One of the clichés of historians and civics textbooks is that the U.S. is an “experiment” in democracy. The inconclusive November 7 election and the subsequent wrangling over the certification of Florida’s votes have verified that it’s far from an empty cliché. This really is an experiment, and a very messy one.
The orange Halloween lights went up early this year. And in our neighborhood, there seemed to be a lot more of them—along with tiny ghost dolls hanging from trees, cobweb-like fabric stretched across porches, plastic spiders perched on roofs, and bloody plastic hands emerging from cardboard gravestones.
Since Ernest Hemingway famously quoted Gertrude Stein in the 1920s, “You are a lost generation,” Americans have been fascinated by the idea of generational difference. Characterizing an entire generation involves a mammoth generalization, of course, and the generalizations are as likely to be resented as embraced by members of the cohort in question.
It’s not easy for churches to address what sociologist Barbara Dafoe Whitehead has termed the “divorce culture.” For one thing, the changes in laws and attitudes that have made divorce easier to obtain in the past half century represent an advance for women.
When Washington Post writer Colbert King invited readers to respond to the idea of paying reparations to the descendants of African-American slaves, he got a mailbox full of opinions. “I’m all for reparations for blacks,” said one. “By the way, as a descendant of Anglo-Saxons, I’ve been deeply traumatized by what the Normans did to us in 1066. How about some for me too?”
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran had his brother hand deliver a check for $400,000 last month to Tehran’s only Jewish hospital with the message that “our government intends to unite all ethnic groups and religions, so we decided to assist you.” In September Rouhani’s administration had issued a Rosh Hashanah greeting to Jews around the world. Though some question Rouhani’s motives, his behavior is a refreshing contrast to that of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is a Holocaust denier (New York Times, February 6).