art news & reviews & Interviews. jeff bergman, editor

Thoughts on Learn as Protest

Thank all of you who have supported Learn As Protest these past weeks.  It was both strange and gratifying to see the coverage on CNN.  I am not interested in being the face of this thing, but clearly my ego didn’t mind the attention.  As this thing moves forward, here are a few thoughts on protest and publicity from someone who is new to both.

While I have rarely chosen to be an activist before, these acts of protest came naturally.  The friends who have come and read with me have done so because they felt the same draw.  Every time they have joined I have been immensely grateful.  We have conversations among ourselves and with visitors, mostly the ones buying their #MAGA hat and taking selfies.

To be clear: I have become part of the circus.  I do not think my actions put me above anyone seeking selfies or looking to be close to the action.  While my aim may be noble, all the people that come there are drawn by the awe of the power that Trump has now attained.

I do hope that this act of learning as protest remains genuine, as I feel it does.  A great friend and early supporter Matt Krefting shared these words yesterday: “for me at least, your lack of so-called authority on what should be read is a key part of what gives this action its power. Learn as Protest. There’s no need for authority in this case. You are learning in the moment in a privately owned public space. And not just any privately owned public space. If so-called experts flooded the lobby of the tower and read from their own favorite classic (or, more likely, obscure) texts, the spirit would be all wrong — the emphasis would shift from learning back to teaching. Yours is an educational enterprise that is both self-educating and open. And its logistical runoff (being asked to move while in the lobby, getting forced onto the sidewalk and then asked to move across the street with the Hunter kids) is the result of a process that facilitates further illuminating scenarios. This is all to say that while I agree that the texts themselves are extremely important, the very act of educating oneself and, hopefully, others, in this highly charged carnival of a privately owned public space, seems to me to be the key to the project’s potency. Every time I talk to someone about the project the word “elegant” comes up, and I think that’s apt. Not elegant like a fancy car or an evening gown, but elegant like the way a tree branch at night can look like a hand reaching for the moon.”

I could not ask for a more kind statement. The idea of authority would undermine the effort to actively participate in learning as we go.

I have attached a list of books that have been read and suggested below.  Feel free to email me more or post them to

Books read so far at the Teach In:

Elie Wiesel “Night”
Howard Zinn “A People’s History of the US”
(Various readings: Zinn, MLK Jr., Congressman John Lewis, Emma Goldman, Amy Goodman, Walter Mosley)
Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove “Voices of a People’s History of the United States”
Emma Lazarus “The New Colossus”
Noam Chomsky “Failed States”
Primo Levi “Survival in Auschwitz”
Richard Toye “Rhetoric: A Very Short Introduction”
Hannah Arendt “The Origins of Totalitarianism”
Rachel Carson “Silent Spring”
Albert Camus “Resistance, Rebellion and Death”
Lawrence Lessig “Republic, Lost”
Vaclav Havel “The Power of the Powerless”
Ron Chernow “Hamilton”

Articles, Editorials and Prose read so far at the Teach In:

Several Charles Blow Op-Eds but the best of which is “America Elects a Bigot”
Toni Morrison’s “Mourning in America” for The New Yorker
Jeffrey Toobin “The Highest Court” for The New Yorker
Coalition Support of Tribal Lawsuits Against US Army Corps Permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline
Maya Angelou “Human Family”
T.S. Eliot
David Bergman

Learn As Protest upcoming texts and recommendations
Rebecca Solnit “Hope in the Dark
Angela Davis “If They Come in The Morning” and “Freedom is a Constant Struggle”
James Baldwin “Go Tell It On The Mountain
Bernie Sanders “Our Revolution”
George Orwell “1984”
Czeslaw Milosz “The Captive Mind”
Albert Camus “The Rebel”
Peter Pomerahtsev “Nothing is True and Everything is Possible”
Victor Klemperer I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933-1941
Sheldon Wolin “Democracy Incorporated

Lists & Syllabi to Resist Trump

Trump Syllabus 2.0 from Public Books
Stop Trump Reading List from Haymarket Books
NYTimes 6 Books to help understand Trump’s Win

-Jeff Bergman
December 2016


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