A Few Interesting Articles from the News, Pt. 3

Hey folks, hope you’re all keeping well. It’s been over a month since I posted a news dump. I have been super backed up in that department, so this is only going to be the first of three that I want to post over the next week or so to help me get caught up. As it is, it’s still going to be more than just “a few” interesting articles.

I’m not sure if anyone else finds value in these, but I find the process useful (if time-consuming) for myself as a way to save interesting clippings from articles I’ve come across. I need to learn to scale back the process though, for sure. It’s a grim time in our nation’s history, so there’s lots of grim news here, and more to come in the next couple dumps. Let’s all hope these hits we’re taking are just the dark hours before the dawn, so to speak.

1.) “Remembering Music’s Saving Powers at Auschwitz” – by Rebecca Schmid, The New York Times, Aug. 13, 2020

The cello has accompanied Anita Lasker-Wallfisch through hell and back. At age 17, she played marches in Auschwitz while prisoners burned next door. Less than a decade later, she became a founding member of the English Chamber Orchestra.

“It was always music that helped me survive [until] the next day,” Ms. Lasker-Wallfisch, the last known living member of the women’s orchestra at Auschwitz, said in a telephone interview from her home in London last month. If it were not for her skills as a cellist, she might not have been spared in World War II. …

“We lived from one day to the next,” she said of her time in Auschwitz and then Bergen-Belsen, a camp liberated by the British in 1945. “Today I’m alive; tomorrow I might be dead. That’s how it was.” …

Since the 1980s, however, Ms. Lasker-Wallfisch has returned to Germany to lecture at schools and universities. Last September, she received the German National Prize for her efforts to combat anti-Semitism and discrimination. In 2018, in a speech to the German Parliament, she called anti-Semitism a “2,000-year-old virus” which is “apparently impossible to heal.”

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/13/arts/music/anita-lasker-wallfisch-auschwitz-salzburg-festival.html

2.) “Teaching Isn’t About Managing Behavior” – by Christopher Emdin, The Atlantic, July 24, 2020

[Editor’s Note: In the next five years, most of America’s most experienced teachers will retire. The Baby Boomers are leaving behind a nation of more novice educators. In 1988, a teacher most commonly had 15 years of experience. Less than three decades later, that number had fallen to just three years leading a classroom…]

In the fall of 2001 … I was walking the aisles of the classroom while my students were working quietly on math problems, when loud sirens began to penetrate the walls. Thinking it was just another police car or ambulance, I yelled at my students to focus. In that moment, ensuring that they were not yielding to distractions was my biggest concern. But the sirens persisted for longer than usual. …

I ignored the chaos of the world beyond the classroom because I believed that it was my job to just keep on teaching. …

The best teachers don’t just keep teaching. Instead, they use their pedagogy as protest: They disrupt teaching norms that harm vulnerable students. In my years in the classroom since 2001, I’ve learned something about how to do this. I call it reality pedagogy, because it’s about reaching students where they really are, making sure that their lives and backgrounds are reflected in the curriculum and in classroom conversations.

Reality pedagogy interrupts the notion that teaching is about managing students and their behavior. Instead, I’ve learned to see them as co-teachers, and I create space for dialogue… about how they experience the classroom and the world beyond it. It’s a space for connection… When students have this kind of agency, a classroom can start to function like a family—or even a small society. …

A pedagogy of protest privileges dialogue with students even when the school schedule says there is no time for it. It creates space for youth to teach about their lives even when the curriculum says there is no space for it. It focuses on building community and family even when the school administration tells teachers not to express emotion with students. 

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2020/07/reality-pedagogy-teaching-form-protest/614554/

3.) “He Predicted Trump’s Win in 2016. Now He’s Ready to Call 2020.” – by Allan Lichtman, The New York Times, Aug. 5, 2020

“Allan Lichtman” is the Nostradamus of presidential elections. … Over the past four decades, his system has accurately called presidential victors, from Ronald Reagan in ’84 to, well, Mr. Trump in 2016.

In the video Op-Ed … Professor Lichtman walks us through his system, which identifies 13 “keys” to winning the White House. Each key is a binary statement: true or false. And if six or more keys are false, the party in the White House is on its way out.

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/05/opinion/2020-election-prediction-allan-lichtman.html

4.) “I’m Traveling, Even Though I’m Stuck at Home” – by Rick Steves, The Atlantic, Aug. 3, 2020

[S]everal months into the pandemic, I’ve realized that the essence of traveling requires no passport and no plane ticket. A good traveler can take a trip and never leave her hometown.

For the past 30 years, I’ve spent four months in Europe each year, writing guidebooks, producing travel television, and leading bus tours. … I’m home for my first Seattle summer since 1980.

Stuck here, I’ve been pondering a big question: Why do I travel? When I was young, I sought out vacations on which I could have fun checking iconic sights off my bucket list. As the years went on, I realized that I traveled more to get out of my comfort zone, to find who I was in the immense scheme of things, and to fly home with the best souvenir: a broader perspective. Since March, I’ve tried to apply this mindset to my current situation. I’ve found that I can satisfy my wanderlust with “sightseeing highlights” just down the street and cultural eurekas that I never appreciated. Before the pandemic, I didn’t think to savor the little, nearby joys in the same way I did while abroad. To be honest, I ignored them. Now I notice the tone of the ferry’s horn, the majesty of my hometown sunset.

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/08/how-we-travel-when-we-cant/614800/

5.) “The Workforce Is About to Change Dramatically” – by Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, Aug. 6 2020

In march, tens of millions of American workers—mostly in white-collar industries such as tech, finance, and media—were thrust into a sudden, chaotic experiment in working from home. Four months later, the experiment isn’t close to ending. For many, the test run is looking more like the long run. … Mark Zuckerberg has said he expects half of Facebook’s workforce to be remote within the decade. Twitter has told staff they can stay home permanently.

With corporate giants welcoming far-flung workforces, real-estate markets in the superstar cities that combine high-paid work and high-cost housing are in turmoil. In the San Francisco Bay Area, rents are tumbling. In New York City, offices are still empty

When the pandemic is over, one in six workers is projected to continue working from home or co-working at least two days a week…

If white-collar workers are told the downtown office is forever optional, some will take their superstar-city jobs out of superstar cities. That much is obvious. But these shifts, even if they are initially moderate, could lead to more surprising and significant changes… What follows are three second-order predictions—for our economy, our workforce, and our politics. …

1. The “Telepresence” Revolution Will Reshape the U.S. Workforce

Since 2000, as spending on travel, food, and entertainment has surged, employment in leisure and hospitality—a large category that covers restaurants, hotels, and amusement parks—has increased three times faster than the rest of the labor force. But the boom times for this super-sector may be over… [T]he rise of remote work—or what they call “telepresence”—will lead to a more homebound life that creates less work for others. If business travel falls off by 10 or 20 percent, it could mean fewer jobs across airlines, hotels, and restaurants. …

2. Remote Work Will Increase Free-Agent Entrepreneurship

Work does not necessarily make for the ideal community. But in the past few decades, the office has served, for many people, as a last community standing. In an age where various associative institutions are in retreat—such as religious congregations, bowling leagues, and unions—there is one place where the majority of adults ages 25 to 55 have kept showing up, almost every day, of almost every week. At work.

