“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light,” Carl Jung wrote, “but by making the darkness conscious.” Reading this, I realize that in a whole lifetime spent with seekers of enlightenment, I have never once heard anyone speak in hushed tones about the value of endarkenment. -Barbara Taylor Brown, author & Episcopal priest
And so even now, as light gives way to darkness, I know that once again light is born from darkness. Those who read out to help strangers are living out the oneness that is part of our spiritual DNA. -Science of Mind
What are we only now coming “to know” through this time of not-knowing?
Either we will love and help one another or we will hate and attack one another, in which latter case we will all be one another’s hell. Perhaps Sartre was not far wrong in saying that where freedom is abused, society itself turns into heel.. (L’enfer c’est les autres.”) -Thomas Merton
Yuval Noah Harari: the world after coronavirus
This storm will pass. But the choices we make now could change our lives for years to come.
Humankind is now facing a global crisis. Perhaps the biggest crisis of our generation. The decisions people and governments take in the next few weeks will probably shape the world for years to come. They will shape not just our healthcare systems but also our economy, politics and culture. We must act quickly and decisively. We should also take into account the long-term consequences of our actions. When choosing between alternatives, we should ask ourselves not only how to overcome the immediate threat, but also what kind of world we will inhabit once the storm passes. Yes, the storm will pass, humankind will survive, most of us will still be alive — but we will inhabit a different world.
Many short-term emergency measures will become a fixture of life. That is the nature of emergencies. They fast-forward historical processes. Decisions that in normal times could take years of deliberation are passed in a matter of hours. Immature and even dangerous technologies are pressed into service, because the risks of doing nothing are bigger. Entire countries serve as guinea-pigs in large-scale social experiments. What happens when everybody works from home and communicates only at a distance? What happens when entire schools and universities go online? In normal times, governments, businesses and educational boards would never agree to conduct such experiments. But these aren’t normal times.
The coronavirus epidemic is thus a major test of citizenship. In the days ahead, each one of us should choose to trust scientific data and healthcare experts over unfounded conspiracy theories and self-serving politicians. If we fail to make the right choice, we might find ourselves signing away our most precious freedoms, thinking that this is the only way to safeguard our health.
How the Pandemic Will End
The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how it’s going to play out.
Story by Ed Yong
The testing fiasco was the original sin of America’s pandemic failure, the single flaw that undermined every other countermeasure. If the country could have accurately tracked the spread of the virus, hospitals could have executed their pandemic plans, girding themselves by allocating treatment rooms, ordering extra supplies, tagging in personnel, or assigning specific facilities to deal with COVID-19 cases. None of that happened. Instead, a health-care system that already runs close to full capacity, and that was already challenged by a severe flu season, was suddenly faced with a virus that had been left to spread, untracked, through communities around the country. Overstretched hospitals became overwhelmed. Basic protective equipment, such as masks, gowns, and gloves, began to run out. Beds will soon follow, as will the ventilators that provide oxygen to patients whose lungs are besieged by the virus.
The White House is a ghost town of scientific expertise. A pandemic-preparedness office that was part of the National Security Council was dissolved in 2018. On January 28, Luciana Borio, who was part of that team, urged the government to “act now to prevent an American epidemic,” and specifically to work with the private sector to develop fast, easy diagnostic tests. But with the office shuttered, those warnings were published in The Wall Street Journal, rather than spoken into the president’s ear. Instead of springing into action, America sat idle.
After 9/11, the world focused on counterterrorism. After COVID-19, attention may shift to public health. Expect to see a spike in funding for virology and vaccinology, a surge in students applying to public-health programs, and more domestic production of medical supplies. Expect pandemics to top the agenda at the United Nations General Assembly. Anthony Fauci is now a household name. “Regular people who think easily about what a policewoman or firefighter does finally get what an epidemiologist does,” says Monica Schoch-Spana, a medical anthropologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
The lessons that America draws from this experience are hard to predict, especially at a time when online algorithms and partisan broadcasters only serve news that aligns with their audience’s preconceptions. Such dynamics will be pivotal in the coming months, says Ilan Goldenberg, a foreign-policy expert at the Center for a New American Security. “The transitions after World War II or 9/11 were not about a bunch of new ideas,” he says. “The ideas are out there, but the debates will be more acute over the next few months because of the fluidity of the moment and willingness of the American public to accept big, massive changes.”
7 Resources for Reliable Information About Coronavirus
1. The World Health Organization
The World Health Organization (WHO) is publishing rolling updates on the coronavirus situation as well as useful infographics and explainers, and should be your first port of call for new assessments of what is going on.
The WHO has also got a really handy page on common coronavirus myths — covering everything from whether eating garlic or taking a bath can help prevent you catching it (they can’t), to discussion about what age people are most susceptible.
2. The National Health Service
The UK’s NHS is another excellent resource. It includes easy to understand advice about symptoms, and what to do if you think you have them.
It also gives details of how and under which circumstances you need to self-isolate, and for how long, and on how to get a self-isolation medical advice note to get to your employer.
3. The BBC Coronavirus Podcast
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has launched a Coronavirus Global Update podcast, which includes a daily round-up on the spread of coronavirus.
It also includes reports from affected areas, details of the latest medical information, and the impact on health, business, and travel.
4. COVID-19 Facts
The COVID-19 Facts website works to collate information from sources including the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the World Health Organization, and the Economist Intelligence Unit.
It also features a series covering myths around coronavirus, including analysis by the Economist Intelligence Unit of where the myth came from, and what experts say about it.
5. The New Scientist Podcast
The New Scientist podcast is becoming increasingly focused on COVID-19 — including episodes and pandemic preparations; the spread of COVID-19 and the importance of hand washing; the coronavirus vaccine; and a coronavirus special on disaster preparation and environmental change.
6. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The content platform of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Optimist, is sharing stories, research, and news stories about coronavirus from the Foundation.
The platform works to convene expert voices from across the global health sector, including sharing expert perspectives and updates on the response to COVID-19 — and you can also sign up for the Optimist’s news digest.
7. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
The LSHTM launched its new podcastLSHTM Viral in January 2020, in response to the outbreak of COVID-19, and is releasing a new episode every week. It specifically focuses on the science behind outbreaks and how we respond to them.
Meanwhile, the LSHTM is also launching an online short course, for those who want to better understand the emergence of COVID-19, and how we respond to it moving forward.
The free-of-charge course launches on March 23, and will cover topics like: how COVID-19 emerged and was identified; public health measures worldwide; and what’s needed to address COVID-19 in the future.
Given that everything is going to be the way it’s going to be, we’re left with an actually useful and productive question instead: “What are you going to do about it?”
Stocking up on compassion.
That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief
Harvard Business Review
Anticipatory grief is the mind going to the future and imagining the worst. To calm yourself, you want to come into the present.
Finally, it’s a good time to stock up on compassion. Everyone will have different levels of fear and grief and it manifests in different ways. A coworker got very snippy with me the other day and I thought, That’s not like this person; that’s how they’re dealing with this. I’m seeing their fear and anxiety. So be patient. Think about who someone usually is and not who they seem to be in this moment.
When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through.
It’s absurd to think we shouldn’t feel grief right now. Let yourself feel the grief and keep going.
Social distancing is the only way to stop the coronavirus. We must start immediately.
