Radio USA Libre
Plus my new book, and a personal calendar
Hello creatures! In this edition, my new book; Mexico vs. slavery; and my mental calendar, or A Squid’s Almanack.
The King of Love My Shepherd Is
I have a new book out this week! It is sort of a sequel to Gay and Catholic, though also sort of a rebuke to that book’s complacency and an attempt to contemplate its deeper themes. It’s called Tenderness: A Gay Christian’s Guide to Unlearning Rejection and Experiencing God’s Extravagant Love, and it includes a drinking game, because of course it does. If G&C was the book about “horizontal” love, the many ways gay Catholics can love and be loved by other people around us, then Tenderness is about “vertical love”: the ways our church communities make it harder for us to trust that God cherishes us, and the ways we have found to restore that trust.
If you would like a second drinking game, I can guarantee you will get wrecked if you do a shot every time I say I’m about to “drastically oversimplify” something. Or every time I cite a medieval saint. There’s a bit toward the end where if you do a shot for every Cistercian you’ll wind up hospitalized. (This is how I count things, apparently, the same way medieval people counted time by paternosters. Liquid modernity!) Also, remember how in G&C there was like no Scripture at all, and I was saved by a copyeditor from attributing something to “I Galatians”? (In my defense it is the first letter of St Paul to the Galatians. There isn’t another one before it!) Anyway in Tenderness there is a lot of Scripture, it’s really woven throughout the book, you get my personal queer devotional basically. Jonathan as prefiguration of Christ, the Magnificat as gay support-group credo, reflections on God’s love from Wisdom and on Christians’ sins from Daniel.
It’s a more poetic book than G&C, I think, and although it is partly about putting morality in its place you do also get some reflections on specific moral questions, including the one I just sort of swerved right on away from in G&C, viz. chastity. Those who can’t do, teach!
Here is the link to preorder; you can get free shipping if you order today, I think. Publication date is this Friday. Lol I’ll be talking about it more here, including giving you a playlist for the book, so watch the skies.
I recently finished Alice Baumgartner’s South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War. I found it via DriXander on twitter, who pointed me to this article. Baumgartner’s book is quite moving. Her basic thesis is that Mexico’s gradual abolition of slavery, and the ways in which abolition formed Mexican national character, not only offered relatively-safe haven to slaves fleeing the United States, but ultimately destabilized the attempted balance of power between slaveholding and relatively-free states. She’s not saying “Mexico caused the Civil War” but she is saying that Mexico, by insistently pushing against slavery as both canny foreign policy and heartfelt conviction, closed off some options by which the slave power tried to maintain its hold on the USA.
Because much of the book is about the politics of Mexican anti-slavery actions, she works hard to keep you grounded, so the machinations never come unhooked from real people’s lives and freedom. Does the phrase “Wilmot Proviso” ring only the faintest and most tarnished bell in the dusty recesses of your high school memory? That’s fine, she’ll make you care, you don’t need to know stuff before you go in.
Two further notes, one more polemical than the other. The first one is just that although Mexico did push anti-slavery harder when it stood to gain something, and compromised or played fast and loose with definitions when economic exigencies were especially pressing, many Mexicans clearly believed deeply that slavery was wrong (and, not for nothing, that abolition distinguished them from their aggressive northern neighbor). Across class boundaries, and regardless of their positions on internal Mexican politics e.g. Church-state relations, they took personal and political risks to protect runaway US slaves. The second one is that maybe we should all think about why we learned about the Underground Railroad to Canada but Mexico’s role as refuge gets overlooked.
I’ll leave you with this: “To avoid being found by their masters, many [escaped slaves] changed their names. A former slave named Dan called himself ‘Dionisio de Echevaria.’ The mayor of Guerrero, Coahuila, christened another runaway Maria Guadalupe Guerrero—Guadalupe for the Virgin who guided her to Mexico, and Guerrero for the town where she won her freedom.”
Time and Change
Addison del Mastro asks for our “mental landmarks” of the year’s passing. Having written about my love of these landmarks, I figured I would lay some of them out here. I’m always trying to add to this list tbh—I still have never, for example, celebrated St Aelred’s feast day with braided bread and honey, for the “threefold cord” of Ecclesiastes and the eulogy which named Aelred the honeycomb of the monastery. But still, here is a selection.
Spring starts with the forsythia, then the crocuses, and at last the cherry blossoms. Always when it’s too cold. Everybody out taking photographs of cherry blossoms, preserving these symbols of our ephemerality, a DC-specific memento mori. Spring hosts the feast of Sts Felicity and Perpetua. Spring is for <Animal from the Muppets voice> MARDI GRAAAAAAAAAAAAS </Animal voice> and also Confession, where I should do the Animal voice thing, the priest will love that.
Spring is for Ash Wednesday, an early medieval festival of universal criminality. Then Lent. Who doesn’t love Lent? “Be grateful for everything—for soon there will be nothing.” Holy Week. Spy Wednesday with Tenebrae, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, very hungry Holy Saturday, then the Easter Vigil, from darkness into light, so that when we leave the church the darkness is brighter, also because we’re still very hungry so everything’s kind of psychedelic.
Summer is Juneteenth and fireworks and Rehoboth Beach. Seagulls stealing french fries right out of the bucket; the Haunted Mansion, which has smelled that way since 1983. My birthday, which is also the feast of the Queenship of Mary. In September summer exits and then returns and then exits again like an adulterer in a door-slamming farce.
Fall comes with the first acrid wind twisting through the heavy heat. You’ll know it when you feel it—the keys of summer turn in the lock, and close the door. Autumn is Something Wicked This Way Comes, the October people, horror movies all month long, I just wallow in this stuff. November: a month for remembering the dead. A month to pray for all that we have lost and mishandled, that all our wounds might be glorified. Also the feast of Elizabeth of Hungary, my patroness.
Winter is for December: Our Lady of Guadalupe, the feast of Adam and Eve (traditional, unofficial, and no less real for all that!), Midnight Mass for Christmas and then early dinner on Christmas Day with my non-Christian family, and then all the feasts of the “Bloody Octave of Christmas,” e.g. Childermass. It might snow a lot. It might snow none! It will not snow the correct amount, which is once and big. Then I do my best-of-the-year roundup and tbh I look forward to that more than you’d think. New Year’s Day is a Holy Day of Obligation but all the churches cancel their evening Masses so you’ve gotta remember to go to the Vigil the day before :/ And then the winter lasts until like the first week of April and you forget how to be a person. But at last the cherry blossoms come again.
“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” lol Sting.