Now many companies, thrown headfirst into the remote-work experiment, have had to hurriedly retrofit their office practices for a new world. Depending on where you look, managers say this experiment is going either surprisingly well or quite dreadfully. If those same managers interrogated their white-collar workforce with a truth serum, I suspect many would discover that their employees feel overworked and under-productive, emotionally depleted, and existentially exhausted. Although some of that is COVID-19 fallout, it’s also the case that people feel more alone in part because, literally, they are. …

As people realize that their connection to the office is virtual, more Americans may take on side gigs and even start their own companies. The very tools that co-workers use to stay connected—such as cultivating online a polished version of yourself to a group of people you don’t see particularly often—can be repurposed to go solo. Ambitious engineers, media makers, marketers, PR people, and others may be more inclined to strike out on their own, in part because they will, at some point, look around at their living room and realize: am alone, and I might as well monetize the fact of my independence. A new era of entrepreneurship may be born in America, supercharged by a dash of social-existential angst.

3. A Superstar-City Exodus Will Reshape American Politics

Today’s Democratic Party is inefficiently distributed across the country. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won Manhattan and Brooklyn by about 1 million votes—more than Donald Trump’s margins of victory in the states of Florida, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania combined. In election after election, liberals dominate in cities, running up huge margins in downtown areas while narrowly losing in sparser places.

As I’ve said, if Democrats abandoned liberal enclaves and spread into Red America, they could more easily win elections. And that’s happening now. Even before the crisis, America’s three biggest metro areas—New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago—were already shrinking. Downtown areas were already losing population. And a constellation of metros across the Sun Belt and the Northwest were adding thousands of new Millennial movers. The pandemic could accelerate these trends. … In political terms, this would reallocate the Democratic bloc.

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/08/just-small-shift-remote-work-could-change-everything/614980/

6.) “The Real Reason the American Economy Boomed After World War II” – by Jim Tankersley, The Washington Post, Aug. 6, 2020

The United States long reserved its most lucrative occupations for an elite class of white men. Those men held power by selling everyone else a myth: The biggest threat to workers like you are workers who do not look like you. Again and again, they told working-class white men that they were losing out on good jobs to women, nonwhite men and immigrants.

It was, and remains, a politically potent lie. It is undercut by the real story of how America engineered its Golden Era of shared prosperity — the great middle-class expansion in the decades after World War II. Americans deserve to know the truth… They deserve to know who built the middle class and can actually rebuild it… We need to hear it now, as our nation is immersed in a pandemic recession and a summer of protests demanding equality, and as American workers struggle to shake off decades of sluggish wage growth. We need to hear it because it is a beacon of hope in a bleak time for our economy…

The hopeful truth is that when Americans band together to force open the gates of opportunity for women, for Black men, for the groups that have long been oppressed in our economy, everyone gets ahead. … The economy thrived after World War II in large part because America made it easier for people who had been previously shut out of economic opportunity — women, minority groups, immigrants — to enter the work force and climb the economic ladder, to make better use of their talents and potential. In 1960… more than half of Black men in America worked as janitors, freight handlers or something similar. Only 2 percent of women and Black men worked in what economists call “high-skill” jobs that pay high wages, like engineering or law. Ninety-four percent of doctors in the United States were white men. That disparity was by design. It protected white male elites. Everyone else was barred entry to top professions by overt discrimination, inequality of schooling, social convention and, often, the law itself. …

Women and nonwhite men gradually chipped away at those barriers, in fits and starts. … The Chicago and Stanford economists calculated that the simple, radical act of reducing discrimination against those groups was responsible for more than 40 percent of the country’s per-worker economic growth after 1960.

America’s ruling elites did not learn from that success. The aggressive expansion of opportunity that had driven economic gains was choked off by a backlash to social progress in the 1970s and ’80s. The white men who ran the country declared victory over discrimination far too early, consigning the economy to slower growth. Sustained shared prosperity was replaced by widening inequality, lost jobs and decades of disappointing income growth for workers of all races. … In terms of economic mobility … the penalty for being born Black is the same today as it was in the 1870s.

Take Silicon Valley. In 2018, venture capitalists in the United States distributed $131 billion to start-up businesses, hoping to seed the next Google or Tesla. That money went to nearly 9,000 companies. Just over 2 percent of them were founded entirely by women. Another 12 percent had at least one female founder. The rest, 86 percent, were founded entirely by men.

The statistics show tragedy. They also show opportunity. If America can once again tear down barriers to advancement, it can tap a geyser of entrepreneurship, productivity and talent, which could by itself produce the strong growth and low unemployment that historically drive up wages for the working class, including working-class white men.

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/06/sunday-review/middle-class-prosperity.html

7.) “Stress from the pandemic can destroy relationships with friends — even families” – by Katherine Ellison, The Washington Post, Aug. 8 2020

Tell the truth: You’ve started to size up friends and relations as potentially lethal threats. … Abundant research suggests that supportive relationships can help relieve harmful stress, with physical and mental benefits that include resistance to viruses. Yet our five-month-old ride on the coronacoaster is fraying, and sometimes destroying, bonds that in simpler times might have helped carry us through. … Some public health experts say they’re worried the lockdowns and stay-at-home rules are aggravating a “loneliness epidemic” that was worrisome enough before the pandemic began. …

When even the CDC isn’t providing clear-cut answers about how long the virus stays on surfaces (Hours? Days?), opinions may substitute for facts, making you likelier to argue with a friend who has just told you that you can’t use her bathroom.

“I heard this somewhere and wish I’d thought of it: We’re faced with a moment with our friends in which we’re having to navigate consent like people do with sexual relationships,” Denworth says. In this case, however, disputes involve other primal drives, including the fear of being ostracized for possibly spreading disease and a craving for more of a sense of control. …

The strength of social networks will be even more seriously tested as the weather grows colder later this year, says University of Rochester psychologist Harry Reis… “Right now, it’s pleasant and easy to meet outdoors,” Reis says. “But what happens when the weather gets nasty? At that point will people just cut off most of their contacts with others?”

Check it out here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/stress-from-the-pandemic-can-destroy-relationships-with-friends–even-families/2020/08/07/d95216f4-d665-11ea-aff6-220dd3a14741_story.html

8.) “Americans insist the atom bomb ended the war in Japan — ignoring its human cost” – by Susan Southard, The Washington Post, Aug. 7 2020

After five years of speaking to audiences across the country about the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki, the subject of my book, I can hardly tolerate another person saying to me — sometimes yelling at me — that “the bomb” ended the war. That it saved 1 million American lives (or some variation on this number) by avoiding an Allied invasion of Japan. Or that we had to drop the bombs because Japan was never going to surrender.

People point, with understandable outrage, to the atrocities of Japan’s military, including its attack on Pearl Harbor, its monstrous brutality against Chinese civilians, and its torture and killing of Allied prisoners of war. Some even go so far as to say that the Japanese deserved what they got. Many believe that even discussing what happened to the victims of the atomic bombs amounts to an undeserved apology. Still others argue that my focus on the survivors vilifies the American veterans who fought and sacrificed in those final months of the war, and devalues the lives of soldiers who might have died in an invasion. Whatever their objections, their tone is often aggressive and angry, an insistence that the central concern is the necessity of the bombing 75 years ago, not the people of Nagasaki.