The first fact is that, at least in the initial stages, documented cases of COVID-19 seem to increase in exponential fashion. On the 23rd of January, China’s Hubei province, which contains the city of Wuhan, had 444 confirmed COVID-19 cases. A week later, by the 30th of January, it had 4,903 cases. Another week later, by the 6th of February, it had 22,112.
The same story is now playing out in other countries around the world. Italy had 62 identified cases of COVID-19 on the 22nd of February. It had 888 cases by the 29th of February, and 4,636 by the 6th of March.
Because the United States has been extremely sluggish in testing patients for the coronavirus, the official tally of 604 likely represents a fraction of the real caseload. But even if we take this number at face value, it suggests that we should prepare to have up to 10 times as many cases a week from today, and up to 100 times as many cases two weeks from today.
The second fact is that this disease is deadlier than the flu, to which the honestly ill-informed and the wantonly irresponsible insist on comparing it. Early guesstimates, made before data were widely available, suggested that the fatality rate for the coronavirus might wind up being about 1 percent. If that guess proves true, the coronavirus is 10 times as deadly as the flu.
But there is reason to fear that the fatality rate could be much higher. According to the World Health Organization, the current case fatality rate—a common measure of what portion of confirmed patients die from a particular disease—stands at 3.4 percent. This figure could be an overstatement, because mild cases of the disease are less likely to be diagnosed. Or it could be an understatement, because many patients have already been diagnosed with the virus but have not yet recovered (and may still die).
When the coronavirus first spread to South Korea, many observers pointed to the comparatively low death rates in the country to justify undue optimism. In countries with highly developed medical systems, they claimed, a smaller portion of patients would die. But while more than half of all diagnosed patients in China have now been cured, most South Korean patients are still in the throes of the disease. Of the 7,478 confirmed cases, only 118 have recovered; the low death rate may yet rise.
Meanwhile, the news from Italy, another country with a highly developed medical system, has so far been shockingly bad. In the affluent region of Lombardy, for example, there have been 7,375 confirmed cases of the virus as of Sunday. Of these patients, 622 had recovered, 366 had died, and the majority were still sick. Even under the highly implausible assumption that all of the still-sick make a full recovery, this would suggest a case fatality rate of 5 percent—significantly higher, not lower, than in China.
The third fact is that so far only one measure has been effective against the coronavirus: extreme social distancing.
Before China canceled all public gatherings, asked most citizens to self-quarantine, and sealed off the most heavily affected region, the virus was spreading in exponential fashion. Once the government imposed social distancing, the number of new cases leveled off; now, at least according to official statistics, every day brings more news of existing patients who are healed than of patients who are newly infected.
A few other countries have taken energetic steps to increase social distancing before the epidemic reached devastating proportions. In Singapore, for example, the government quickly canceled public events and installed medical stations to measure the body temperature of passersby while private companies handed out free hand sanitizer. As a result, the number of cases has grown much more slowly than in nearby countries.
These three facts imply a simple conclusion. The coronavirus could spread with frightening rapidity, overburdening our health-care system and claiming lives, until we adopt serious forms of social distancing.
This suggests that anyone in a position of power or authority, instead of downplaying the dangers of the coronavirus, should ask people to stay away from public places, cancel big gatherings, and restrict most forms of nonessential travel.
Given that most forms of social distancing will be useless if sick people cannot get treated—or afford to stay away from work when they are sick—the federal government should also take some additional steps to improve public health. It should take on the costs of medical treatment for the coronavirus, grant paid sick leave to stricken workers, promise not to deport undocumented immigrants who seek medical help, and invest in a rapid expansion of ICU facilities.
The past days suggest that this administration is unlikely to do these things well or quickly (although the administration signaled on Monday that it will seek relief for hourly workers, among other measures). Hence, the responsibility for social distancing now falls on decision makers at every level of society.
Do you head a sports team? Play your games in front of an empty stadium.
Are you organizing a conference? Postpone it until the fall.
Do you run a business? Tell your employees to work from home.
Are you the principal of a school or the president of a university? Move classes online before your students get sick and infect their frail relatives.
Are you running a presidential campaign? Cancel all rallies right now.
All of these decisions have real costs. Shutting down public schools in New York City, for example, would deprive tens of thousands of kids of urgently needed school meals. But the job of institutions and authorities is to mitigate those costs as much as humanly possible, not to use them as an excuse to put the public at risk of a deadly communicable disease.
Finally, the most important responsibility falls on each of us. It’s hard to change our own behavior while the administration and the leaders of other important institutions send the social cue that we should go on as normal. But we must change our behavior anyway. If you feel even a little sick, for the love of your neighbor and everyone’s grandpa, do not go to work.
When the influenza epidemic of 1918 infected a quarter of the U.S. population, killing tens of millions of people, seemingly small choices made the difference between life and death.
As the disease was spreading, Wilmer Krusen, Philadelphia’s health commissioner, allowed a huge parade to take place on September 28; some 200,000 people marched. In the following days and weeks, the bodies piled up in the city’s morgues. By the end of the season, 12,000 residents had died.
In St. Louis, a public-health commissioner named Max Starkloff decided to shut the city down. Ignoring the objections of influential businessmen, he closed the city’s schools, bars, cinemas, and sporting events. Thanks to his bold and unpopular actions, the per capita fatality rate in St. Louis was half that of Philadelphia. (In total, roughly 1,700 people died from influenza in St Louis.)
In the coming days, thousands of people across the country will face the choice between becoming a Wilmer Krusen or a Max Starkloff.
In the moment, it will seem easier to follow Krusen’s example. For a few days, while none of your peers are taking the same steps, moving classes online or canceling campaign events will seem profoundly odd. People are going to get angry. You will be ridiculed as an extremist or an alarmist. But it is still the right thing to do.
Rupert Murdoch could save lives by forcing Fox News to tell the truth about coronavirus — right now
There’s one person who could transform all that in an instant: Fox founder Rupert Murdoch, the Australian-born media mogul who, at 89, still exerts his influence on the leading cable network — and thus on the president himself.
Chris Wallace, the independent and tough-minded Fox News interviewer who serves as the network’s chief reality officer, has revealed that the executive chairman of News Corp and co-chairman of Fox Corporation likes to give feedback on what he sees on the network.
“He cares tremendously about the news,” Wallace said, according to the Guardian. “When I have contact with him, he never is asking about ideology, just: ‘What’s going on? What’s happening? Tell me.’ ”
That’s a little hard to believe, given the network’s long history of Clinton-bashing and birtherism lies about Barack Obama, and its peddling of conspiracy theories. But Murdoch’s ultimate power at the network is not in question.
So imagine if the word flowed down from on high that Fox News should communicate to Trump that he needs to take an entirely new tack on the virus. Imagine if Murdoch ordered the network to end its habit of praising him as if he were the Dear Leader of an authoritarian regime and to instead use its influence to drive home the seriousness of the moment.
Would it matter? No doubt.
The network’s influence on Trump is clear from the presidential tweets that follow fast on the heels of a Fox News broadcast. He was always a fan of Fox News, but after entering the White House, he made it even more of an obsessive daily habit, Bloomberg News reported in 2017, to the extent of blotting out dissenting voices from other sources.
Trump made specific reference to his reliance on Fox News during his misleading press event Friday, when he offered unwarranted reassurance rather than urging extreme caution and decisive action: “As of the time I left the plane . . . we had 240 cases — that’s at least what was on a very fine network known as Fox News.”
The message: Go about your business, America, and it will all disappear soon.
