MALCOLM: BEYOND ANGER

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The Internship? The Lone Ranger? Movie criticism, Eggers is saying, should be reserved for those wise and discerning souls who have access to a few tens of millions of dollars of entertainment-industry capital. One or two hundred million, if you wish to have an opinion about the works of Michael Bay. It is an artful performance, with a number of fine moments. At one point, Scocca quotes me on the deliberate streak of optimism in my work—and he is not wrong in locating in that attitude a subtle self-interest.

In being nice to the world, the writer obliges the world to be nice to him. But Scocca has larger ambitions: he wants to argue that the tyranny of niceness is the defining feature of our age, and he wants to make Dave Eggers the poster child for this movement. And it is here, I think, that his essay falters. I thought I had my ear to the railroad tracks of avant garde America. Laurie Anderson, for example, had grown up only miles away!

I was always monitoring, with the most sensitive and well-calibrated apparatus, the degree of selloutitude exemplified by any given artist—musical, theatrical, whatever. I was vigilant and merciless and knew it was my job to be so. As an adult, though, Eggers says he came to understand how empty and dangerous this impulse was. He should have been focussed on what was good and true.

Instead, he spent his time applying his narrow prejudices to the works of others.

Beyond Anger: A Guide for Men

When we dismiss. Oh how gloriously comforting to be able to write someone off. He means that if you must deliver the kind of sweeping critical sanctions that he passed out so freely as a teen-ager, at the very least you ought to have earned that right through real engagement and experience with the art in question. Eggers is not Wittgenstein: his philosophy is not so opaque that it permits many varied interpretations.

He says pretty much what he means. And does it bother him at all that he is hanging his manifesto on e-mails written more than a decade ago? Apparently not. So Scocca soldiers on:. And now here is Dave Eggers 13 years later, talking to the New York Times about his new novel, The Circle, a dystopian warning about the toxic effects of social media and the sinister companies that produce it:. He was laying down rules for other people. And as for laying down rules for other people, Eggers has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books and worked on three screenplays.

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He has started three magazines. When he was unhappy with the publishing world, he went out and started his own publishing company. When he thought that disadvantaged children needed better educational opportunities, he founded two nonprofits. I was a novice in "black matters. In September of that same year as second year novices, we went back to classes at Madonna College. With permission, I met monthly with other black women religious, seminarians, and the lone black priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit.

We wrestled with meanings of race and identity in relation to religious vocation; we studied and discussed books by black authors. Taking cues from Gaudium et Spes , we too sought to "scrutinize the signs of the times," to analyze and interpret the social condition of black people in light of the Gospel and to situate that interpretation within the context of the renewal of Catholic theology.

During this period, someone loaned or gave me a copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

Beyond Anger: A Guide for Men by Thomas J. Harbin | Hachette Book Group

I was galvanized and could not stop reading: I read after completing homework assignments, during study hall, after my chores, in my spare time. After we retired for the evening, I sat up to read in the glow of the exit light -- our novice mistress coughed ever so discreetly before climbing the stairs to our dormitory to bless us. I will be forever grateful to her; she helped me immensely as I navigated uncharted waters. The person and voice of The Autobiography of Malcolm X were unlike anyone and anything I had ever met or read.

I was shocked at his criminal past, drug use, exploitation of women, and the rage he spewed at white people, but I agreed with his attack on institutional racism and its lethal impact on black life. I admired his ability to lead and maintain a separate sphere for Black Muslims, even as I disagreed with his theology, which breached everything I believed about the Gospel. Still, I admired his discipline and courage to change his life; indeed, through his self-transformations, he made of his life a radical, complex, and beautiful work of art.

Malcolm X was the first revolutionary I ever "met" and I wanted to be one too -- a revolutionary black nun! Under the direction of our novice mistress I first tried writing theology, and Malcolm gave me something to theologize about: Nothing ought to be more sacred than the liberation of my people.

Malcolm taught me seriousness of purpose, black pride, love of black history, and love of black people.

He taught me resistance, resolve, and daring. He led me to black consciousness.

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I came late to serious study of King's thought, but as I read our contemporary theological landscape, he remains the consummate practical-political theologian of the American experiment in social democracy. Obviously, it is much too simplistic to set Malcolm as King's opposite, to constrict him to the field of black power nationalism and separatism.


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To do so poses a Manichean vision of life in America: Martin or Malcolm, integration or separation, white or black. To do so flattens the ambiguity and contradictions as well as the joys and pleasures of human living, ignores the infinite circumference of divine grace, and dismisses the cost of struggle for a nation -- a world -- without racism. I have taught and still teach The Autobiography of Malcolm X as well as his speeches and interviews.


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The first time was at Saint Norbert College in an undergraduate course on grace. I structured the reading, mainly fiction, to help students discern the fitful responses we humans make to the gift and movement of grace. I still remember the student who, in a thoughtful and well-written paper, drew out connections between Malcolm's self-transformation and Lonergan's categories of intellectual, moral, and religious conversion. I was elated. Two very disparate men, each of whom so important to my intellectual development, came together in my classroom.

Much has changed in American society, the church, and the global order since I was a novice tackling The Autobiography of Malcolm X and wrestling with the density of the black lifeworld. My life has changed and not changed: I am no longer a vowed woman religious, but I still ache to be a revolutionary, to bring about change in society and church; I still ache for justice for all creation in our broken world. Today I take up and read The Autobiography of Malcolm X with critical appreciation for the sharp organic intellectual Malcolm was and for his capacity to critique and shift, even change, his religious, cultural, and social horizons.

But, The Autobiography still indicts the continuing Christian betrayal of the Gospel and its failure to effectively counter the myriad ordinary ways race and racism shape our thinking about ourselves and our interactions with one another. In the last months of his life Malcolm X came to articulate the necessity of authentic relationships between human beings, to insist that the struggle against white racist supremacy is a human problem. All of us, whatever our racial-ethnic and cultural backgrounds, "as human beings [have] the obligation and the responsibility, of helping to correct America's human problem.

As a political theologian, my work interrogates the meaning of being human in cultural and social conditions that insult our humanity and mock our efforts at authentic solidarity. Malcolm's words water my hope: Words from a man who lived through the brutal and brutalizing effects of the vicious and long reign of sin that structural racism is.

Malcolm's example summons us to live in such a way that the truth, intelligibility, goodness, and beauty of our concrete social order might be manifest and nourish the flourishing of each and every one of us.

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Shawn Copeland is a theology professor at Boston College and author of more than 80 articles, reviews, and book chapters. Send your thoughts and reactions to Letters to the Editor. Learn more here. Join now. Blog NCR Today. Feb 15, This article appears in the Take and Read feature series. View the full series. Discovering the true self in God with Merton's guidance Jan 23, Arguing with Dorothy Day challenges my quest for a Christian life Jan 16, Hoffman's 'Beyond the Text' directs us to the borderlands Jan 9, In 'Gitanjali,' I found wisdom, lost it, and found it again Jan 2, Join the Conversation Send your thoughts and reactions to Letters to the Editor.

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