For generations, Americans have been frozen in the debate over the “necessity” of the bomb, allowing us to ignore — even deny — its human impact. From the very beginning, U.S. officials promoted this denial by withholding critical information and distorting key facts to cast the bombings as vital, and inevitable, military actions. After the war, U.S. leaders censored the Japanese press

Starting in 1946, top U.S. officials devised a campaign to quell growing public criticism of the bombings… The campaign culminated in an extended article on the decision to use the bomb written by Stimson, published in Harper’s Magazine in February 1947 and filled with critical misstatements and omissions. Stimson failed to mention, for example, that U.S. officials had debated dropping their demand that Japan’s surrender include the removal of the emperor… Stimson also omitted the most critical military development in August 1945: the Soviet Union’s entry into the war against Japan, which would have forced Tokyo to fight on two fronts, altered Allied strategies and probably ended the war before any land invasion. Through his military authority and strategic reasoning, Stimson forged a singular atomic bomb narrative with such moral certitude that it has superseded all others and fundamentally shaped American memory and perception ever since: The atomic bombings ended the war and saved more than 1 million American lives.

But there is no historical evidence that the Nagasaki bombing helped bring about Japan’s surrender. Before the nuclear attack that morning, Japanese leaders were already panicked over the Soviet Union’s massive invasion of Japanese-held Manchuria, 11 hours earlier. As the mushroom cloud rose high above Nagasaki, Japan’s leaders were already in a heated debate over whether to surrender and under what conditions; the news of the second atomic bombing had no apparent impact on their deliberations, which, according to notes from their meeting, continued throughout the day and evening with no further mention of Nagasaki. …

The real problem, however, is that debating the necessity of the bomb keeps us from confronting far more pressing questions: Even if both atomic bombings could be linked definitively to Japan’s surrender, were these mass killings and irradiation of civilians “right”? And what are the implications of continuing to accept our country’s official narrative?

In Nagasaki alone, 74,000 people died by the end of 1945, when the first count was possible. Only 150 were military personnel. Seventy-five thousand more civilians were injured or irradiated. In Hiroshima, another 140,000 were killed. If we justify their deaths, injuries and irradiation, where do we draw the line? Exactly how many civilians in any conflict are we willing to sacrifice to achieve military victory? … By insisting on the “necessity” of the bomb, we fail to recognize the immorality of the intentional mass killing and maiming of civilians. We betray history when we treat the use of nuclear weapons on Japan as inevitable. We allow ourselves to maintain a comfortable distance — even a sense of moral superiority — when weighing the fate of entire cities in a nation we called our enemy. And we accept as normal the current existence of more than 13,000 nuclear weapons across the globe (most far more powerful than those used on Japan) and tacitly sanction the future use of these instruments of mass terror.

Check it out here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/americans-insist-the-atom-bomb-ended-the-war-in-japan–ignoring-its-human-cost/2020/08/06/2095f314-d76f-11ea-aff6-220dd3a14741_story.html

9.) “What to Do About William Faulkner” – by Drew Gilpin Faust, The Atlantic, Sept. 2020

In our current moment of racial reckoning, Faulkner is certainly ripe for rigorous scrutiny. … Michael Gorra, an English professor at Smith, believes Faulkner to be the most important novelist of the 20th century. In his rich, complex, and eloquent new book, The Saddest Words: William Faulkner’s Civil War, he makes the case for how and why to read Faulkner in the 21st by revisiting his fiction through the lens of the Civil War, “the central quarrel of our nation’s history.” Rarely an overt subject, one “not dramatized so much as invoked,” the Civil War is both “everywhere” and “nowhere” in Faulkner’s work. He cannot escape the war, its aftermath, or its meaning, and neither, Gorra insists, can we. As the formerly enslaved Ringo remarks in The Unvanquished (1938) during Reconstruction-era conflict over voting rights, “This war aint over. Hit just started good.” This is why for us, as for Jason and Quentin Compson in The Sound and the Fury (1929), was and again are “the saddest words.” As Gorra explains, “What was is never over.” …

[Gorra’s] book represents his own meditation on the meaning of the “forever war” of race, not just in American history and literature, but in our fraught time. What we think today about the Civil War, he believes, “serves above all to tell us what we think about ourselves, about the nature of our polity and the shape of our history.” …

Perhaps the most powerful of Faulkner’s tellings of the Civil War story is Absalom, Absalom! (1936), a novel structured around Quentin Compson’s own refusal to look away. Although Faulkner insisted that Quentin did not speak for him, Gorra has “never quite believed him.” Quentin’s search to understand why Charles Bon was murdered during the very last days of the war unfolds through his elaboration of successive narratives in a manner not unlike Faulkner’s own. Unsatisfied with each version of the story he uncovers, Quentin looks again, arriving through ever more disturbing revelations at the South’s original sin: the distorting and dehumanizing power of race. It is race that pulls the trigger. “So it’s the miscegenation, not the incest, which you cant bear,” Bon says just before Henry, at once his brother and his fiancée’s brother, shoots him.

To think of this novel appearing in the same year as Gone With the Wind is startling. It was moonlight and magnolias, rather than a searing portrait of the persisting legacies of slavery, that captured the public’s acclaim: Margaret Mitchell, not Faulkner, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937. …

Faulkner, Gorra concedes, “remained a white man of the Jim Crow South and did not always rise above it. At times his words both can and should make us uncomfortable.” His fiction offers an “all-too forgiving depiction of slaveholder paternalism.” His novels and stories fail to render slavery’s physical cruelties; they include no depiction of an auction, a family separated by sale, or a whipping. Many of his Black characters seem incomplete, although they’re certainly not the caricatured stereotypes typical of so much white southern writing of his time. Faulkner remarked upon white men who had “the courage and endurance to resist … Reconstruction.”  A 1943 short story Faulkner wrote for The Saturday Evening Post presents the slave broker and Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest in a generous manner that Gorra finds particularly “hard to stomach.” At the same time, Gorra points out, the depiction of enslaved people fleeing to freedom and securing their own emancipation transcends the historiography of Faulkner’s time and anticipates that of our own. He is no apologist for the Old South, and resists in any way glorifying the war, unlike almost every other white southerner of his era.

The public pronouncements Faulkner made on race as the civil-rights movement unfolded are in many ways even more disturbing than the shortcomings Gorra identifies in his fiction. In an appalling drunken interview with the British Sunday Times in 1956, Faulkner invoked the specter of race war if the South were compelled to integrate, but when his words were widely reviled, he denied ever having uttered them. He regularly spoke out against lynching and deplored the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, saying that any society that murdered children didn’t “deserve to survive, and probably won’t.” But he had once suggested that mobs, “like our juries … have a way of being right.” Gorra underscores the “incoherence” of Faulkner’s position as both critic and defender of the white South’s resistance to change.