Days later, 30 deaths and more than 1,000 cases have been reported in the United States, with those numbers expected to grow exponentially. (By contrast, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is telling hard truths: As much as 70 percent of that country could end up being infected.)
Matt Gertz, a Media Matters senior fellow and the foremost chronicler of the insidious Trump-Fox News feedback loop, connected the dots: “Roughly an hour before his comments, a Fox News medical correspondent argued on-air that coronavirus was no more dangerous than the flu; a few hours later, the same correspondent argued that coronavirus fears were being deliberately overblown in hopes of damaging Trump politically.”
He added: “The network’s personalities have frequently claimed that the Trump administration has been doing a great job responding to coronavirus, that the fears of the disease are overblown, and that the real problem is Democrats and the media politicizing the epidemic to prevent Trump’s reelection.”
On Fox Business Channel, host Trish Regan drew widespread condemnation for her over-the-top rant in Trump’s defense: “The chorus of hate being leveled at the president is nearing a crescendo as Democrats blame him and only him for a virus that originated halfway around the world. This is yet another attempt to impeach the president.”
(By contrast, her Fox News colleague Tucker Carlson has taken the threat seriously, though using it as an excuse to stoke anti-China sentiment along the way.)
But it’s not just the opinionators such as Regan and Trump whisperer Sean Hannity who are at fault. The news segments — while certainly more tied to reality — seldom push back in a meaningful way against the Trump message.
On Tuesday, news anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum docilely sat back and lobbed soft questions while the president’s son Eric praised his father’s crisis-management skills and blamed liberal media figures who criticize him: “He could cure cancer tomorrow and they’d say it wasn’t fast enough.”
Even if all that changed today, great harm has already been done. As The Washington Post and others have documented, the administration has repeatedly squandered chances to prepare for and manage the global epidemic.
But every moment still counts. Lives can be saved by prudent practices and aggressive government action — and lost by their absence.
But it takes leadership from the top. And so, let’s acknowledge the obvious: There is no more important player in influencing Trump than Fox News. And no more powerful figure at Fox than its patriarch.
Murdoch might consider, too, that with the median age of Fox’s viewers around 65, they are among the most vulnerable to the virus’s threats.
For Fox News, a late-breaking change of heart might finally combine a wise business decision with what’s good for the world.
The Power of the ‘Pale Blue Dot’ Three Decades Later
The spacecraft that captured the famous, fuzzy photo grows weaker each year, but the image still soothes.
I emailed Amanda, who lives in Berlin now, to ask her why she decided to get the tattoo; she’d told me it was meaningful for her the day she got it, but I couldn’t remember the specifics. “I wanted to have a permanent reminder of how small my daily problems and heartbreaks were in the scheme of the universe,” she said. “I wanted to be able to look down and think, Oh yeah, none of this matters, so just try to be kind and grateful and enjoy yourself.”
Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there—on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
It is a lovely perspective, this view of outer space as salve, and it could be quite effective; after all, there’s no bigger picture than the entire universe. But more often, especially these days, I’ve heard a darker interpretation of our smallness in the face of celestial forces. A small corner of the internet invokes the workings of the cosmos as a way of dismissing depressing headlines here on Earth. Yes, everything is awful, such people half-joke, but who cares? We’re all going to perish during the heat death of the universe, anyway. Didn’t you hear our sun will collapse in on itself in less than 5 billion years? Or that the Milky Way is expected to collide with another galaxy even sooner?
At the risk of sounding too earnest—but what else are anniversaries for?—I hope “Pale Blue Dot” inspires the opposite. Believing that one-10th of a pixel on a screen is going to bring people comfort is foolish, of course. But it’s something.
Truths kindle light for truths.
“What you have is a presidential campaign that is pushing lies and distortions and conspiracy theories into the bloodstream at an unprecedented rate,” says Atlantic writer McKay Coppins.
“Eventually, the fear of covert propaganda inflicts as much damage as the propaganda itself.”
The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President
How new technologies and techniques pioneered by dictators will shape the 2020 election
“One day last fall, I sat down to create a new Facebook account. I picked a forgettable name, snapped a profile pic with my face obscured, and clicked “Like” on the official pages of Donald Trump and his reelection campaign. Facebook’s algorithm prodded me to follow Ann Coulter, Fox Business, and a variety of fan pages with names like “In Trump We Trust.” I complied. I also gave my cellphone number to the Trump campaign, and joined a handful of private Facebook groups for MAGA diehards, one of which required an application that seemed designed to screen out interlopers.
It’s been reported that the RNC and the Trump campaign have compiled an average of 3,000 data points on every voter in America. And so that means everything from what you like to watch on TV, what kind of stores you shop at, whether you’ve been to a gun show or own a gun. They’ve compiled all this data, and they can use it to carefully tailor messages just for you. And I should say that this is not unique to the Trump campaign. This isn’t something Brad Parscale invented. Barack Obama’s campaign famously did it in 2012. The Clinton campaign did it as well in 2016. But the Trump campaign’s effort was different, both because it was much more extensive and also, frankly, a lot more brazen.
The Trump campaign is planning to spend more than $1 billion, and it will be aided by a vast coalition of partisan media, outside political groups, and enterprising freelance operatives. These pro-Trump forces are poised to wage what could be the most extensive disinformation campaign in U.S. history. Whether or not it succeeds in reelecting the president, the wreckage it leaves behind could be irreparable.”
The Death Star
The campaign is run from the 14th floor of a gleaming, modern office tower in Rosslyn, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. Glass-walled conference rooms look out on the Potomac River. Rows of sleek monitors line the main office space. Unlike the bootstrap operation that first got Trump elected—with its motley band of B-teamers toiling in an unfinished space in Trump Tower—his 2020 enterprise is heavily funded, technologically sophisticated, and staffed with dozens of experienced operatives. One Republican strategist referred to it, admiringly, as “the Death Star.”
Next hit? Local News
Parscale has indicated that he plans to open up a new front in this war: local news. Last year, he said the campaign intends to train “swarms of surrogates” to undermine negative coverage from local TV stations and newspapers. Polls have long found that Americans across the political spectrum trust local news more than national media. If the campaign has its way, that trust will be eroded by November. “We can actually build up and fight with the local newspapers,” Parscale told donors, according to a recording provided by The Palm Beach Post. “So we’re not just fighting on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC with the same 700,000 people watching every day.”
Running parallel to this effort, some conservatives have been experimenting with a scheme to exploit the credibility of local journalism. Over the past few years, hundreds of websites with innocuous-sounding names like the Arizona Monitor and The Kalamazoo Times have begun popping up. At first glance, they look like regular publications, complete with community notices and coverage of schools. But look closer and you’ll find that there are often no mastheads, few if any bylines, and no addresses for local offices. Many of them are organs of Republican lobbying groups; others belong to a mysterious company called Locality Labs, which is run by a conservative activist in Illinois. Readers are given no indication that these sites have political agendas—which is precisely what makes them valuable.
Censorship Through Noise
The political theorist Hannah Arendt once wrote that the most successful totalitarian leaders of the 20th century instilled in their followers “a mixture of gullibility and cynicism.” When they were lied to, they chose to believe it. When a lie was debunked, they claimed they’d known all along—and would then “admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.” Over time, Arendt wrote, the onslaught of propaganda conditioned people to “believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true.”
