us. Also, she was speaking Spanish. This did not change the mall staff's conviction that the baby was ours. 

"That's not my kid," my father said. "I came to buy a gift certificate."

"Sir," they said, "we found your baby. You can't just leave your child."

"But it's not my baby," he said. "That baby is Mexican. I don't even speak Spanish. I'm Asian."

Believe it or not, this went on for quite a bit longer, despite the complete illogic of the situation: why would a baby abandoner return to the scene of the crime? Why would a baby loser not just take their baby back? What didn't they understand about the words "I came to buy a gift certificate"? 

And what I think has stuck with me, even more than the weird mix-up, is the mall staff's complete refusal to believe my father, despite all the evidence to the contrary. He fit their mental model of the child's father (man with brown skin), so it didn't matter to them what he said. It was like he hadn't said anything. That was how much weight they gave it. 

This refusal to validate or take seriously a person's opinion is something I keep thinking about as I read about Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner. Because I can sit here and tell you about my experience with white/non-black privilege all day long, as though it would do anything - not stories from the "liberal media," but my own stories, which are rough and challenging and don't always make me look good. I can tell you about the years I've spent working in economically depressed African-American neighborhoods and compare and contrast it with the poor white kids I've known in Appalachia or the poor Asian kids I've dealt with in other parts of DC. I can tell you about the casual racism in my high school, or all the petty crimes I've seen my white peers get away with, or the fact that no one has ever had to sit my little brother down and warn him how to deal with being harassed by the cops. I can tell you about the areas of Anacostia I've seen that are basically cut off from the rest of the city, devoid of any public transportation in or out, or talk about the old Georgetown leases that explicitly forbade renting houses to black people. I can introduce you to one of my very best friends, someone I will be friends with until I die, who is a brilliant psychologist who happens to be black, and who has put up with more racist bullshit in her life than the day is long. If it's testimony you want, I've got it in spades.

But I don't think it matters if I tell you or not, because proof is not the issue.

Sure, yes, you shouldn't need to hear this from me, because BLACK PEOPLE HAVE BEEN SAYING THIS FOR CENTURIES. Me being white, or Vietnamese, or having a master's degree, or being someone you know personally does not make me more credible. But let's say that for whatever reason, none of these accounts satisfy you, because their authors don't have whatever credential you're looking for. What else do you want? Are you looking for a direct comparison, like, for instance, if a white man and his black friend are arrested at the same time? Here you go. Would you prefer that your witness be both wealthy and an Ivy League alum? Try this. Really only trust the opinions of white women? Yup. Do you need to hear it from Republicans? Got you covered. What if there was, I don't know, video documentation of completely unnecessary police brutality? Unlike Eric Garner, today is your lucky day. (You probably know this, but that video is very difficult to watch. Just a warning.)

This is your evidence that palm trees exist, even though you have never personally seen one.  

I am usually a believer in nuance. I'm opinionated, but there are very few subjects on which I take a completely hard line. This is not one of them. You cannot tell me that it's possible that the palm tree I see could just be an oak with a growth disorder. The proof is there. It's been there. It doesn't matter if you've experienced it firsthand or not. You either have the moral imagination to accept the evidence in front of you, or you don't. And if you don't - if you still somehow believe that we live in a post-racial world, that everyone in America has an equal shot at the top - it doesn't matter who's talking anymore, or what they say. Because you've already made up your mind.

(ETA: I want to clarify that I am not saying that police are bad, or that white people are bad, or anything like that. I am acknowledging that palm trees exist. I am not saying that all trees are palm trees.)



to venture into the New World, alone

To follow that last post:  I may not be able to express how I feel about the Tsarnaev brothers, but Andrew Lam can do it for me. I cannot recommend highly enough that you read this essay.

As part of it, here is the most resonant description of inherited trauma that I have ever read. This is a topic I want to explore in my own writing, but honestly, Lam kind of has it covered. (I mean, did he know my grandmother personally?)

Here is what I know: it is inevitable that children born into war inherit trauma, even if they didn’t experience that war first hand. The inheritance is deep rooted, and it seeps in below the surface: the way the adults talk of the past, the way fragments of their history replay on TV, the way sadness hangs in the refugee home like heavy air, like smoke; a lost home, a shattered people, the humiliation, the overwhelming nostalgia; it seeps into dreams. And when they are vulnerable, when their lives in America unravel and their access to America’s grandeur is blocked and denied, the old memories and unshaped desires have a way of reaching out to take hold.



the best that we can do

I have roughly fifteen half-finished posts in my draft folder about the Boston Marathon bombing, starting with one the day after it happened and ending with a paragraph or two I wrote a few months ago. I keep trying to figure out how to talk about it, trying to clarify what it is I feel and what I want to say to myself and to the world. I don't know how. I still don't know.

And I will tell you now that this is not that piece. But, like those aborted posts, it is still an open-ended expression of failure. 

Today I had the following conversation with one of my friends:

me:  goddammit

one of my [summer program] kids is going to jail

Friend:  ugh

i'm sorry

me:  it's okay

he's the friend of the Boston bomber

I don't know if I'm sadder he's going to jail or that he apparently got high like eight times that day

Friend: ohhhhhhh

lead, buried

me:  I mean I guess?

but for me the story happens in that order


So. This is how it is. I remember Robel - he wasn't my student, but we all knew everyone. He was small then. This is not a thing I could have imagined, then.

For context: this program where I taught, during the summer of 2006 - I'm not going to name it here, because I don't want anyone to use this against them - was, and is, designed to keep kids on the path to college by making learning an enjoyable part of life. We lived and breathed it. My roommate then and I used to sit in our sweltering apartment, listening to Sufjan Stevens' The Avalanche, and talk about head versus heart - whether or not our performance should be judged on how much blood and tears we put into our work. And the kids lived and breathed it, too; we used to see them on the weekends, to call them at home. I still talk to a few of them sometimes. Which is probably why this hurts me, whether or not I deserve to feel it.

I'm afraid to even talk about this situation, because I want so badly to establish that I know that:

  • it's not about me
  • one program or person cannot be expected to alter another person's fate
  • this bombing was a horrible, horrible tragedy and no one should have aided or abetted it in any way

I know. I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW. It's not even my business to be sad, not when so many people related to this event experienced real tragedy. But I'm writing this now, this howl of frustration, because I want it acknowledged that we tried to build this beloved community, and I want us to try harder. I don't know how. I don't know what went wrong, and I don't know where he - or we - went wrong. But something could be better. And I think saying this out loud, how far we are from that community of our dreams, is probably the first step. Even if it takes the form of an incomprehensible half-apologia like this one.