In many ways, he was a quintessential white southern “moderate,” an identity much scrutinized as the civil-rights movement gathered momentum. He condemned violence and recognized the need to end segregation, but he rejected what Martin Luther King Jr. later described as “the fierce urgency of now.” Indeed, it was the moral failures of just such moderates that King would directly assail in his 1963 “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” Faulkner urged patience and delay and spoke out against federal coercion of the white South. His critics thought he should have known better. As James Baldwin explained in a 1956 essay condemning his views on desegregation, Faulkner hoped to give southern whites the time and opportunity to save themselves, to reclaim their moral identity. But their salvation could come, if at all, only at the cost of postponing justice for Black Americans, which Baldwin made clear was no longer conceivable.

Gorra assembles quite a bill of failings, especially if we view Faulkner with the assumptions of our time and place rather than his own. Yet having meticulously acknowledged all of this, Gorra makes his claim for Faulkner the writer by reproving Faulkner the man. “When writing fiction,” Faulkner “became better than he was.” He had, Gorra argues, an uncanny ability to “think his way within other people,” to inhabit their being so as to erase preconceptions and prejudices in the very act of portraying their minds and souls. Through fiction, Faulkner could “stand outside his Oxford, his Jefferson, and see the behavior his people take for granted, the things they don’t even question.” As Gorra presents it, the act of writing bestowed an almost mystical clear-sightedness. Yet that clarity was always challenged in the fetid Mississippi air that Faulkner, like all his characters, had to breathe. And it is that very tension, the combination of the flaws and the brilliance, that for Gorra makes his case. …

In his Nobel Prize speech in 1950, Faulkner declared that the only thing worth writing about was “the human heart in conflict with itself.” He lived that conflict even as he wrote about it. His struggles forced him to experiment and to innovate, yielding both his aesthetic and his ethical insight. These very difficulties—“the drama and … power of his attempt to work through our history, to wrestle or rescue it into meaning”—are what make Faulkner so worthwhile. We read him because he takes us with him into our national heart of darkness, into the shameful history we have still failed to confront or understand. Our past, Gorra and Faulkner agree, is “never over.” Or certainly not yet.

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/09/michael-gorra-william-faulkner/614206/

10.) “Trader Joe’s Knows That Petitions Aren’t Commandments” – by John McWhorter, The Atlantic, Aug. 5, 2020

Trader Joe’s has long given playful foreign versions of its name to certain international product lines: Trader José, Trader Giotto, Trader Ming, and so on. One could have guessed that amidst our racial reckoning (“the Great Awokening,” as Vox’s Matthew Yglesias calls it), these names would come under attack. This happened: A 17-year-old woman spearheaded a petition that attracted more than 6,000 signatures, asking Trader Joe’s to eliminate names that reflect “a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes.”

Trader Joe’s initially seemed inclined to rebrand, but recently decided to retain the names, insisting, “we disagree that any of these labels are racist. We do not make decisions based on petitions.”

Bravo. We must certainly submit what we consider funny to periodic reexamination, and be vigilant about the dangers of stereotyping. However, petitions must also be subject to examination and vigilance, because they can function in ways that are less progressive than puritan.

At the heart of wokeness is a paradox. On one hand, we are not to shoehorn people into preset characterizations; we are to see them as individuals. But on the other hand, we are not to deny that subgroups exist. For example, it is wrong under this catechism to say “I don’t see color” because it can be taken as not only a denial that people of color exist in subordination to white people, but also a denial of cultural differences. Trader José and Trader Ming would seem to acknowledge the difference, no? …

One might argue that although subgroups do differ from the mainstream, subgroups should define themselves, rather than have the likes of Trader José thrust upon them from the outside. But the problem here is that actual subgroup members often have different preferences than the educated white cohort who see themselves as speaking for the marginalized. For example, in the late 1990s, the Cartoon Network stopped showing Speedy Gonzales cartoons because of claims that the character was an offensive stereotype. However, many Latin Americans continued to adore Speedy, the League of United Latin American Citizens voiced its support for the character as an “icon,” and Latino message boards overflowed with love for him.

A related argument is that Trader Ming’s is, in effect, a joke, and that jokes about a subgroup should come exclusively from the subgroup itself. Because the owners of Trader Joe’s are not Chinese, it’s game over. … But if the intent of the joke about a subgroup is not to harm, why is it taboo? Robin DiAngelo in White Fragility is among many these days who argue that intent doesn’t matter, and that how the message is received is sacrosanct. The problem with this seemingly innocent idea is that reception is rarely monolithic; not everyone in a subgroup will find the same joke offensive, and in many cases, well-off outsiders are the most upset. …

The woke have valuable lessons to teach us all. However, we depart from the liberal foundations of this society in pretending that their lessons are commandments. Trader Joe’s could be pioneering in its polite but firm pushback against the excesses, and, hopefully, will be followed by other organizations, educational institutions, and individuals.

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/08/trader-joes-knows-petitions-arent-commandments/614950/

11.) “A Birthday at the Cemetery” – by Huda Al-Marashi, The New York Times, Aug. 7 2020

My mother, daughter and I had just left my 40th birthday party, a girls-only gathering I had hosted in 2017 with a friend whose birthday fell three days after mine. Normally I love a good ladies’ party, an institution in our Muslim-American community. Having no male guests means the women, those who wear the hijab and those who don’t, can dress and dance freely. …

My aunt had recently passed away from breast cancer, and one of my best friends from high school had undergone treatment for the same. All I could think about was how quickly the first 40 years of my life had flown by and how nothing was guaranteed ahead. … At the start of one of our favorite Arabic songs, my mom finally gave in and joined me at the center of a circle of clapping women. I hoped for a lift if not a burst of joy, but instead my brain settled on math. How much longer did I have to dance with my mother like this? …

[After the party, we went to the cemetery to pay our respects to my grandfather…] Back in the car, my mom thanked me for stopping. “Your grandfather would have been so happy to see you on your birthday,” she said, and then she turned to my daughter in the back seat and continued, “It’s good to come here because we can get so caught up in our lives, we forget that this is where we’re all going to end up. Death spares no one, young or old.”

I felt a snap of irritation. I didn’t want my daughter getting mired in the terrible eventualities I had not been able to shake. I pointed out the family having a picnic around a carefully tended grave, and meeting my daughter’s eyes in the rearview mirror, I said, “I try to focus on the love. Every flower you see here is from someone who came to visit a loved one.”

“But it’s just so sad,” she said.

Her simple statement released the tightness I’d been carrying with me all day. I was sad. I was sad that a certain amount of living was behind me. Sad that people I loved would die and not always in the order of old age. Sad that if illness or tragedy did not take me first, I’d have to endure the loss of all my elders.

An Arabic expression came to mind that I’ve thought of often during these long pandemic months filled with grief and loss. Inshallah, tuqbirni. It’s a term of endearment that I’d always considered morbid, God willing, you’ll bury me. It’s said casually, a loving squeal from a parent or grandparent to a child, an aunt or uncle to a niece or nephew, but I’ve never said it to my own kids. The sentiment had always struck me as too dark.

However, holding my daughter’s gaze that day, I understood the urge to utter something so fatalistic. Those words not only voiced my heart’s truest desire, but they also offered me some comfort, to know that my deepest dread had a place in a shared vernacular. May I never live to see the loss of you, I whispered to her then, and I whisper to her now, the heavy phrase unexpectedly light on my tongue. May you be the one to bury me.

