Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


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Thanks to the Chicago Writers Association

I was thrilled to attend the award ceremony last Saturday night (January 14) at The Book Cellar to mark the Chicago Writers Association 2016 Book of the Year Awards. It was really a lovely evening, with one of the most amazing cakes I’ve ever seen, and wonderful conversation afterwards.

The complete list of winners is available here. The Fugue won an honorable mention. Here I am with Gerald Brennan, owner of my publisher, Tortoise Books.

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Photo courtesy of the Chicago Writers Association.


Cutting off constituents: the ideology of death

So…here’s the situation.

You have an illness that will kill you unless you take daily drugs. Those drugs are manufactured by someone who gets to set whatever price they want. However, you have insurance that pays all or some portion of that exorbitant cost. Some portion of that insurance is paid for by public money.

Your government doesn’t like this. They think you should have been strong and smart enough, prior to getting your illness—or perhaps while you were being delivered, ill already—to take the necessary precautions to avoid death. Because, you know, your sickness is your problem, not your neighbor’s problem; it is the same as your lawn or your aluminum siding.

So, they take your insurance away. And they thumb their noses. Who are you to request that someone else help keep you alive?

What do we call it when someone performs an act they know will lead to someone’s death? What’s the word for acting in such a way that another human is guaranteed to die?

Why don’t members of the United States Congress give up their health benefits? Are some of them facing health issues?

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Photo of Mitch McConnell from Wikipedia.


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Remembering the Russian crackdown in Lithuania: 1991

Twenty six years ago, Russia (The Soviet Union) cracked down on Lithuania’s independence movement. The result was fourteen dead and, months later, the collapse of the Soviet Union.

I first visited Lithuania in the summer of 1992. The cement barricades were still in place around the Parliament building, and a few torched areas had yet to be cleaned up properly, but the experience still taught me lessons about sacrifice and defiance. I fell in love with Vilnius instantly.

This past November, thousands of Lithuanian-Americans voted for Trump, despite warnings about his threat to the Baltic States and NATO, despite the knowledge that he was exposed to Russia. I find their vote a grossly irresponsible act of either sadism or masochism, and still can’t get my head around it.

This interview, in Russian with English subtitles, of Landsbergis is vital viewing. Resistance is now inevitable, but it will be costly. However, consider his words: “We presented our political platform at an open debate with the Communist Party and we won.” That’s a tiny country of just over 3 million people taking on the Russian Bear.

Resist. Click for video:

http://www.rferl.org/embed/player/0/27482994.html?type=video

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Take a class with me in Berlin

I’ve always wanted to teach a community college class abroad. This spring, I’ll finally get to do it!

From May 28-June 11, I’ll be teaching a Humanties 150 (Survey of the Arts) course in Berlin, Germany. The good people at Walking Tree Travel helped me set up this itinerary , and you should agree it’s a kicker. We’ll have access to the Bauhaus archives, the KW Institute, the National Galleries and much more. To add context to this trip, we’ll read Dan Vyleta’s Pavel and I and watch Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire.

If you’re a Chicago-area college student who needs an elective or a Humanities requirement, you’re free to sign up for this class. You’ll gain credit for a course and have an experience that should stay with you for the rest of your life. If you’re already planning on a European backpacking trip, knock out a college credit in the meantime, and participate in a class that’s sure to provoke thought.

Note: the college is also offering a non-credit section of the class for adults (18+) who simply want to tag along for the ride and take advantage of the benefits: a Berlin transit pass good for 2 weeks, central accommodations with daily breakfast, several tours of Berlin neighborhoods, access to museums, and also a play and concert.

Want more info? E-mail me.

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Contemporary Nativity Scene (shocking)

I originally got this from Imgur. It depicts an ideal reality, the kind of world so many Americans currently stay up at night fantasizing about, when they are not spewing its virtues online.

This is a Nativity Scene with the Jews, Arabs, Africans and refugees removed. Yet, hark!  A miracle remains in the sky.

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For more on this problem, read my plea to the Electoral College.


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An open plea to the Electoral College

Dear Electors:

You don’t need to be told this is a pivotal hour in world history.

In only days, you’ll meet and cast your votes to determine the fate of the world. Perhaps most of you, when you were selected to represent your states as Electors, looked at your role mostly as an honor, an expression of your patriotism, perhaps a noble way to participate in our nation’s process of government. The entire world, people from Taipei to Tallinn, know it is more than that now.

Your voting body was created for this moment. To quote Peter Beinart, from the Atlantic:

“It is ‘desirable,’ Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 68, ‘that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of’ president. But is “‘equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station.’ These ‘men’—the electors––would be ‘most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.’ And because of their discernment—because they possessed wisdom that the people as a whole might not—‘the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.’”

You probably didn’t expect it to be true when you became an elector. However, the moment for you to discern and investigate is here.

I’m pleading with those of you in position to do so, no matter where you identify on the political spectrum, to act in whatever way necessary to keep Donald Trump from becoming our next president.

I share the same concerns over the threat posed to our constitution, political system—and also to global stability—that has been expressed in recent months by so many statesmen, political scientists, journalists, columnists, educators, former and current intelligence officials, and many other professionals. If you do not share their views, if you do not believe that the president-elect is a threat to world peace, if you do not feel he is unfit to act as president on account of his conflicts of interest, his business practices, his misogyny, blatant racism, ignorance of the constitution, unpredictable behavior, narcissism and addiction to praise, assault on scientific consensus, assault on the Bill of Rights, assault on factual information, or his gaslighting claim that our intelligence community is a factory of conspiracy theories, perhaps you will finally be concerned by his potential exposure to blackmail by international adversaries and bribery by foreign governments.

Surely, this last bit must concern even those who loathe Hillary Clinton and the American establishment. We might prefer reruns of Happy Days to TED talks, the NFL to MLS, but we should all agree that a president even potentially exposed to manipulation by foreign governments threatens us all.

It’s true we’ll be in peril no matter what you decide. Our nation has been damaged by this election—it has allowed our most heinous demons to surface—and we’re going to struggle and suffer, some more than others, no matter what decision you make. You might feel that by keeping the demagogue from office you’d betray the people and system, triggering some kind of upheaval. I’m begging you to compare that possibility to another: that you might be protecting the people from harming themselves in a way they never expected, from losing to a narrative written on a rug about to be pulled from under their feet.

I’d like to think that 100% of us would stop a young man from running around a field of stumps with a screwdriver in his mouth, no matter how dramatically he protested against us. The fire department still shows up if our neighbor sets fire to her own house, and doctors will stitch up our self-inflicted wounds. We have laws and customs designed to mitigate self-harm. The Electoral College is an expression of this, as conceptualized by a man, Hamilton, virtually all Americans currently admire.

One way or another, you’ll get to tell the story to young people who will one day wonder why you acted as you did. At minimum, think about what you know of the man you stand to empower, and weigh that against what you’ll tell the kids living in his aftermath, whatever shape it takes.

“I exercised my duty to uphold the will of the people and the system.”

“I exercised my duty to keep the office of the president from falling to a man who was not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

I’d trust, given the circumstances, they’ll understand.

—Gint

“Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?” 

Alexander Hamilton, March 14, 1788

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Image of Alexander Hamilton from Wikipedia