Here’s a playlist that seems to sum up our year, starting and ending with Leonard Cohen.
Sometimes you’re just too angry to produce thoughtful insights. It’s not something I’ve experienced prior to the Trump era and I’m finding the experience very unsettling. Robbed of the ability to write sober material, it seems like a series of listicles might be a good pressure valve.
Racism is a central problem for white America, but our focus on white bigotry may interfere with our ability to recognize and address potentially disastrous political failures.
We might come through this crisis a better country and better people.
What if your ability to vote in a presidential election was conditional on showing that you voted in the last city or county election?
Two stories caught my eye this week for the starkly contradictory picture they paint of our younger generation.
Against this backdrop of mind-numbing obedience to authority has emerged a rich genre of cult-themed shows and documentaries. Hulu is debuting a brilliant first season of a series inspired by Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The same network is serving up a solid, if in some ways less inspired second season of The Path. And HBO is running the final season of what may be the best drama ever made about faith and the human condition – The Leftovers. Our best hope for understanding current events probably lies in fiction. And fiction, unlike current events, is not letting us down.
Sometimes, distant opinions are best understood indirectly, through allegory or metaphor. Consider this scenario.
Thanks to generations of progress in civil rights, race, and more specifically “whiteness,” is failing. Being white is losing its meaning, its privileges, its social and even religious significance. As it fades, it has weakened a load-bearing wall in our democracy. Our goal of transcending race, encoded as a distant aspiration in our founding documents, threatens to undermine the “classless” assumptions that make the rest of our system work. Stripped of race as a reference point, and of whiteness as a marker of special privilege, we are left to cope with class as our main expression of identity.
We embrace fake news because it is easy, because it confirms what we want to believe about the world. Fake news is folklore; comfortable, mentally soothing stories about things that did not happen. Fake news may be pleasant, but it is an inferior evolutionary adaptation. Institutions built on fake news will underperform fact-driven institutions until they are eventually swept away in failure.