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/07/well/family/a-birthday-at-the-cemetery.html

12.) “How to Show Kids the Joy of Reading” – by Natalie Wexler, The Atlantic, Aug. 10 2020

In her 28 years of teaching, [Fowler]’s seen educational reforms come and go. That’s not unusual; in a 2017 survey of a nationally representative sample of teachers, 84 percent said that as soon as they “get a handle on a new reform,” it changes. To Fowler, some of the changes only seemed to make it harder for her students to learn—like a directive to discontinue an effective phonics program, or the emergence of a joyless and stressful regime of test prep. So when the district unveiled yet another new initiative a few years ago, Fowler was skeptical. But, to her surprise, it turned out to be the one that did the best job of achieving what has always been her goal: inspiring a love of reading in her students—including struggling ones like Abby. …

When Fowler started, her school district, like most across the United States, grounded its literacy instruction in a textbook called a basal reader. Intended to teach both aspects of reading—sounding out words and comprehension—the reader didn’t do an adequate job with either, in the opinion of Fowler and her colleagues. In terms of comprehension, the reader was organized around skills and strategies, like “finding the main idea” and “making inferences,” but it presented the skills in such a fragmented way that kids soon forgot them. The teachers supplemented the reader with a phonics program, paid for by the school’s parents’ organization… According to Fowler, the supplementary phonics program worked—until the district directed teachers to stop using it.

Fowler found her own way, trying to teach comprehension skills through texts that could infuse more joy into the process than those in the basal reader. She read aloud chapter books by well-known children’s authors and biographies of historical figures like Helen Keller. The children were far more engaged in those books, begging her to keep reading when it was time to stop. She would also try to carve out 15 or 20 minutes a day when kids could choose books from the classroom library and read silently on their own. …

But the best parts of teaching, for Fowler, were the two- or three-week units she and her colleagues created around science and social-studies topics. When the class studied Italy, for example, they read books by the Italian American author Tomie dePaola and went to a local Italian restaurant to eat spaghetti. A unit on Japan included reading books by Japanese American authors and making kimonos. When kids studied Antarctica, they did projects on penguins. “I always felt in my heart that was the best way to teach kids,” Fowler told me, “because they got so involved in it.”

Then, in an effort to boost student achievement and address inequities, Congress enacted No Child Left Behind in 2002. The legislation required states to give annual reading and math tests in third through eighth grade and once in high school. If schools didn’t make sufficient progress toward the goal of 100 percent proficiency, a range of sanctions could be triggered. In Tennessee, as in many states, the scores also factored into teachers’ job evaluations. Capshaw had a relatively affluent student body, and test scores were fairly high. Nevertheless, Fowler says, teachers there came under pressure to teach to the test.

The district continued using the same curriculum—which, for literacy, was essentially the dreaded basal reader. But there was no more time to enrich it with perceived frills like deep dives into Italy, Japan, or penguins. The focus had to be on the tested subjects, reading and math. And, for several weeks before the tests were given in April, the basal reader was abandoned in favor of instruction that mirrored the test format—even for the first graders Fowler was teaching. …

To prep them, Fowler would give her students workbooks with reading passages on disconnected topics, followed by comprehension questions. The kids were uninterested in the passages in the workbooks, and they found the testing stressful. Some started to hate reading.

The solution was yet another reform, but this time the impact would be very different. In 2016, the Putnam County School District decided to try a more rigorous literacy curriculum, beginning in the elementary grades—one that included solid phonics instruction … They opted for Core Knowledge Language Arts, or CKLA. The next year the district piloted CKLA’s “Listening and Learning” strand, which—unlike basal-reader instruction—was organized around specific topics in subjects like history and science. A teacher would spend two to three weeks on each topic, reading aloud about it to the entire class and leading class discussions based on questions provided in a teacher’s guide. …

At first, she had serious doubts about the new curriculum. … But Fowler found that her third graders were not only able to understand the material; they also loved it. Eager to learn more, they would often read ahead in their student books. Fowler still tried to make time for students to read books of their choice, but she found they often wanted more books on the CKLA topics. …

As for Fowler, the measure of effectiveness is, as always, whether her students are finding joy—and she sees them discovering not only the joy of reading but also the joy of learning. Instead of making kimonos and dioramas of penguins, they’re dressing up like ancient Egyptians and building pyramids. But their level of engagement is the same. “This is how I used to teach 20 years ago,” she says. “I’m back to the beginning. This is what I thought kids wanted. So it makes my heart happy.”

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2020/08/how-show-kids-joy-reading/615109/

13.) “With no end to the pandemic in sight, coronavirus fatigue grips America” – by Brady Dennis, Jeremy Duda, and Joel Achenbach, The Washington Post, Aug. 11, 2020

[The lockdown] was challenging and frustrating, but, Rice initially assumed, temporary. It seemed like a plausible plan to help the nation get the pandemic under control within a couple of months. … Then came August, and the devastating realization for many Americans that the pandemic, which has killed at least [192,000] people across the country and sickened more than [six] million, is far from over.

“It’s difficult when you think you have a light at the other end of the tunnel to look forward to, and then all of a sudden you realize it’s a train,” said Rice, 44, a program coordinator at Arizona State University.

An exhausted, exasperated nation is suffering from the effects of a pandemic that has upended society on a scale and duration without parallel in living memory. … [M]illions … are wrestling with difficult questions about how to juggle school, pay their bills and look after their mental and physical health. Parents lie awake, their minds racing with thoughts of how to balance work with their newfound role as home-schoolers. Frontline health workers are bone tired, their nerves frayed by endless shifts and constant encounters with the virus and its victims. Senior citizens have grown weary of isolation. Unemployed workers fret over jobs lost, benefits that are running out, rent payments that are overdue. Minority communities continue to shoulder the disproportionate burden of the contagion’s impact

Recent opinion polls hint at the deepening despair. A Gallup survey in mid-July showed 73 percent of adults viewed the pandemic as growing worse Another Gallup Poll, published Aug. 4, found only 13 percent of adults are satisfied with the way things are going overall in the country, the lowest in nine years. … “Part of the frustration and disappointment and depression, frankly, is because of the expectation that we’d be through this by now,” he said. …

Howard Markel, a medical historian at the University of Michigan, said that though similarities exist between today’s outbreak and the influenza pandemic a century ago, American society was different at that time. Americans had experienced epidemics of cholera, diphtheria and other diseases in the not-so-distant past. … Unlike today, most Americans also had little confidence that a magic bullet would end the suffering and exasperation. “Another expectation of our era is the expectation that science will come up with a fix quickly,” Markel said. “None of us have the patience for lengthy processes. We live in an instant society.”

