Obama began his speech yesterday at the Tribal Nations Conference by addressing the grand jury’s decision not to indict the police that killed Eric Garner.
But Obama didn’t say anything about the police that killed Eric Garner. He said something about the police that “interacted” with him.
Why is it so hard to say? Police killed Eric Garner.
It is hard for me to say somehow. It doesn’t sound right; it doesn’t sit right.
This is not because I don’t believe that it’s true or believe that it’s possible. It’s not because I don’t believe it at all. In fact, I believe with all of my self–a self that is not hardly singular, a self that has never once believed in the de facto goodness of the police or the government or authorities more generally–in fact, I believe that it is precisely the police, law enforcement, the military, and the country whose name is attached to those whose job it is to “control”; it is precisely this place and these bodies that are asked and trained to control (kill) black men specifically; it is precisely the police and history of policing that killed Eric Garner.
And Michael Brown.
And Malice Green.
And . . . and . . . and . . .
I’ve been italicizing believe because it was a word that jumped out at me when listening to Obama’s speech: “I am absolutely committed as president of the United States to making sure that we have a country in which everybody believes in the core principle that we are equal under the law.”
What do we make of having a president who is committed to having everybody believe this? Are we going to believe it as an end point? Because we’ve seen it to be true? Or does he imagine we must believe it first in order for it to become real?
The problem is that belief is precisely what is not enough. There is a gap between what we say, what we believe, and the enforcement of the law.
The gap between what we say, what we believe, and the enforcement of the law is measured by the dead (killed) bodies of black men.
Everybody does not believe that we are equal under the law. Every body does not believe we should be. Some bodies think they ought to be bigger than the law, and that is because they are the law and so they get to decide (consciously or not) how big the law is.
Police are taken by and given the power of the glory of the law to subdue and kill someone in the street.
Some of us kill people because we believe we’ve been given permission to do so. It turns out, we’re right. We have.
One day I went to the Natural History Museum. This was after having met for lunch with an analyst here to discuss our work, analysis, or, as I’d said in my email, anything! The presence of the concept of analysis itself, and all its coordinated attachments, is so important to me and offers so much, I had what felt like the pure spirit of wandering. [I throw a log on the Hegel fire and hope it will actually burn.] So, I wandered into the National History Museum, which was flooded with children, school groups, etc. I asked a volunteer, if she had to recommend one thing to see, what would it be. I am a geologist, she said, so I think you should go into that room. It is also much quieter there, she said, and no one here, on the first floor, is really looking at anything. There you can take your time and I think that would be a nice memory to take away.
I could have found myself anywhere.
I liked this idea of quiet and I would have never thought to go see the rocks, but I was so taken by their look and their descriptions. I looked for a list–I wanted there to be a list of all the descriptions of all the rocks. But if there had been, what, exactly, would I have done with it?
Are we talking about finding yourself anywhere, or finding yourself anywhere? This is a move that Derrida makes any number of times, but he makes it in particular in Glas.
I have picked up Glas for the first time since the seminar ended. I find the part that I’m thinking of:
Ideality is death, to be sure, but to be dead–this is the whole question of dissemination–is that to be dead or to be dead? (133)
[Emphasis on to be or emphasis on dead ?]
Some sentences later: When one says “death is,” one says “death is denied”; death is not insofar as one posits it.
[To the far right, in the front, wearing a red wrist band, sits a sweet Hegelian; in the center, a smiling writer on Derrida and Agamben; in the back, a not necessarily a Hegelian in yellow: we are on our way to Dalston for the most delicious meal that I’ve had in London, Turkish food.]
I saw King Lear at the National Theater on Monday and it was raining right before the show. It rains a lot here, little spurts, and I was safe under the awning and this woman was working something out with her umbrella. It had *not* flipped open on its own. It was she who had flipped it open in order to repair it. King Lear was amazing and exciting to me, although it was difficult to understand. I mean, speech! It’s tough to decipher. In a letter I wrote I recounted the consequences of the tyranny of love. My King Lear take-away.