President Barack Obama: Even if the methods are new, sowing the seeds of doubt, division, and discord to turn Americans against each other is an old trick. The antidote is citizenship: to get engaged, organized, mobilized, and to vote – on every level, in every election. 02.11.20 [twitter]
Fresh Air with Terry Gross
“The 2020 Disinformation War,” is in the current issue of The Atlantic, where McKay Coppins is a staff writer. He writes about how the Trump campaign and a vast coalition of partisan media, outside political groups and freelance operatives are poised to wage what could be the most extensive disinformation campaign in U.S. history. As part of his research, Coppins tried to live in the same media and social media world as Trump supporters so he could monitor the information or disinformation they were receiving.”
“A lot of these illiberal leaders have discovered that in the Internet age, in the social media age, in what scholars call the information abundance age, it’s a lot easier to harness the power of social media for their own means. So rather than shutting down dissenting voices, they’ve learned to use the democratizing power of social media to jam the signals or sow confusion. They don’t have to, you know, silence the dissident who’s shouting in the streets; they can actually just drown him out. And I think that over time, you’ve seen this in other countries – certainly in the Baltic states, in Eastern Europe, Russia.
If journalism and facts are treated as equal in credibility to partisan propaganda or lies from political leaders, if it’s all one level playing field, then it becomes almost impossible for political leaders to be held accountable for their actions because you have a population that’s either disengaged or distracted or confused and unable to kind of respond to the various corruptions and scandals and things that they’re getting away with.
Matthew Boyle, an editor at Breitbart who is often involved in this effort, gave a speech at the Heritage Foundation in 2017 where he said, journalistic integrity is dead. There is no such thing anymore. So everything now is about weaponization of information. And that’s really at the root of this whole enterprise. They’re not trying to make journalists be better or get them to do their jobs better. They’re trying to discredit them and weaponize information and make it so that journalism and facts are seen as on par with political talking points and propaganda.”
With remarkable clarity, Greta Gerwig’s adaptation establishes love and its complement, sacrifice, as mutually engaged emotions.
At a pivotal moment in Greta Gerwig’s outstanding new screen adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, the heroine, Jo March, exclaims to Marmee, “Women have minds and they have souls as well as just hearts. They’ve got ambition and they’ve got talent as well as just beauty. I am so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for. I’m so sick of it! But—I am so lonely.” While firm in its support for Jo’s assertion that women have a broader destiny than romance, Gerwig’s Little Women makes some of its strongest points about the nature of love—its aches, its sacrifices, its disappointments. A visually gorgeous period drama, the film poses a question of eternal relevance: How can a person behave unselfishly without annihilating herself?
Experience continually taught her that love leads us to want to be the best thing we can be in another person’s life, but that that best thing can be far different from what we might desire it to be.
Gerwig’s film is the first of this novel’s many Hollywood adaptations to be a work of art in its own right.
When we are young, our possibilities seem almost limitless. Years pass, and we learn our limitations. Yet a small part of us remains free and unconquered. Tattered but untamed, the spirit of youth survives into our grown selves, and it powers and makes possible our most rewarding triumphs.
-John Matteson, The Atlantic
[John Matteson is the author of Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father, which received the Pulitzer Prize for Biography.]
The acting performances are stellar across the board, though the biggest joy of Little Women is Gerwig’s magnificent screenplay.
There is a wild urgency to Greta Gerwig’s Little Women that hardly seems possible for a film based on a 150-year-old book. But such is the magic of combining Louisa May Alcott’s enduring story of those four sisters with Gerwig’s deliciously feisty, evocative and clear-eyed storytelling that makes this Little Women a new classic.
New York Post
This Little Women is of good cheer and lovely ensemble performances. It’s a warm fireplace hearth of a film, albeit one with a tendency to spit out fiery embers.
Drawing on both the classic novel and the writings of Louisa May Alcott, and unfolding as the author’s alter ego, Jo March, reflects back and forth on her fictional life. In writer-director Greta Gerwig’s take, the beloved story of the March sisters—four young women each determined to live life on her own terms—is both timeless and timely. Starring Meryl Streep, Saoirse Ronan, Abby Quinn, Bob Odenkirk, Chris Cooper, Eliza Scanlen, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Laura Dern, and Tracy Letts . Rated PG (135 min)
‘Above all else, Louisa May Alcott was a radical. From an early age, she was an abolitionist. She was also a feminist, committed to never marrying, and loved to pull up her skirts and go for a long run through the woods. Alcott’s father, Bronson Alcott, with whom she was close, was also a radical. He hung out with Transcendentalist poets and used the family home as a stop on the Underground Railroad. He was also a teacher who was disgraced after publishing a book with ideas about education that were a little too innovative.’ -Gillian Brockell
|A lesson from 45 years ago…|
On April 29, 1974, President Richard M. Nixon points to the transcripts of the White House tapes after he announced during a nationally-televised speech that he would turn over the transcripts to House impeachment investigators. Photo: AP
“As a junior aide in President Richard Nixon’s White House, I saw congressional oversight and investigation command immensely greater power and respect than it does today,” Jonathan C. Rose — special assistant to Nixon from 1971 to 1973, and associate deputy attorney general from 1973 to 1975 — writes in The Atlantic.
“As evidence implicating the White House mounted, the administration displayed no inclination toward negotiation or accommodation with the Senate Watergate Committee. On March 15, 1973, Nixon issued an edict asserting executive privilege, declaring that White House aides and papers were entirely off limits to the committee. If the committee desired to press the issue, the president said, it could pursue a contempt prosecution through the courts.
“Pressed for his reaction, [Senate Watergate Committee Chairman Sam] Ervin said Nixon’s position was ‘executive poppycock, akin to the divine right of kings.’ Ervin declared that his committee had no intention of submitting to the suggested judicial delays, but would instead utilize the Senate’s sergeant at arms to arrest any recalcitrant White House aide, bring him to the bar of the Senate for trial, and ultimately compel him to testify.
“As damaging revelations continued to mount and the stigma of cover-up gathered strength, the White House floated trial balloons, offering the Watergate Committee possible closed-door interviews with White House aides. …
“By mid-April 1973, Nixon’s resistance to testimony by White House aides had collapsed, and a number of them testified. This testimony disclosed the White House taping system and confirmed the existence of tapes. Those disclosures ultimately led to Nixon’s departure from office.”
‘We are no longer innocent; but we must make every effort to become primitive so that we can begin again each time, and from our hearts. We must become springtime people in order to find the summer, whose greatness we must herald.’
-Rilke, Early Journals
To Save the Church, Dismantle the Priesthood
Catholics must death themselves from the clerical hierarchy, and take the faith back into their own hands.
As James Joyce wrote in Finnegans Wake, Catholic means “Here Comes Everybody.”
Replacing the diseased model of the Church with something healthy may involve, for a time, intentional absence from services or life on the margins—less in the pews than in the rearmost shadows. But it will always involve deliberate performance of the works of mercy: feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, visiting the sick, striving for justice. These can be today’s chosen forms of the faith. It will involve, for many, unauthorized expressions of prayer and worship—egalitarian, authentic, ecumenical; having nothing to do with diocesan borders, parish boundaries, or the sacrament of holy orders. That may be especially true in so-called intentional communities that lift up the leadership of women. These already exist, everywhere. No matter who presides at whatever form the altar takes, such adaptations of Eucharistic observance return to the theological essence of the sacrament. Christ is experienced not through the officiant but through the faith of the whole community. “For where two or three are gathered in my name,” Jesus said, “there am I in the midst of them.”
