I really must be getting into the routine, since I forgot to post for a couple days.
One of the things I learned/realized in my History MA program, especially through the work I did in a course on WWII and the Holocaust, crystallized why I’ve long appreciated microhistory or very detailed narrow histories. It was that life isn’t lived at the span of most histories, and something like actual peoples’ lives are the things I’ve grown to like about history (as well as History). It was especially through that course that I realized this because we read Art Spiegelman’s Maus (complete edition) and I did my main project on mapping Mary Berg’s diary, published as Warsaw Ghetto. In both of these, the narrative power of the horror comes from the detailing of what happened at the scale of successive moments or perhaps days. The stories are of surviving by luck or money or social connections (but really just luck) each day, each encounter with the terrorist state.
We’re not there yet, but my mind keeps drifting back to these artistic works, real(ist) though they are, thinking about what’s going on day to day here is what matters. Even when I’m losing track of time, in a way, as I have the past couple of days, by not writing down what’s happening, I’m noticing how we are living and noting new or different concerns. For some reason, I’m worried about bread. We have a breadmaker, and the SO has been doing a great job with it, but each time I go to have toast or a sandwich, I notice that something’s different. Since my breakfast and lunch are the most rigorous of my routine and since that’s when I have toast and a sandwich, I notice not-infrequently that we don’t have my usual bread. Maybe we’ll just keep making our own bread after this and it will be my usual bread.
While we* aren’t at Warsaw Ghetto or death camp stages, we do have concentration camps where migrants are dying, prisons that give the Warsaw Ghetto a run for its money, and a government of rich men seemingly only concerned about rich people. The executive branch of our government and significant portions of the legislative and judicial may not be expansively and finally terroristic the way Nazi Germany was, but they certainly seem to be as interested in privileging a few (white, especially rich, especially men) people over the many and in keeping the many afraid of activism or too anxious over the day-to-day to struggle for change. But also highly aware that keeping many white people a little less anxious about that day-to-day but a little more anxious about keeping ahead of the growing proportion and numbers of black and brown people in the country is a less directly visible recipe for similar ends. They don’t want to exterminate black and brown people — Who will be the manual labor? Who will be the “human resources” from which value can be extracted and filtered upward? — but they do want to make them incapable of resistance and to make white people unwilling to be accomplices, afraid themselves of being treated the same by the plutocrats.