The rocks at the Natural History Museum:
steep white scalenohedra
Cave-in-Rock, Hardin Co., Illinois
crystal showing “ghost”; with
chalcopyrite and blende
This is to say nothing of my visit to the Freud Museum yesterday, on my 33rd birthday, and someone told me that, speaking of pilgrimages, people cry when they see the couch. I *did* cry, but it was in thinking of the commitment to listening, that he listened 12 hours in one day some times. I also have not mentioned my incredibly lovely time with the poet and delight, Francesca Lisette, and the urgency and care with which she suggested I drink a hard shake for my birthday. So I had a “Brandy Alexander” which was vanilla and chocolate ice cream, nutella, and Brandy.
Someone quite (the British use “quite” quite a lot and it’s absolutely infecting my speech. This is the nature of speech, I realize. It is always being transmitted and it is impossible to shake off and this is both exciting and scary, depending), someone quite surprising, who was always saying surprising things, making a turn in the conversation that changed the affect and urgency of the questions, something I often aim to do in discussions, enters a room with two fingers raised like she aims to say, “I come in peace.” Each time I see this I want to double-check. “So, you come in peace?” And they reply, “I come in pieces.” I find this delightful and terrifying. I hate to pit delight and terror against one another, but the longer I am in London and am thinking, the more I think they are in the same ring, duking it out.
I had the extraordinary pleasure of attending a reading/ talk by Adam Phillips on July 1st with another new friend, a painter who builds the paint slowly and saw the colors of these chairs in a careful way. Phillips read from his biography of Freud, Becoming Freud: The Making of a Psychoanalyst, which is also to say the making of the psychoanalyst. [The picture above is of Phillips wedged between heads.] The first bit was all about Freud’s ambivalence about biographers. I said that psychoanalysis seems to me to be about figuring out how to tell stories about yourself that you can live with and in that sense, it is entirely autobiography. I kind of asked and answered what the difference is between biography and autobiography for Freud. And it’s the “auto.” What Freud disliked, or found entirely suspect, was the idea of someone telling someone else’s life. Phillips said yes, that’s pretty much it. The analyst doesn’t tell a story about your life that you haven’t already told.
There are still lots of pictures of people and buildings and stories to tell. I am here for another week and then off to Bologna for a few days.
[And I’ve finally decided to release us all from the ancient aesthetics of this blog.]
from left to right, only around the table: Etienne Balibar, Anna Vitale, Jean Matthee, Catherine Malabou [photo by Daniel Hoffman-Schwartz]
You can’t tell, but I’m waiting for the train and I tried to take the most secret selfie possible because it’s so weird when you see people taking pictures of themselves by themselves, but I felt compelled to since I felt so tired after the first day of Derrida, but the kind of exhaustion that you want to document. I have no idea what I’ve succeeded in taking a picture of, something that does and doesn’t look like me, which means I’m like only succeeding in imitating Derrida. The contagion of Glas is no surprise, friends! Please allow me this rehearsal. In the secret selfie I covered up my eye accidentally because I wasn’t looking at what I was doing as I was trying to look nonchalant as I took a picture of myself. JESUS! Let’s shake this off. So then I get on the train and the sky was looking gorgeous, and I was feeling a bit ill having scarfed down an enormous cone of fish and chips, which they don’t even have forks here. I mean you eat fried fish with your hands and get really greasy. This was after a long time wandering for food with the other students. Philosophers have almost no leader unless he is already dead I think. I somehow am happier to be a poet than a philosopher but what exactly do I mean when I say that? Poets are alive and philosophers are dead? The sky was like chim chimney chim chimney chim chim chicharee gorgeous and all throughout London I keep singing feed the birds, too, because I realize what I know of London is Mary Poppins and Crass, and maybe just that, because Joy Division and the Smiths aren’t from here. Oh and like Madness and Kate Bush. So the sky anyway rather than me or my covered up eye. This is the sky in my neighborhood in Greenwich after the first day of Derrida. What’s the first day of Derrida mean? I say, whatever you do, don’t miss the hole in the sky. RECALL WHEN THEY OPEN UP THE SKY IN . . . WHATCHACALLIT? Katniss . . . The Hunger Games. Ha!