In what way, one might ask, can such institutional detachment square with actual Catholic identity? Through devotions and prayers and rituals that perpetuate the Catholic tradition in diverse forms, undertaken by a wide range of commonsensical believers, all insisting on the Catholic character of what they are doing. Their ranks would include ad hoc organizers of priestless parishes; parents who band together for the sake of the religious instruction of youngsters; social activists who take on injustice in the name of Jesus; and even social-media wizards launching, say, #ChurchResist. As ever, the Church’s principal organizing event will be the communal experience of the Mass, the structure of which—reading the Word, breaking the bread—will remain universal; it will not need to be celebrated by a member of some sacerdotal caste. The gradual ascendance of lay leaders in the Church is in any case becoming a fact of life, driven by shortages of personnel and expertise. Now is the time to make this ascendance intentional, and to accelerate it. The pillars of Catholicism—gatherings around the book and the bread; traditional prayers and songs; retreats centered on the wisdom of the saints; an understanding of life as a form of discipleship—will be unshaken.
The future will come at us invisibly, frame by frame, as it always does—comprehensible only when run together and projected retrospectively at some distant moment. But it is coming. One hundred years from now, there will be a Catholic Church. Count on it. If, down through the ages, it was appropriate for the Church to take on the political structures of the broader culture—imperial Rome, feudal Europe—then why shouldn’t Catholicism now absorb the ethos and form of liberal democracy? This may not be inevitable, but it is more than possible. The Church I foresee will be governed by laypeople, although the verb govern may apply less than serve. There will be leaders who gather communities in worship, and because the tradition is rich, striking chords deep in human history, such sacramental enablers may well be known as priests. They will include women and married people. They will be ontologically equal to everyone else. They will not owe fealty to a feudal superior. Catholic schools and universities will continue to submit faith to reason—and vice versa. Catholic hospitals will be a crucial part of the global health-care infrastructure. Catholic religious orders of men and women, some voluntarily celibate, will continue to protect and enshrine the varieties of contemplative practice and the social Gospel. Jesuits and Dominicans, Benedictines and Franciscans, the Catholic Worker Movement and other communities of liberation theology—all of these will survive in as yet unimagined forms. The Church will be fully alive at the local level, even if the faith is practiced more in living rooms than in basilicas. And the Church will still have a worldwide reach, with some kind of organizing center, perhaps even in Rome for old times’ sake. But that center will be protected from Catholic triumphalism by being openly engaged with other Christian denominations. This imagined Church of the future will have more in common with ancient tradition than the pope-idolizing Catholicism of modernity ever did. And as all of this implies, clericalism will be long dead. Instead of destroying a Catholic’s love of the Church, the vantage of internal exile can reinforce it—making the essence of the faith more apparent than ever.
What remains of the connection to Jesus once the organizational apparatus disappears? That is what I asked myself in the summer before I resigned from the priesthood all those years ago—a summer spent at a Benedictine monastery on a hill between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. I came to realize that the question answers itself. The Church, whatever else it may be, is not the organizational apparatus. It is a community of memory, keeping alive the story of Jesus Christ. The Church is an in-the-flesh connection to him—or it is nothing. The Church is the fellowship of those who follow him, of those who seek to imitate him—a fellowship, to repeat the earliest words ever used about us, of “those that loved him at the first and did not let go of their affection for him.”
‘On the morning after yet another terrible, preventable crime, the world looks bleak. For those in mourning, that bleakness will never end. Yet over the horizon, hope is glimmering. Those who have imposed this nightmare on the country are weakening. Those who reject the cult of the gun are rising. Tomorrow will be better.
The political map of the country is changing.
Groups such as Shannon Watts’s Moms Demand Action are winning actual election victories for women who have lost loved ones to gun violence.
On the morning after yet another terrible, preventable crime, the world looks bleak. For those in mourning, that bleakness will never end.
Too many guns.
Too little hope.
After each succeeding gun massacre, a dull fatalism grips the American mind. The victims of such massacres are counted in the thousands; the victims of individual murder, of suicide, and of heartrending accident by now are counted in the tens of thousands. Yet action to save lives is vetoed again and again by an implacable minority who see gun ownership as integral to their identity.’
[Full article: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/06/even-after-virginia-beach-shootings-hope-looms/590857/?utm_campaign=the-atlantic&utm_content=edit-promo&utm_term=2019-06-01T13%3A50%3A29&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social
[Photo: A law enforcement official stands at an entrance to a municipal building that was the scene of a shooting, Saturday, June 1, 2019, in Virginia Beach, Va. A longtime city employee opened fire at the building Friday before police shot and killed him, authorities said. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky]
‘Everytown for Gun Safety is a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities.’
Shannon Watts / Moms Demand Action:
‘Every nation is home to angry, disgruntled and unstable people – online and offline. Only America gives them easy access to arsenals, silencers, high capacity magazines and bulk ammo.
Virginia has no law restricting large capacity ammunition magazines and silencers are legal. According to a researcher at Boston University, “Whether a state has a large capacity ammunition magazine ban is the single best predictor of the mass shooting rates in that state.”’
The latest mass shooting victims in the United States, Friday, May 31st in Virginia Beach.
The humanitarian crisis is in the White House.
DT’s Second Term
So far, much of the concern about the long-term effects of DT’s presidency has centered on his antidemocratic tendencies. But even if we take those off the table—even if we assume that Trump continues to be hemmed in by other parts of the government and by outside institutions, and that he governs no more effectively than he has until now—the impact of a second term would be more lasting than that of the first.
Three areas—climate change, the risk of a renewed global arms race, and control of the Supreme Court—illustrate the historic significance of the 2020 election. The first two problems will become much harder to address as time goes on. The third one stands to remake our constitutional democracy and undermine the capacity for future change.
In short, the biggest difference between electing Trump in 2016 and reelecting DT in 2020 would be irreversibility.
Democracy is always a gamble, but ordinarily the stakes involve short-term wins and losses. Much more hangs in the balance next year.
The choice Americans face in 2020 is one we will not get to make again. What remains to be seen is whether voters will grasp the stakes before them. In 2016, Hillary Clinton’s emails absorbed more media and public attention than any other issue. In 2018, DT tried to focus attention on a ragtag caravan of a few thousand Central Americans approaching the southern border. That effort failed, but the master of distraction will be back at it next year. If we cannot focus on what matters, we may sleepwalk into a truly perilous future.
“Humanity has come to a fork in the road. There is a way marked Love and there is a way marked Fear, each path leading tumor of the same…in our finest hours, America has stood for what humanity at our best aspires to be. We have sometimes succeeded and sometimes failed, but today, in our time, it is ours to decide our path as we move forward. lady Liberty’s torch is in our hands, but only we can determine whether it burns within our hearts.”
-Marianne Williamson, A Politics of Love
Marianne spoke in Las Vegas last night. I recommend beginning at 50:15 for her introduction video. Forward to 1:20:00 for her Q&A to hear the depth of her issues, wisdom, compassion, and her connection with “We the People.” (1:24:00 is beautiful.)
“A truth teller, a seeker, a mother, and a learned woman in this scary and strange new world, her voice is at once strong medicine for our roundedness, warmth, insistence, good humor, and a little light to see by.”
-Author Anne Lamott
Author. Lecturer. Activist. Democratic Presidential Candidate.
‘My campaign for the presidency is dedicated to this search, for wisdom of the heart is too often absent from the political sphere.
Together we can reclaim both our democratic principles and the angels of our better selves, expressed not just in our personal lives but on acts of citizenship as well.