Check it out here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/with-no-end-to-the-pandemic-in-sight-coronavirus-fatigue-grips-america/2020/08/10/a959424c-d7fa-11ea-930e-d88518c57dcc_story.html

14.) “The Facts Just Aren’t Getting Through” – by Anne Applebaum, The Atlantic, Aug. 9, 2020

American politics, Polish politics, French politics, Italian politics, Ukrainian politics, all derived from their own history, economics, and culture, now have this in common: In each of these countries, deep informational divides separate one part of the electorate from the rest. Some voters live in a so-called populist bubble, where they hear nationalist and xenophobic messages, learn to distrust fact-based media and evidence-based science, and become receptive to conspiracy theories and suspicious of democratic institutions. Others read and hear completely different media, respect different authorities, and search for a different sort of news. …

In some places, including Poland and the United States, the country is divided in half. In other places, such as Germany, the proportions vary, but the divide is just as deep. … The voters in the far-right bubble don’t just have different opinions from other Germans; they have different facts, including “facts” provided by a foreign country. …

Is that chasm permanent? Should the other German political parties try to reach the people in the populist bubble? But how is it possible to reach people who can’t hear you? This is not merely a question of how to convince people, how to use a better argument, or how to change minds. This is a question about how to get people to listen at all. Just shouting about “facts” will get you nowhere with those who no longer trust the sources that produce them. …

People [in the U.S.] who live in this “alternative” news bubble also see or hear “mainstream,” fact-based media. But they reject them. They identify them as the enemy, and they learn to ignore them. The Clinton campaign’s mistake [in 2016], Scott reckons, was its belief that people inside this bubble could be moved by an appeal to facts. They weren’t.

[So how do we bridge the information divide? Here are four ways that work…]

1. Change the messenger

Inside the noisy and chaotic modern information sphere, the message doesn’t matter nearly as much as the messenger. Many people no longer trust major media outlets to give them valuable information—and they may never do so again. They no longer trust politicians or groups they perceive to be outside their tribe either—and the days when a president got a respectful audience just for being the president may never return again. But voters do trust people they know, or people who resemble people they know. Understanding this to be true, Longwell and Kristol began experimenting. Instead of just creating professional campaign videos (though they have made one or two of those), they began soliciting and disseminating homemade clips. …

When tested on focus groups, the ads do have an impact: People find them convincing. Perhaps this is because they reflect conservative anxieties about Trump without criticizing the conservative tribe. The people in the videos sympathize with Republican voters’ dilemma, as Longwell herself does. “Tribalism isn’t all negative,” she said. “It also involves elements of loyalty, trust, and community.” …The use of insiders to reach into closed communities is an established technique…

2. Make noise—and make jokes

If the world of counter-extremism offers lessons, so does the experience of anti-communism. Back in the 1980s, Poland was a Soviet-occupied Communist country with an entirely closed media environment. The Communist Party ran all the newspapers and the sole television network. Protest was illegal, and protesters were arrested. But an unusual dissident group called the Orange Alternative broke through the wall of regime media—by making people laugh. The group staged “happenings” that weren’t exactly demonstrations but something closer to comic performances. … The authorities were flummoxed: The parades were clearly protests, but the police looked stupid when they arrested people for wearing “communist” red outfits or Santa Claus suits. Srdja Popovic, the veteran Serbian activist—he helped lead a youth movement that overthrew the Serbian dictator Slobodan Milošević—has lectured on what he calls the “power of laughtivism.” “Humor melts fear,” he says. Mockery removes the aura of an authoritarian party or leader, making followers more willing to listen to alternatives.

3. Use the memories that unite, not the ones that divide

It’s not just American rhetoric that no longer unifies. American history itself has become contentious too. At a moment when people are arguing over statues, how can stories about the past ever unite us? …

Western Ukraine was part of Poland until 1939, the east has a long history of Russian domination, and the two regions have radically different memories, especially of the Second World War. Russian disinformation directed at Ukraine has long sought to exacerbate these differences, characterizing western Ukrainians as “Nazis” and reminding easterners of the part they played in the Red Army’s victory. As a result, any conversation about the war is liable to make somebody (maybe everybody) angry.

But when focus-group moderators changed the subject to different historical traumas, it turned out that the differences were not so great. When Ukrainians talk about, say, the Soviet-Afghan War in the ’80s or the economic collapse that followed the end of the U.S.S.R. in the ’90s, they have similarly strong emotions and similarly evocative feelings, no matter which part of the country they inhabit. They are also more likely to believe the information presented in documentaries about those subjects, whereas they approach similar films about the Second World War with distrust. …

Right now [back in the U.S.], different interpretations of the civil-rights movement, and even of the Civil War and Reconstruction, lie at the root of angry arguments about statues, military-base names, and the Confederate flag. Reconciling those memories is not something that will happen between now and November. But there might well be other things we can talk about, other episodes in American history that evoke strong, unifying feelings in both red and blue America. The moment of national mourning that followed 9/11? The financial crisis of 2008? …

4. Deliberately mixed messages

One way or another, all successful campaigns—political campaigns, activist campaigns, even commercial advertising campaigns—need to reckon with the fact that audiences live in different information spheres. The era of mass media and unitary campaign slogans is drawing to an end. This is not news: The Russian operatives who intervened in the 2016 election were telling members of Black Lives Matter Facebook groups different things from what they told the anti-immigration activists they targeted in Idaho.

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/08/how-beat-populists-when-facts-dont-matter/615082/

15.) “Side-by-Side Beds Isn’t Such a Bad Idea” – by Rebecca Deczynski, Domino, Mar. 11, 2020

If you and your partner constantly fight over the covers, it might be time for a sleep divorce. More and more couples are opting to sleep in separate rooms… But you don’t need all that space. An easy alternative is to give up that king or queen for a decidedly old-school option: side-by-side beds.

It’s an idea right out of I Love Lucy, but that doesn’t mean it’s regressive—having your own twin or full-size bed might just be the change you need. Just think of the freedom of being able to toss and turn all night long, without disrupting your partner’s sleep cycle weighing on your conscience. The science is there, too: 2013 study showed that lovers’ quarrels are far more likely to happen after a restless night. Going your separate ways before you doze off could very well make for a less-strained relationship. 

Check it out here: https://www.domino.com/content/double-beds-sleep-divorce/

16.) “11 Supposedly Fun Things We’ll Never Do the Same Way Again” – by Bryan Pietsch, The New York Times, Aug. 11, 2020

1. Blowing out the candles on your cake.

… It’s the singing of “Happy Birthday” that actually poses a greater risk when it comes to spreading droplets that could carry respiratory illnesses, such as the novel coronavirus, said Melissa Nolan, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. It’s best to take the singing outside, she said, and to spread out, too. …

3. Letting your kid jump into a ball pit.

Swimming around in a pool of plastic — a material cited by experts to be especially good at harboring germs — could become a thing of the past. McDonald’s had already phased them out of its Playplaces.

