In the World
Steve Thorngate on public life and culture
The great newish online journal Religion & Politics alerted me to the fact that today is the anniversary of JFK's speech to the Houston ministers.
"The more we read," writes James Fallows, "the more we see reminders that experiences or perceptions we thought were distinctive to us are in fact widespread, even banal." And here I thought I was the only one who ever noticed that! Fallows has in mind his admiration of the Book of Common Prayer.
I don't get that excited about the perennial calls for civility in politics. Treating others with respect is important, and I certainly have no problem with political discourse that's even friendly and good-humored. But it's not clear that the latter serves any purpose beyond itself—that it builds understanding or encourages useful moderation or enables compromise. Chatting may be generally preferable to yelling, but it's not really a solution to division and gridlock. I do, however, appreciate timely reminders that our neighbors include those we disagree with.
Here are some things I read recently but didn't get around to blogging about: Occupiers and Tea Partiers together, David Brooks being funny, the women of the internet being even funnier, more.
James Bennet's post from earlier this week made an important and timely point. First he observes that a lot of political reporting has taken a turn from the destructive banality of he-said-she-said false equivalency stuff and toward playing an explicit fact-checking role. (I'm among those who welcome this enthusiastically.) Then he poses this somewhat chilling question: "What if it turns out that when the press calls a lie a lie, nobody cares?" Bennet was talking about the Romney campaign's ads misrepresenting the Obama administration's policy on welfare-to-work. But his post seems all the more relevant today, in the wake of Congressman Ryan's speech at the RNC last night.
The must-read article of the last week or so is without question Ta-Nehisi Coates's essay on race, racism and Obama's presidency. Along with being a magnificent writer, Coates is a sharp observer of the cultural and political ramifications of America's original sin.
The Jerusalem Post, reporting today on a Haifa court's verdict supporting the Israeli government's position on the 2003 death of U.S. activist Rachel Corrie: A Haifa District Court invoked the "combatant activities" exception, and said on Tuesday that the US activist who was killed in disputed circumstances involving an IDF bulldozer on March 16, 2003, while protesting an IDF home demolition in Rafah, could have avoided the dangerous situation. The court nonetheless called her death a "regrettable accident."
Musician and activist Tom Morello has gotten a lot of pats on the back for his strongly worded rebuke of Congressman Paul Ryan in Rolling Stone last week. And sure, it's hard to resist a hook that juicy: Morello's best-known project, the leftist and often polemical Rage Against the Machine, is one of Ryan's favorite bands.
It's hard to imagine a more efficient way to rack up diverse denunciations than Rep. Todd Akin's approach in an interview on Sunday, when in one breath he both promoted a foul bit of junk science alleging that rape victims don't generally get pregnant (and thus don't need abortion services) and coined the term "legitimate rape." Pretty much everyone everywhere has condemned his comments, and rightly so. A number of rape victims have written responses, including Shauna Prewitt, whose post at xoJane went viral and taught a lot of us something appalling that we didn't know.