Politics should not be a pursuit disconnected from the heart; it should be, as everything should be, an expression of the heart. Where fear has been harnessed for political purposes, let’s now harness the power of love.
It is time to let go of an old and tired political conversation, and forge a new, whole-person, heart-centered political dynamic.’
From Marianne on Saturday, April 27th: “We’re under 8,000 left to go! So we’re totally getting there. Please do everything you can to get even the smallest donations to get us onto the DNC debate stage.”
[Only$1-$5 donations needed for a singular/unique donation.]
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
A social inheritance based on the U.S.’s extraordinary wealth.
America is the richest civilization in history. Why, then, are our living standards so low compared to those of other wealthy democracies?
Why the U.S. Should Provide Universal Basic IncomeVideo by The Atlantic
America is the richest civilization in history. Why, then, are our living standards so low compared to those of other wealthy democracies?
“There’s a big idea out there that could help solve this,” says The Atlantic writer Annie Lowrey. “It’s called a universal basic income.” In a new animated video, Lowrey argues that UBI—a concept that has existed for more than 500 years—would help close the income inequality gap, eliminating poverty and increasing mobility and opportunity for all American citizens.
Read more about UBI in Lowrey’s new book, Give People Money: How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work, and Remake the World.
Cover to cover The Atlantic’s October issue is essential reading from some of the most varied minds in our country today. They were invited to explore the premise of democracy’s demise. Topics include autocracy, tribalism, James Madison’s ‘Madisonian mob factions’, tyranny, and America’s courts by writers Anne Applebaum, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Jeff Rosen, David Frum, Amy Chua, and others. The links are pinned below.
A note from The Atlantic:
Though these ills can be seen most plainly in the style and behavior of a growing number of political leaders worldwide, their sources run deeper than that. The aim of this package is to diagnose their serenity and root causes.
Some of these causes are universal; some are unique to the United States. The essays are grouped to reflect this distinction, and then to consider solutions.
Sprinkled throughout are brief warnings about risks to democracy from The Atlantic’s archives–some prescient, some misplaced, and many all too relevant today.
These are some of the headlines, stories, and links.
Losing the Democratic Habit
Americans once learned self-governance by practicing it constantly–in lodge halls, neighborhood associations, and labor unions. As participation in these institutions had dwindled, so had public faith in democracy. To restore it, we must return democratic practices to everyday life.
The Threat of Tribalism
Amy Chua & Red Rubenfeld
The constitution once united a diverse country under a banner of ideas. But partisanship has turned Americans against one another–and against the principles enshrined in our founding document.
Madison vs. The Mob
The founders designed a government that would be insulted from the heat of popular sentiment, but they didn’t anticipate the unbridled passions of the digital age. Here’s how the constitutional order can survive.
America’s Courts Can’t Ignore the World
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer
The U.S. Constitution is an American document. And American law should look exclusively to American precedents. Right? Not so, a supreme Court Justice says. That approach sounds good in theory, but the laws of other countries have a bearing on our own–and the highest court in the land needs to take heed.
Building an Autocracy
Will American democracy survive DT? And will the midterms matter?
Link to The Atlantic October issue:
The Decemberists’ Shiny, Happy Protest Album
“There’s something therapeutic in looking at the apocalypse and laughing,” Colin Meloy says of the band’s I’ll Be Your Girl.
[Excerpt from interview with The Decembrists’ Colin Meloy in The Atlantic]
Kornhaber: I saw you called the album an “apocalyptic dance party,” which feels like a term that could describe a lot of albums lately.
Meloy: We’re having a very shared experience. It’s almost galvanizing, people coming out of the woodwork and saying, “Shit is fucked up.” There’s something therapeutic in looking at the apocalypse and laughing.
I was hearing a story about that incident in Hawaii when a false missile alert came down. There were a couple guys on a golf course whose phones went off at the same time, and they went through how much time they had, where they could go, what they could actually accomplish. And they came to the conclusion that the best thing they could do is continue playing golf. There was nothing else they could do. That, in some ways, is a shared experience in this country right now.
Kornhaber: That story sounds like a future Decemberists song topic. But there’s a capitulation in it, right?
Meloy: Obviously the golfers in Hawaii is not analogous to our current predicament. It is a thought experiment: The apocalypse is 10 minutes away; what really can you do? If you want to talk literally, I don’t think we are in that dire circumstances. Responding to that intuition to shout out that things are broken is some way forward. We’re not leading the charge, but it feels good to lend our voices to that ever-growing chorus of people who are saying, This is not right.
Kornhaber: How much do you want this read as a Trump album?
Meloy: I don’t think I set out to make an overtly topical or political record. The songs just came from where we were and where my head was at in the last year and a half. I didn’t want to go too over-the-top. For one thing, I don’t know that I feel like the white straight-male voice is really the voice that needs to be amplified right now, or necessarily be the one singing protest music. There is powerful and topical music to be made by those communities who are oppressed. I don’t think it’s necessarily my place. That said, you can’t help but have some of that stuff just come through the cracks as you’re working.
Mohammed Mohiedin Anis, 70, smokes his pipe as he sits in his destroyed bedroom, listening to music on his hand-cranked gramophone in Aleppo’s formerly rebel-held al-Shaar neighborhood in Syria.
Anis had recently returned to Aleppo, with plans to rebuild not only his home, but also his large collection of vintage American cars, despite everything being reduced to rubble. When reporters asked him about the gramophone, he responded, “I will play it for you, but first I have to light my pipe. Because I never listen to music without it.”
[Photo #19 on The Atlantic’s top 25 photos of 2017.]
by, Ta-Nehisi Coates
On Monday, (was this only Monday?) the retired four-star general and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly asserted that “the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War.” This was an incredibly stupid thing to say. Worse, it built on a long tradition of endorsing stupidity in hopes of making Americans stupid about their own history. Stupid enjoys an unfortunate place in the highest ranks of American government these days. And while one cannot immediately affect this fact, one can choose to not hear stupid things and quietly nod along.
1) Battle Cry Of Freedom: Arguably among the greatest single-volume histories in all of American historiography, James McPherson’s synthesis of the Civil War is a stunning achievement. Brisk in pace. A big-ass book that reads like a much slimmer one. The first few hundred pages offer a catalogue of evidence, making it clear not just that the white South went to war for the right to own people, but that it warred for the right to expand the right to own people. Read this book. You will immediately be less stupid than some of the most powerful people in the West Wing.
2) Grant: Another classic in the Ron Chernow oeuvre. Again, eminently readable but thick with import. It does not shy away from Grant’s personal flaws, but shows him to be a man constantly struggling to live up to his own standard of personal and moral courage. It corrects nearly a half-century of stupidity inflicted upon America by the Dunning school of historians, which preferred a portrait of Grant as a bumbling, corrupt butcher of men. Finally, it reframes the Civil War away from the overrated Virginia campaigns and shows us that when the West was won, so was the war. Grant hits like a Mack truck of knowledge. Stupid doesn’t stand a chance.
3) Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee: Elizabeth Pryor’s biography of Lee, through Lee’s own words, helps part with a lot of stupid out there about Lee—chiefly that he was, somehow, “anti-slavery.” It dispenses with the boatload of stupid out there which hails the military genius of Lee while ignoring the world that all of that genius was actually trying to build.
