“Papa is gone, not Wolinski”

“After his death, his daughter said, ‘Papa is gone, not Wolinski'” (from “The Pen vs. The Gun,” by Philip Gourevitch, The New Yorker, Jan 8). Gourevitch’s piece could do with less hagiography, and I don’t think he sat with the gun/pen question long enough to resolve it with true insight. But: this daughter’s voice. We need anti-racist narratives and narratives that include the grief of children for the same reason: because we are human and the whole work of everything is to see this in one other, especially when/where to do so is painful or difficult. There are good stories and bad stories about what it means to be human. You and I might not agree about what makes a story good or bad: that’s the crux of the whole problem. But this lack of consensus doesn’t mean we abandon the work of creating culture robust enough to honour our differences. Satire is a story — at its best, satire makes us all more fully human. Religion and wisdom traditions and faith are stories — at their best, they make us all more fully human. At their worst, both religion and satire harm us. And in between they carry on the necessary work of culture, of telling stories about who we are as human creatures. “Papa is gone, not Wolinski.” With this sentence, this little girl is telling us her story, our story. Let’s, please, listen. Let’s see if we can make the stories better, instead of worse.

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