Dingus of the Week: James Madison
Time to reach into the dingii of the past and pluck a ripe one
It’s here! The much-awaited newsletter that mocks something in the news (or the past), gives you some links and a drink. Congratulations! You made it through another week without being the dingus.
I fully recognize that in our day and age, there is enough chuckleheadness that we shouldn’t need to look into the past to find a dingus. But I do think it’s important to hold the digusry of the past accountable. So, let’s talk about James Madison.
James Madison, the architect of the 3/5ths compromise. James Madison initially opposed the Bill of Rights. James Madison founded Liberia as a way to remove Black people from America and was the only president besides Donald Trump who saw the nation’s capital invaded (both due to their own actions). The best people can say about Madison is that he was one of the architects of the Constitution, but seeing as how the Constitution is a fundamentally flawed document that did jack all for protecting the rights of anyone except white, land-owning men, I’d say that’s not quite the compliment people think it is.
That guy must be turning in his tiny grave this week after the musical artist Lizzo played his crystal flute. For context, Lizzo is a flute player and singer from Minnesota and an international pop star, and a Black woman.
Clara Hayden, a librarian at the Library of Congress reached out to Lizzo via Tweet to let her know about their large collection of flutes, including James Madison’s crystal flute, which was rescued from the White House during the War of 1812.
Lizzo tweeted back the next day, “IM COMING CARLA! AND I’M PLAYIN THAT CRYSTAL FLUTE!!!!!”
The flute had never been played before and not only did Lizzo get to play the flute, but she got to play it on stage at her concert in DC. After which she yelled, “Bitch, I just twerked and played James Madison’s flute!”
The flute was gifted to Madison on his second inauguration by the French craftsman Claude Laurent. The flute survived the War of 1812, only to be given to Dolly Madison’s shiftless son Todd and was used later to pay his debts.
Sadly, even though James Madison is dead, we can guess what he would have thought because a lot of dinguses log on every day to channel the spirit of our jerkwad founding fathers through tweets.
What history do people think is being desecrated here? The pure and holy history of the 3/5ths compromise, which called Black people 3/5ths of a human being? The history of the constitution, which famously has needed to be amended quite a bit to fit other people besides white male landowners inside its stuffy exclusive little clauses?
Also, do me a favor, scroll up. Look at that picture. That’s the dead, be-wigged, liege you’ve sworn your vassalage to?
Also, that flute was used to pay the medical debts of Madison’s louche, debauched stepson, named Todd. It wasn’t used to stab out the eyes of Sauron.
No one except a few librarians even knew that flute existed until this week when Lizzo played it on stage and now it’s suddenly a symbol of our national purity that is being tarnished by twerking. If your sense of history is threatened by a little twerking, then your sense of history is deeply embedded in racism.
I mean, the only reason I can understand being upset is, as Josh Gondelman, a friend of the newsletter, pointed out there is a little-known clause in the Constitution that by drawing the flute out of the stone, Lizzo has become our president. But Madison is the architect of the Constitution. And as the saying goes: Live by the rules, get twerked by the rules.
But as we all know the culture wars are just ginned up controversy that forces the news cycle to talk about crystal flutes instead of Ken Paxton running away from a subpoena.
I don’t like to pick the personal dinguses in your lives as winners, because it feels like punching down to make fun of Todd from tech support into a newsletter sent to nearly 30,000 people. But a reader posted this in Discord and it was too funny not to share. Remember, if you have a personal dingus, please share it in Discord, where we will all mock Todd from tech support with you.
Dingus of the week: my ex-boyfriend who cheated on me with at least 8 people, pretty much continuously over the course of our 3-year relationship, who also stole money from me and from his employer, who told me gleefully about stealing from his employer, who lied about ALL THE THINGS, who cheated on ALL THE THINGS, who never actually went to work and had all the excuses.... BUT THEN put me down years later as a FUCKING CHARACTER REFERENCE on a job application??? I had sooooo much fun talking to the woman who called me for that reference....
And Now For Something Good:
A man who hit a clinic escort in North Carolina was charged with assault. This is important,
because, increasingly vehicles are being used as tools of political violence.
IT’S FAT BEAR WEEK! VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE LARGE BOI!
Remember, you live in a world where Waffle House exists.
What I Am Reading:
This week, I am reading an early copy of Erica Berry’s beautiful book about wolves and fear and ourselves. I love it so much. You can pre-order it here.
I loved this Vox profile of Ruben Gallego and Arizona and Latino voters.
And on this newsletter, I wrote about staying in Iowa, while everyone is leaving.
On that note: Next week marks the second anniversary of being fired from my job as a columnist for my local newspaper after the GOP mounted a backlash campaign against my writing. In those two years, I’ve sold and written a book (out in 2024), and written many articles for Vanity Fair, Politico, and the Washington Post. More importantly, I’ve built this newsletter into an enterprise where I’ve been able to tell stories and write about things that would not get printed in other outlets. These newsletters here have been shared by Nieman Labs, MSNBC, On the Media, and WNYC. This is incredible and I’m so grateful. You’ve also enabled me to pay writers for unique and original work and I hope to do more of that in the coming year. The newsletter now has close to 30,000 subscribers.
I’ll be sending out another email next week sharing all we’ve done here and all I hope to do in the future. But, to grow and expand (podcasts? Bigger stories?) I need to grow in other ways. I’d love it if, by October 6, I could reach 3,100 paid subscribers. That means adding 200 more. It’s a huge lift. But there are a lot of you who subscribe and don’t pay. (And that is fine! NO SHAME! And if you want to move to paid but can’t afford it, just email me, eclenz at gmail!) But, if you are looking for that excuse. Now is the time. And, oh look, I’m offering an anniversary sale for you all.
To be honest, without this newsletter, I could not afford to live and work in Iowa. There are simply no jobs that offer me the ability to write stories and also pay me a living wage. Thank you all for helping me make this the newsletter and for letting me live and work in this beautiful land of Midwestern contradictions.
And also… Des Moines! Catch me on a panel about abortion rights in November.
*Record scratch* I bet you are wondering how I ended up in conversation with Rebecca Solnit? Well, it’s the Iowa City Book Festival.
Finally, a Drink:
This week, it’s cold in Iowa. So, tonight, I’ll be sipping a hot apple cider margarita around my little fire pit — a Midwesterners paradise.
1.5 oz Tequila
4 oz hot apple cider
1 oz fresh orange juice
.5 oz fresh lemon juice
.75 oz light agave nectar
And a couple of dashes of a spicy bitters.
Rest in peace, Coolio. You were truly the soundtrack of me riding around South Dakota in the back of a truck. I’ll c u when I get there.