4. Getting a quick after-work makeover.

Once upon a time, if you wanted to try new makeup — or give yourself a free makeover between the office and after-work drinks — you could head for the testers or samples at Sephora, Ulta or department stores. Just don’t think too hard about who used the brush or lipstick sample before you. …

5. Fumbling around an escape room.

Trapped in an enclosed room on a timer, you and your friends touch, poke and slide objects in hopes of unlocking the next clue, touching the same surfaces, breathing the same air. …

6. Bumping elbows at a loud, crowded bar.

After months of distancing, mask wearing and nixing small talk in public, will we be shouting in one another’s faces at bars or clubs again? Experts hope not. …

9. Passing the microphone at karaoke.

Passing a mic around a group of friends and singing (if you can call it that, for some of us) in a small room goes against the epidemiologists’ guidance to avoid singing or to do it outdoors. …

10. Shopping aimlessly.

The days of mindlessly wandering the mall were already on the way out, and the coronavirus could be the nail in the coffin for serendipitous retail therapy. …

11. Shaking hands, hugging a friend, kissing a cheek.

Back to Dr. Fauci and handshakes. What are the alternatives? The elbow bump — in all its clunky, awkward glory — could be a long-term alternative, Dr. Hassig said. But there’s good news about hugging: It’s less risky than a peck on the cheek and even a handshake…

Even so, all these greetings bring people in close contact when it’s often unnecessary. “There are greetings that have worked for centuries” that don’t involve touching one another, Dr. Hassig said, citing the wai in Thailand, which involves putting your hands together in a prayer-like fashion and bowing slightly.

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/11/health/coronavirus-what-not-to-do.html

17.) “What on Earth Is Group Economics?” – by Michael Pina, GQ, Aug. 10, 2020

Anthony Tolliver of the Memphis Grizzlies in Orlando, July 31, 2020.

Tolliver and Iguodala, as members of the NBPA’s executive committee, advocated for “Group Economics” to be included on the list of social justice messages players could wear on their jerseys once the season reopened in Florida. Three players chose it: Tolliver, Iguodala, and Kings forward Jabari Parker. (“Black Lives Matter” and “Equality” were the two most popular options among players, per an NBA spokesperson.) …

What does ‘Group Economics’ even mean? How does it communicate an antiracist message?

Broadly speaking, the term refers to groups of people who pool their resources to accomplish something they otherwise might not be able to as individuals—in the context of the Black community, it has often been used to talk about the importance of creating and supporting Black-owned businesses that in turn support the larger Black population. West defines the idea as follows: “I think it’s something Black people used to practice and don’t practice anymore. And our communities haven’t shown a positive result from us not practicing it. It’s creating a mechanism where their resources are tied together and they’re being moved in a position to positively help the communities we come from.” …

Tolliver chose “group economics” after spending the past few years reading up on how past efforts in Black communities to band together economically were suppressed by bigotry. “I look back at our history and see that that has happened in the past,” Tolliver said. “Black Wall Street in Tulsa, and multiple other instances, where when we banded together and implemented group economics to better our lives, it was burned down. And so that for me was another piece of this whole pie: not only representing and encouraging that again, but also bringing light to the history of us doing it and it being literally taken away from us, for nothing.”

Check it out here: https://www.gq.com/story/nba-group-economics-explainer

18.) “Quarantine Envy Got You Down? You’re Not Alone” – by Nancy Wartik, The New York Times, Aug. 10, 2020

A beach house, a suburban home, a home without children, a home filled with family: These days, everyone wants something that someone else has. …

Quarantine envy: If it’s not a widespread term yet, it should be. Envy, of course, is the joy-devouring emotion of craving what others have. Even before the pandemic, social media was linked to rising levels of the emotion. “Social media magnifies and creates instant, destructive envy,” said Andrew Oswald… co-author of a study on whether envy is societally harmful (short answer: yes). “There’s a globalization of envy and in the longer run, we have to regulate it.”

I’ve seen the discontent over the years, in my day job, moderating reader comments. Growing wealth disparity, along with ubiquitous social media, appears to have made us all less satisfied (and snarkier). The pandemic has fueled the fire. Essential workers envy those working at home. People who were laid off envy those who weren’t. Those home-schooling young children envy those who aren’t. We all envy the rich. …

“When people are miserable, their resilience to other bad things becomes reduced,” said Dr. Oswald. “It’s easier to shrug off others’ good fortune when your life is OK. It’s been a terrible time for many people and the last thing they want to see is a millionaire’s house with a giant lawn.” …

“The pandemic is increasing the divide between the advantaged and disadvantaged, so there’s more opportunity to compare yourself to others in unflattering ways. You may also realize certain things are important that you never thought about. Say you’re alone in lockdown. Before, you were never socially isolated. Now your envy increases toward people locked down in others’ company.” …

[O]ne of the best ways to work with envy, during the pandemic or any other time, is not to judge yourself. … You can also use social media proactively, to connect rather than virtually covet. Studies have shown that scrolling passively through platforms like Facebook — rather than directly connecting with friends there — can make you feel bad about yourself. For now, block friends who routinely create envy-inspiring posts.

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/10/smarter-living/quarantine-envy-pandemic.html

19.) “Broken brushstrokes: In this gorgeous early Monet painting, some see a cesspool of sex and vice” – by Sebastian Smee, The Washington Post, Aug. 12, 2020

Monet’s “La Grenouillère”, 1869

One year before France’s Second Empire collapsed and Paris was besieged by Prussians, three years before he painted “Impression, Sunrise” and five years before the first impressionist exhibition, Claude Monet painted “La Grenouillère,” now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With its rapid, broken brushstrokes (apparent especially in the water), and its rendering of the physical world as colored light rather than meticulously modeled space, this 1869 work is often celebrated as a turning point in the history of art: one of the very first identifiably “impressionist” paintings. …

The scene is La Grenouillère (the Frog Pond), a bathing spot with a floating restaurant on the Seine near Chatou, just west of Paris. It’s the summer of ’69. Monet is down on his luck, destitute. He’s staying nearby with his soon-to-be wife, Camille; he comes to La Grenouillère to paint alongside his pal Pierre- Auguste Renoir.

To our eyes, the image looks reposeful, soothing, sedate, like the opening of a Merchant Ivory film. It was actually a cesspool of sex and vice.

Guy de Maupassant set his story “Femme Fatale” at La Grenouillère. In the adjacent park, he wrote, “busty women with peroxided hair and nipped-in waists could be seen, made up to the nines with blood red lips and black-kohled eyes.” … Maupassant noted the suffocating summer heat and slow-moving current in this “dead branch” of the Seine and the ambient smell of spilled drinks, cheap perfume and talc. He wrote that the place “reeked of vice and corruption and the dregs of Parisian society.” Those who congregated there were “cheats, con-men and cheap hacks” who, he said, “mingled with other small-time crooks and speculators, dabblers in dubious ventures, frauds, pimps and racketeers.”

Maupassant’s passage reminded me of Grandmaster Flash’s description, in his 1982 masterpiece “The Message,” of “the number-book takers/ Thugs, pimps and pushers and the big moneymakers/ Drivin’ big cars, spendin’ twenties and tens/ And you’ll wanna grow up to be just like them, huh/ Smugglers, scramblers, burglars, gamblers/ Pickpocket peddlers, even panhandlers.”

A gratuitous comparison? Sure. But I’m trying to take you briefly away from received wisdom regarding Monet and impressionism. When you go to an impressionist exhibition, you tend to imbibe the hagiographical, gift shop version. …

But Monet and Renoir were out in the world, with their bodies, their backstories, their hunger, their senses. Intoxicated by what they saw, they felt moved and energized to invent a new style of painting that might capture it with the immediacy it warranted — to make what they saw congruent with the inner urgency of their own lives.