4.) Out of the House of Bondage: A slim volume that dispenses with the notion that there was a such thing as “good,” “domestic,” or “matronly” slavery. The historian Thavolia Glymph focuses on the relationships between black enslaved women and the white women who took them as property. She picks apart the stupid idea that white mistresses were somehow less violent and less exploitative than their male peers. Glymph has no need of Scarlett O’Haras. “Used the rod” is the quote that still sticks with me. An important point here—stupid ideas about ladyhood and the soft feminine hand meant nothing when measured against the fact of a slave society. Slavery was the monster that made monsters of its masters. Compromising with it was morally bankrupt—and stupid.
5.) The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass: The final of three autobiographies written by the famed abolitionist, and my personal favorite. Epic and sweeping in scope. The chapter depicting the bounty of food on which the enslavers feasted while the enslaved nearly starved is just devastating.
Jon Batiste Reinterprets ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’ for The Atlantic
Julia Ward Howe first published her iconic poem in The Atlantic in 1862. The song quickly became an anthem of the Civil War and a touchstone of the American Idea. In that spirit, The Atlantic asked renowned jazz musician Jon Batiste to create a new arrangement of the song for the magazine’s first podcast, Radio Atlantic.
[Scott Simon/Peabody Award-winning reporter & host of NPR’s Weekend Edition.]
Today I was researching various websites and periodicals about surviving mass shootings so that I could put some suggestions together for my kids (23 & 21) to consider when they gather in public spaces with larger groups. And then I paused. I realized in that moment what what our country has become for me. Because of the power of the NRA, gun lobbyists, and political greed, guns are more important in the United States than the lives of its people. I heard one television news pundit say in the aftermath of Las Vegas that ‘mass shootings are the price of freedom.’
A most twisted definition of freedom, indeed.
Watching a cable news TV program the day after the massacre, well-known more liberal minded anchors were doing their reporting, standing, situated outside on the Las Vegas strip with the Mandalay Bay hotel/casino positioned behind them. I felt a fear rising within me as I watched them. Not because they were in the Las Vegas aftermath, but because they were exposed, vulnerable, unprotected to the crazed minds who disagree, haters who carry guns in an ‘open carry’ environment. When did this happen? A fear of simply being outside, in a public place, could cause concern for others being harmed, shot, or killed? -dayle
Veteran journalist Tom Brokaw told the TODAY show anchors Monday morning that in the years he reported for the program from 1976-1981, he covered just one mass shooting. With the Las Vegas massacre now the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, he suggests the more frequent attacks are a result of radical gun sale changes. “No other Western nation has the number of gun deaths that we have in America, and we need to talk about it.”
Two Dark American Truths From Las Vegas
(On the certainty of more shootings.)
by James Follows
No other society allows the massacres to keep happening. Everyone around the world knows this about the United States. It is the worst aspect of the American national identity.
Mass Shootings Don’t Lead to Inaction – – They lead to loosening Gun Restrictions
The most probable policy response to the atrocity in Las Vegas will be new laws allowing more guns to be carried into more places.
by David Frum
The five years since a gunman killed 26 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, have seen one of the most intense bursts of gun legislation in U.S. history—almost all of it intended to ensure that more guns can be carried into more places.
Since Newtown, more than two dozen states have expanded the right to carry into previously unknown places: bars, churches, schools, college campuses, and so on. The most ambitious of these laws was adopted in Georgia in April 2014. Among other provisions, it allowed guns to be carried into airports right up to the federal TSA checkpoint.
AXIOS: Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal columnist and speechwriter for President Reagan, on “Morning Joe”: “There is a sense that society is collapsing — the culture is collapsing. We’re collapsing in crime. The world is collapsing. Crazy people with bad haircuts have nukes. Everything is going bad — terrorism, etc. They want to be fully armed on their hill, at home. … They’re Americans, and they want to go down fighting.”
N.Y. Times columnist Thomas Friedman: “If only Stephen Paddock had been a Muslim … If only he had shouted ‘Allahu akbar’ before he opened fire … [N]o one would be telling us not to dishonor the victims and “politicize” Paddock’s mass murder by talking about preventive remedies. No, no, no. Then we know what we’d be doing. We’d be scheduling immediate hearings in Congress about the worst domestic terrorism event since 9/11.”
[Vince Gill & Amy Grant pray during a candlelight vigil in Nashville for the victims of the Las Vegas massacre.]
by Roseanne Cash
For the past few decades, the National Rifle Association has increasingly nurtured an alliance with country music artists and their fans. You can see it in “N.R.A. Country,” which promotes the artists who support the philosophical, and perhaps economic, thrall of the N.R.A., with the pernicious tag line “Celebrate the Lifestyle.”
I encourage more artists in country and American roots music to end your silence. It is no longer enough to separate yourself quietly. The laws the N.R.A. would pass are a threat to you, your fans, and to the concerts and festivals we enjoy.
The stakes are too high to not disavow collusion with the N.R.A. Pull apart the threads of patriotism and lax gun laws that it has so subtly and maliciously intertwined. They are not the same.
I know you’ll be bullied for speaking out. This is how they operate. Not everyone will like you for taking a stand. Let it roll off your back. Some people may burn your records or ask for refunds for tickets to your concerts. Whatever. Find the strength of moral conviction, even if it comes with a price tag, which it will. Don’t let them bully you into silence. That’s where their power lies — in the silence of rational voices and in the apathy of those who can speak truth to power.
This is a moment in American history that can’t be met with silence. According to PolitiFact, from 2005 to 2015, some 300,000 people were killed by gun violence. That’s roughly the population of Pittsburgh. The grief that extends through the affected families is endless.
Those of us who make our living in “the tower of song,” as Leonard Cohen so eloquently put it, must let our voices ring out.
We can’t survive in a constant state of agitation.
by Sharon Salzberg
When a change in law or policy harms us, we may feel powerless and discarded, unworthy of love. Experiencing that helps us empathize with the suffering of others. We may feel heartbroken when we see people so battered by circumstances and lack of opportunity that they feel that they have nowhere to turn. And we may feel a deep love for the planet, and recent actions to discredit climate change might be the cause of our anxiety.
In that way love presents itself as risk, as it often does when you love another. The love you feel causes you to care deeply and when you do, you may take on some of the hurt that your beloved feels. Love can also protect you. It is love that is the point of contact for how much we care about what happens to ourselves as well as those around us.
Finding common ground with others who share our values and taking collective actions that express those strongly held beliefs reminds us of the good in the world and the good in others. If we allow the bad news to be the only news we hear, we may give up the fight, which would be the most debilitating of all actions. The best way to stay engaged is to make a choice when and how to do so — and to do so from a balanced stance of love for ourselves and love for the world, at the nexus where we can draw those two together in actions that connect both.
︶⁀°• •° ⁀︶
Character intersects history.
The presidency doesn’t change who you are, it amplifies who you are.
David G. Bradley, the chairman and owner of Atlantic Media, is announcing this morning that he is selling a majority stake in The Atlantic to Emerson Collective, an organization led by philanthropist and investor Laurene Powell Jobs. Bradley will retain a minority stake in The Atlantic and will continue as chairman and operating partner for at least three to five years. In a letter to his staff, Bradley wrote that Emerson Collective will most likely assume full ownership of The Atlantic within five years.
