I’m writing to you from somewhere in France, along the Mediterranean. I won’t be more specific because I like the semi-secret nature of this place. I’ve barely encountered an American accent in the past week, and that’s been a relief for me along with the presence of unarmed local law enforcement and the magic constitution of the wine here, which I seem to be able to drink with no hangovers or bloating whatsoever. Vive la France!
This newsletter will be different in format. Shortly before I escaped from the U.S.A., I had a conversation with my Puck partner Tina Nguyen, who covers the part of the conservative world I’ll call the MAGAverse. Tina’s got a unique and valuable perspective, having spent some of her younger years in the training centers for future conservative leaders she now covers. I hoped to get a better understanding of how power is moving in our country, and Tina did not disappoint.
But first, I want to briefly address another moving topic: Will Smith. If you missed it, I wrote a piece the day after the 2022 Oscars in which I attempted to process and explain Smith’s assault on Chris Rock. Much of what I hoped for from Smith hadn’t come to pass, but several months later he’s finally issued a public apology. What I see in his statement is someone working to express remorse and explain a severe moment of failure. He acknowledges the utter unacceptability of his actions and the fact that it may have created an irreparable breach with Rock and his family. He also said, “I’m trying to be remorseful without being ashamed of myself. I’m human and I made a mistake and I’m trying not to think of myself as a piece of s***.”
I sincerely wish Smith the best in this part of his journey. As someone who champions redemption and the salvageability of humans, as well as efforts to reform our criminal punishment system, I hope Smith finds what he seeks. And I hope each of us can do the same in our own lives, individually and as a nation. Shame and self-loathing are not a desirable outcome. They can and should only serve as waystations on a greater journey.
Now, onto my conversation with Tina, which we held in late July from our hotel rooms, mine in D.C., hers in Tampa. By the way, her last name, Nguyen, is pronounced “knew-WHEN” so you can consider this a Nguyenterview! Oh silly wordplay. Enjoy!
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