"I had nearly finished a piece inspired by The Best American Essays of 2014 on the topic of essays as containers. Then Paris happened. Since the attacks on November 13, public discourse has hovered around uncontainability. The containers essay suddenly felt irrelevant. Luckily, some of the essays in the 2014 collection could allow me to write about (to process, to manage – whatever metaphor you prefer) the attacks. Specifically, Mary Gordon’s “On Enmity” and Dave Eggers’ “The Man at the River” give language to some of the abstractions that have clustered around the death cult called Daesh."
ON SINGULARITY AND CONNECTION:
"We did not ask for any of this. We are not our governments. We never conquered anyone. We did not personally launch empires. If anyone is complicit in anything, it is that by fact of birth, we are woven into a system in such a way that even going off the grid is not enough to extract ourselves fully from history and politics. The grid is everywhere anyway. The roots of all of this were festering before we were even born. We are fighting the battles of our forebears. Like Eggers’ American, we want to push a reset button that doesn’t exist. We want to unravel the stereotypes of ourselves, to emphasize our singularity in a system that tries to uniformize us. We want to exist away from demands to accommodate or be accommodated. We just want to be. We are jarred that global politics – about which we know almost nothing – might loot us of life and limb."
ON THE EAGLES OF DEATH METAL:
"How to explain to a religious fanatic the subtleties, ironies, richnesses of such a name, of such music? How to explain to them that metal is a bloodless outlet for people across the globe? That the tough exterior of metal dudes can only be matched by the tenderness of their insides? My brother is a metal drummer whose various band names have always referred to mortality or evil or violence. From the outside, it is easy to read all of these signs as the devil’s work. But read more closely and spend your life with metal dudes as I have, and you’ll discover that the vast majority of these gentle giants use their music as armor against the oppressive aspects of capitalism and corrupt power, against conformity and the surrender to injustice."