Welcome to THE GOOD IN US
In which we come together to save American democracy, or at least have fun while trying.
“The gods are strange. It is not our vices only they make instruments to scourge us. They bring us to ruin through what in us is good, gentle, human, loving.”
—Oscar Wilde, “De Profundis”
Click HERE for the audio of this post.
This quote reminds me of my father. I had planned to make it the epigraph for the chapter in my first book, Too Much and Never Enough, in which my dad, at age 26, became a professional pilot flying 707s for TWA at the dawn of the jet age. This was an extraordinary accomplishment at the time. But ultimately his innate goodness and his striving to be the best person he could be, which set him apart in a family that didn’t value such qualities, made it impossible for him to accomplish this goal, or to be accepted by a father who equated kindness with weakness and generosity with selfishness. My dad was ultimately destroyed by the failure of those around him to understand and accept him. Life was a zero sum game and Freddy couldn’t withstand his family’s cruelty or his inability to become the “killer” his father expected him to be.
As soon as the results of the 2016 election were called, I began to think America had adopted my family’s strange ethos. I worried our country would become a place in which kindness was looked upon with suspicion—where cruelty would become the most common currency. Everywhere I looked there was evidence that my country had become an outsize version of my family. It’s very human to look for patterns and meaningful connections where none exist (a phenomenon called apophenia). Maybe I was simply superimposing my own fears on a situation not remotely similar to the one I grew up in. But I continued to see the patterns even if I wasn’t entirely sure they were there.
(Granted I’m pushing the analogy because I really wanted to show you this picture. If you’d like to read more about pareidolia (the visual version of apophenia)—and who wouldn’t?—check out Michael Sowden’s post at Everything Is Amazing and the related and hilarious Twitter thread.)
And then, of course, the Republican Party proved me right. Cruelty has become their stock in trade. The more they believe it demoralizes us, the more cruel—and creative about their cruelty,—they become. And our kindness—“what in us is good, gentle, human, loving”—is turned against us.
I’ve started this newsletter, in part, because I want to write about the crossroads at which we find ourselves and what we can do about it. Together we can work to defuse the power of the right’s strategy. We need to resist the impulse to fight on their terms and risk becoming that which we hate. Our kindness, our decency, our compassion and empathy will make us stronger—they won’t render us ineffective.
HOW (AND WHY) TO SUPPORT THE GOOD IN US
Most of what I post will be available to everybody—you don’t have to pay a dime in order to support this endeavor, I’m just happy to have you here. Anybody who picks the free option will get at least one newsletter a week, survey results, unannounced extras, and the occasional pet pic.
This work, however, is made possible by paid subscriptions. If you’re willing and able to chip in $6 a month to keep this going here a few reasons why you might want to:
Paid subscriptions allow me to dedicate as much time to The Good in Us as possible. This includes interacting with the community, allowing me the latitude to support and amplify other work and other creators I believe in, and generating resources with which I can pursue other worthy projects.
For $6 a month you will also get:
All newsletters, including Random Thoughts on a Monday—a look back at the week that just passed and ahead to whatever we might have to brace ourselves for in the week to come—and occasional Cool Hot Takes, in which I overreact in real time, write about my reaction to the infuriating thing with a blow torch, and then think better of it.
Full access to PetStack(TM) in which I share the ways in which Sebastian (the 24-year-old African Grey), Linden, (the six-year-old cat of awesomeness), and Nemo (the rescue Leopard Gecko of unknown age) variously enrich, complicate, and pretty much run my life. (Any other critters that cross my path—or whose paths I cross—will also make appearances.)
Commenting privileges and access to The Relay—our community—which is where the magic will happen (see more below).
The ability to participate in weekly Surveys, including Good Guy of the Week, because every once in awhile it’s nice to focus on what went right for a change.
You can get an annual subscription for $60 which includes all of the above and two free months of the newsletter.
You can also become a Founding Member for $250 a year. This includes all of the above plus a cool t-shirt or tote bag when they become available. I promise you, it will be worth the wait.
If for any reason you are unable to pay but are eager to engage please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll work it out.
Community, or at least the idea of community, has always been important to me and over the last year and a half the necessity of community has been amplified. It turns out I like Twitter— a lot. (I worry that this is genetic). I don’t simply like it, though, I’m drawn to it. It makes sense to me. And even though it’s linear, there’s a community of like-minded people from which I can draw strength. But Twitter isn’t a great platform for interacting as a group. And the interlopers and trolls lurk. The Relay will provide a chance for us to do what can’t be done anywhere else—create a vibrant, active, and challenging place for those of us who are in this fight together.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT FROM ME
I will try to meet this moment with the measured urgency it deserves, exercise restraint when necessary, embrace righteous fury when called for, and demonstrate the willingness, always, to admit when I’m wrong and try to do better (I know for a fact that this is not genetic).
As the Sexy Bassoonist in “Only Murders in the Building” would say, “Woof. That’s a lot.” But I’ll do my best to live up to it.
WHAT WE CAN EXPECT FROM EACH OTHER
Because I want this to be a safe space for everybody in the community, here are some guidelines:
Proof of vaccination is required.
(Judicious) swearing is encouraged.
Treating each other with respect is compulsory.
This applies even to those with whom we disagree. Agreeing with everybody all of the time is boring. Constructive disagreement can be a catalyst for rethinking our entrenched positions or developing better ways to express our beliefs. (I say this as somebody who has very decided opinions.) That is what The Relay is for.
My hope is that together we will find an answer to the question: “What, after all, do we owe each other?”
Again, I am so grateful you are here. This is going to be fun.
See you soon.
(And Sebastian, Linden, and Nemo)