Bradley, who bought The Atlantic in 1999 for $10 million from Mortimer Zuckerman, is credited with transforming the Boston-based monthly magazine of politics, arts, and letters into a profitable digital-journalism and live-events company of global reach, even while continuing to publish The Atlantic’s award-winning print magazine, which was born four years before the Civil War. “Against the odds, The Atlantic is prospering,” Bradley wrote in his memo. “While I will stay at the helm some years, the most consequential decision of my career now is behind me: Who next will take stewardship of this 160-year-old national treasure? To me, the answer, in the form of Laurene, feels incomparably right.”
In his statement, Bradley said that Powell Jobs will most likely visit the Washington and New York offices of The Atlantic in September. Bradley closed his note to the staff by saying, “What I loved about Laurene from the first is that her confidence was forged on a different coast.” He added, “And, if anything, her ambition is greater than my own.” Making reference to the generally bleak commercial forecast for journalism in the United States, he wrote, “Let’s make it our work to prove the wisdom of our era wrong. And when my time comes to leave, that would be a happy note on which to say ‘good-bye.’”
︶⁀°• •° ⁀︶
In one soul, in your soul, there are resources for the world.
A LETTER FROM LAURENE POWELL JOBS
With those startling words, Ralph Waldo Emerson enlarged our conception of the value of a human life. I read his simple declaration about the reach of human capability as a statement of fact: there really is within each of us the potential to improve the world around us. But Emerson’s line is not only a description, it is also an imperative: while all of us possess this transformative potential, too many of us don’t get the chance to fulfill it — which means that we all have work to do.
At Emerson Collective, this is what drives us every day. If we’ve helped someone transcend the limits of circumstance and chart a new course for themselves and their families, we know we’re fulfilling our mission. Like our namesake, we believe deeply in self-reliance; but we recognize that the road to self-reliance sometimes leads through reliance on others. We trust that hard work and determination can make anything possible, but opportunities for hard work and determination must be found and even created.
For people trapped in the quagmire of poverty and disenfranchisement, a strong will to overcome the odds is rarely sufficient to beat them. For the 22 percent of children born into poor neighborhoods in the U.S., hard work will not likely be enough to overcome the obstacles they will face, including those that remain invisible to outsiders. For students in challenging environments—where schools are chronically short of funds, where advanced classes in high school are non-existent, where expectations are often low and mentors are few—force of will alone cannot ensure a college education and a bright future. And for families forced into the shadows by a dysfunctional immigration system, perseverance cannot secure legal status and equal rights.
Qualities of character, in other words, must be supplemented and supported by policies and inspirations. These lives, these communities, are gardens of promise, but they need water in order to flourish.
Many years ago, I visited a nearby high school where students were working to defy the odds and do something very difficult: to become the first in their families to earn a college degree. They had the same dreams and talents as students from neighboring communities, but faced far more daunting obstacles. As the first to apply to college, the first to attend and to graduate, and the first to embark on a professional career, they faced, at every stage, uncharted territory.
It takes a unique brand of boldness to envision—and pursue—a future so different from the world that surrounds you. These students possessed courage and drive, but lacked the gateways to achieve their dreams—this struck me as a great injustice. It inspired me to launch a program called College Track—which has, to date, guided and supported thousands of students on their quest to earn college degrees, most of whom are the first in their family to reach this pivotal milestone.
Today in the United States, with few exceptions, where a person is born determines how far he or she can go in life. Among developed countries, the U.S. ranks second to last in economic and social mobility. This is shameful. It wasn’t always this way—and it doesn’t have to stay this way. This is not how we want our country to work.
This imperative underpins both the moral and practical mission of our work at Emerson Collective: we are idealists with our feet on the ground. Students can’t become self-reliant adults unless we give them an excellent education and a pathway cleared of obstacles. Immigrants can’t contribute their fullest to our communities, can’t live open and free and productive lives, unless they are liberated from the fear of detention and deportation. Complex systemic failures require flexible approaches, new models, and improved public policy. Every day with new ideas, true numbers, and smart practices, we at Emerson Collective do our part to advance these solutions. We do so in partnership with innovative thinkers, entrepreneurs, and organizations — with the broad community of concern and solidarity that we seek to foster.
Our basic belief, as Emerson taught, is that we are doubly obligated: we must rely on ourselves and we must rely on each other. By helping individuals to achieve their dreams, we unleash the full force of the world’s most powerful resource: human potential.
Laurene Powell Jobs
Victor Tan Chen
The main source of meaning in American life is a meritocratic competition that makes those who struggle feel inferior.
What is happening to America’s white working class?
The group’s important, and perhaps decisive, role in this year’s presidential election sparked a slew of commentary focused on, on the one hand, its nativism, racism, and sexism, and, on the other, its various economic woes. While there are no simple explanations for the desperation and anger visible in many predominantly white working-class communities, perhaps the most astute and original diagnosis came from the rabbi and activist Michael Lerner, who, in assessing Donald Trump’s victory, looked from a broader vantage point than most. Underneath the populist ire, he wrote, was a suffering “rooted in the hidden injuries of class and in the spiritual crisis that the global competitive marketplace generates.”
That cuts right to it. The modern economy privileges the well-educated and highly-skilled, while giving them an excuse to denigrate the people at the bottom (both white and nonwhite) as lazy, untalented, uneducated, and unsophisticated. In a society focused on meritocratic, materialistic success, many well-off Americans from across the political spectrum scorn the white working class in particular for holding onto religious superstitions and politically incorrect views, and pity them for working lousy jobs at dollar stores and fast-food restaurants that the better-off rarely set foot in. And when other sources of meaning are hard to come by, those who struggle in the modern economy can lose their sense of self-worth.
“One of the animating causes of this magazine at its founding, in 1857, was the abolition of slavery, (the) Republican Party, and the man who was its standard-bearer in 1860, represented the only reasonable pathway out of the existential crisis then facing the country.
(Lyndon. B.) Johnson, The Atlantic believed, would bring ‘to the vexed problem of civil rights a power of conciliation which will prevent us from stumbling down the road taken by South Africa.’
And the magazine noted that Goldwater’s “preference to let states like Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia enforce civil rights within their own borders has attracted the allegiance of Governor George Wallace, the Ku Klux Klan, and the John Birchers.”
(Trump) has no record of public service and no qualifications for public office. His affect is that of an infomercial huckster; he traffics in conspiracy theories and racist invective; he is appallingly sexist; he is erratic, secretive, and xenophobic; he expresses admiration for authoritarian rulers, and evinces authoritarian tendencies himself. He is easily goaded, a poor quality for someone seeking control of America’s nuclear arsenal. He is an enemy of fact-based discourse; he is ignorant of, and indifferent to, the Constitution; he appears not to read.
If Hillary Clinton were facing Mitt Romney, or John McCain, or George W. Bush, or, for that matter, any of the leading candidates Trump vanquished in the Republican primaries, we would not have contemplated making this endorsement. We believe in American democracy, in which individuals from various parties of different ideological stripes can advance their ideas and compete for the affection of voters. But Trump is not a man of ideas. He is a demagogue, a xenophobe, a sexist, a know-nothing, and a liar. He is spectacularly unfit for office, and voters—the statesmen and thinkers of the ballot box—should act in defense of American democracy and elect his opponent.”
‘A judge in Baltimore has ordered a new trial for Adnan Syed, the murder convict who was the subject of the Serial, the popular podcast from Chicago Public Radio. Syed’s attorney tweeted the news, ‘We won a new trial for Adnan Syed!!!’
This is a developing story and we’ll update it when we learn more.’
By Ta-Nehisi Coates
Wherever the law is, crime can be found.
— Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 1973