This has been a flat out awful week. First, atrocities in Orlando, and the struggle for the British media to represent such an occurrence in a way appropriate (this is not the right word) to a targeted attack upon the LGBT community, and then the day before yesterday, MP Jo Cox dying at the hands of a man who was certainly unwell and seems to have been poisoned by nationalist rhetoric. One of the few things to emerge out of the sickening mass of noise is that it is now really very hard to find any words, let alone the right ones. It has, however, never been more important to keep trying.
I suggest reading The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, which is, among other things, a brilliant lesson in how to do this. Her pen is a scalpel, but there is no pain inflicted by her words, she is showing us the language we all need. Seeing the encounter between Owen Jones, Julie Hartley-Brewer and Mark Longhurst on Sky News this week shows that harm is inflicted by not having the right language, as well as failing to really listen to a voice representing so many voices.
When you have read Nelson, read everything Olivia Laing has written, both her journalism and non-fiction, about Orlando and much besides. These two writers complement each other, but Laing’s treatment of loneliness in the modern world and her questions surrounding gender amplify the conversation Nelson started.
There is something to be said for knowing when to get angry and state your case (Ta-Nehisi Coates and Mychal Denzel Smith are the ones who know how to do this) and then listening to the right words, quietly and precisely stated in the still small voice of calm. It helps tune out of the scrolling newsfeeds and bawling politics. It helps.