Have you noticed that neon lights are disappearing from our cities? Those giant flashing lights you see in places like Times Square are produced nowadays by LED, not the sliced and twisted gas-filled tubes of years ago.
For years, the old, disused neon lights of Las Vegas lay abandoned in an old YESCO production lot, known as the “Neon Boneyard. The Neon Museum of Las Vegas is restoring those signs and, last year, opened up its headquarters in the lobby of La Concha Hotel to offer hour-long tours of its collection.
The Stardust sign’s font is “Atomic.” Embracing the spirit of the age, it was meant to resemble the mushroom cloud of atomic tests.
The Moulin Rouge was the first Las Vegas casino to integrate, and the “Moulin Rouge Accord” ended segregation in Las Vagas.
The Horsehoe was the last to integrate.
Ironically, the Neon Museum’s sign contains no neon; it is all LED.
The small college town of Hanover, NH, famous for the violent fraternities of Dartmouth College and the inspiration for Animal House, was my destination earlier this summer for a quiet weekend getaway.
I stayed at the Hanover Inn, a centuries old hotel that has recently reopened after a $41 million renovation that included the addition of PINE restaurant, created by James Beard award-winning chef, Michael Schlow. The hotel, which overlooks Dartmouth Green (site of commencement ceremonies, including this one by Conan O’Brien) is decorated in a style that befits its college owners — lots of green, a splash of plaid, and beds draped with cable-knit cardigan-style throws.
Across the green, in the college’s Baker library, is the Epic of American Civilization, one of the three grand frescos by José Clemente Orozco in the United States (the others are in California and New York City.)
Between huge meals and craft cocktails at PINE, I kayaked the Connecticut River.
With these guys:
Note: I was a guest of the Hanover Inn: More here and here.
“Fat and red and jolly” is how Hildegard Swift described Jeffrey’s Hook Light in her beloved tale The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. Although the red lighthouse has not shone its light in years, it is, like in the book, still proud to have a job to do: pleasing children and tourists.
The book, which was published in 1942, tells the story of the lighthouse’s fear that it no longer is of any use when a great grey bridge is built next to it, with its own flashing light, making it feel small and unimportant. One night during a storm, however, the bridge calls to the lighthouse reassuring it that it still has work to do: “each to his own place,” it says, and so the lighthouse proudly gets back to work.
It was this story that saved the lighthouse in 1951 when it was threatened with being torn down. Fans of Swift’s book campaigned for it to stay, and so it sits there today, under George Washington Bridge in northwestern Manhattan. As the book says, you should “see for yourself.”
Through taking the course and talking to young Egyptian activists, long-held understandings shifted. I started to realise things that should have been obvious. Authority, global order: these things are not rigid. Oppression draws power through our consent; we can withdraw that consent. Nonviolence does not mean inaction: it is often strategic.
In the ICNC course I learned a lot about strategy; about movements from West Papua to Burma and Chile; about different terms used for nonviolence (Satyagraha, People Power..) I learned about creative resistance (the Estonian Singing Revolution, Burmese clowns, Chilean cueca sola…)
As I moved through the year and from this place to the next I saw signs of dissent; civil resistance, and what Kircher Allen called the “common font of yearning for an alternative global order.” From Egypt to Mexico and the USA I saw people struggle for rights, recognition and to strategise a commitment to nonviolence.
There is some nuances I still debate. Such as the photograph below.
It is a stencil of Mubarak and (what I am told is) writing that says “when will he die?” I saw others (that I didn’t photograph) of his image in a noose. I believe that words can be violence so do those images have a place in a nonviolent movement?
What about the destruction of property? Below is a photograph of the burned-out NDP building in Cairo. My first glance at it inspired an initial feeling of horror, which lifted when a woman smiling and taking photos of it expressed to me how happy the sight made her.
A question posed in the ICNC course: If property destruction is violence then how should we think of the Danish Resistance blowing up Nazi railroad tracks?
I am learning and I am asking myself questions and I don’t understand much but I am trying. I still struggle with hopelessness and anger but I am trying to be an optimist. There is both optimism and despair in dissent but signs of nonviolent dissent give me hope. I think that is a good way to move into the new year.