Check it out here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/entertainment/claude-monet-la-grenouillere/

20.) “Trump’s Racist, Statist Suburban Dream” – by Paul Krugman, The New York Times, Aug. 13, 2020

Conservatives do love their phony wars… Now, as the Trump campaign desperately searches for political avenues of attack, we’re hearing a lot about the “war on the suburbs.” It’s probably not a line that will play well outside the G.O.P.’s hard-core base; Joe Biden and Kamala Harris don’t exactly come across as rabble-rousers who will lead raging antifa hordes as they pillage America’s subdivisions. Yet it is true that a Biden-Harris administration would resume and probably expand on Obama-era efforts to finally make the Fair Housing Act of 1968 effective…

[W]hat Trump calls the “Suburban Lifestyle Dream” didn’t just happen; it was created by government policies. The great suburban housing boom that followed World War II was made possible by huge federal subsidies, via programs — especially the Federal Housing Administration and the Veterans Administration — that protected lenders from risk by insuring qualifying home mortgages. By 1950 the F.H.A. and the V.A. were insuring half of all mortgages nationwide.

Of course, these subsidies didn’t just help home buyers. They were also a gold mine for real estate developers, among them a guy named Fred Trump, who was later sued for discriminating against Black tenants, and whose son currently occupies the White House. But these subsidies were only available to white people. In fact, they were only available in all-white communities. As Richard Rothstein reports… F.H.A. guidelines specifically cautioned against loans in communities in which children might share classrooms with other children who “represent a far lower level of society or an incompatible racial element.”

Indeed, the F.H.A. went well beyond favoring all-white locations; it set out to create them. After the war, when developers like William Levitt began building new communities on what had been farmland, they cleared their plans in advance with the F.H.A., thereby guaranteeing that buyers would have automatic access to subsidized mortgages. And one of the things the F.H.A. required from such plans was strict racial segregation, supposedly to insure property values.

Now, all of this may sound like old history. But the raw racism of postwar housing policy cast a long shadow over our society. For the 20 or so years that followed World War II represented a unique opportunity for the middle class to solidify its position — an opportunity that was denied to Black people. …

What is Biden proposing to remedy at least some of these injustices? Reasonable, significant, but hardly revolutionary stuff — things like expanding rental vouchers while cracking down on redlining and exclusionary zoning. Trump may claim that such policies would “destroy suburbia,” but that only makes sense if you believe that the only alternative to bloody anarchy is a community that looks exactly like Levittown in 1955.

Levittown, N.Y., a [then-whites-only] suburban dreamland envisioned by the developer William Levitt.

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/13/opinion/trump-suburbs-racism.html

21.) “State and Local Budget Pain Looms Over Economy’s Future” – by Jeanna Smialek, Alan Rappeport, and Emily Cochrane, The New York Times, Aug. 14, 2020

State governments are again experiencing extreme budget problems as they pay out increasing sums to cover unemployment and health costs caused by the coronavirus crisis while revenues from sales taxes and corporate and personal income tax payments plummet. States could face a gap of at least $555 billion through the 2022 fiscal year, according to one estimate.

Economists warn that the long-term risk coming from struggling states could prove even more damaging this time than the recession of 2007-9 unless Congress steps in. … Nearly all states are required to balance their budgets, meaning officials will need to plug shortfalls by tapping rainy-day funds, raising taxes or cutting costs, including jobs. That worries economists and Federal Reserve officials. Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, regularly warns that state job cuts could weigh on the economy’s ability to recover, and his colleagues warn of public-sector budget pain as one of the primary vulnerabilities ahead. …

While it is unclear how persistent job cuts will be — some jobs may still come back as economies reopen — state and local job losses this year have already dwarfed those in and after the entire Great Recession. Back then, state and local governments cut about 750,000 jobs over nearly five years. Just since February, about 1.2 million local government jobs have been lost. Moody’s Analytics researchers estimate that 2.8 million more could be on the chopping block without more federal help.

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/14/business/economy/state-local-budget-pain.html

22.) “A Guide to Exploring Religious Faith as an Adult” – by Arthur C. Brooks, The Atlantic, Aug. 13 2020

When we think of our identities as fixed and unchanging—I am this kind of person; I am not that kind of person—we’re shutting ourselves off from many of life’s possibilities.

In the Bible, there is a curious story about a man named Nicodemus. He is a Pharisee and one of the religious elders with whom Jesus is in constant conflict. Nicodemus approaches Jesus alone at night, saying, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God,” and proceeds to ask a series of sincere questions.

It is clear that Nicodemus is a seeker, attracted to Jesus’s unconventional teaching. It is just as clear that he does not want anyone to witness this meeting. A powerful, successful man, Nicodemus is embarrassed—or perhaps afraid—to be seen questioning his own religious beliefs and considering something new.

There is a modern version of the Nicodemus story that I have seen many times, though it isn’t necessarily Christian. I often meet middle-aged people who are having religious stirrings for the first time, or at least for the first time since they were young. But like Nicodemus, many find these urges confusing and even troubling, especially if they moved away from faith earlier in life.

These seekers I talk with usually believe their spiritual yearnings are unusual, but they aren’t. Research from the United States shows that religious attachment commonly falls through young and middle adulthood, but then increases through one’s 40s and beyond. The theologian James Fowler explained this pattern in his famous 1981 book, Stages of Faith. After studying hundreds of human subjects, Fowler observed that as young adults, many people are put off by ideas that seem arbitrary or morally retrograde, such as those surrounding sexuality. They may also become disillusioned by religion’s inability to explain life’s hardest puzzles; for example, the idea of a loving God in the face of a world full of suffering.

As they get older, however, people begin to recognize that nothing is tidy in life. This, according to Fowler, is when they become tolerant of religion’s ambiguities and inconsistencies, and start to see the beauty and transcendence in faith and spirituality—either their own faith from childhood, or some other. …

For those who embrace faith at this stage, it is a joyful epiphany; religious and spiritual adults are generally happier and generally suffer less depression than those who have no faith. …

[But t]he road to faith is filled with obstacles that can cause a spiritually hungry person to turn back, if he or she can’t see a way around them.

OBSTACLE 1: SANTA IN THE CHURCH

… Our first impressions of faith tend to be made as children—and those impressions can haunt us as we mature. People often dismiss religion as a mishmash of myths and childish nonsense that well-adjusted adults should logically leave behind. Indeed, many opponents of faith attack it by appealing to precisely these childish impressions. …

The solution to this obstacle is to reacquaint yourself with faith with mature eyes. …

OBSTACLE 2: THE “NONE” IN THE MIRROR

The answer to the question “Who am I?” is what psychologists call a “self-concept.” Changes to the self-concept can be uncomfortable, and people often react with intense resistance to anything that threatens how they have come to see themselves.

A perfect example of this is someone’s self-concept as a nonreligious person, or in the parlance of survey research, a “none,” as more than a fifth of Americans classify themselves. Although seeing yourself as a “none” might not seem like a barrier to finding faith—it’s a void to be filled, right?—it is itself an identity, one that for many people could feel as powerful as “Catholic” or “Buddhist.” That can be hard to let go of. …

The key to overcoming this obstacle is to remember that, even if “none” is an accurate description of you at the moment, it doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment. …

OBSTACLE 3: THE TYRANNY OF TIME

To develop spirituality or practice faith requires time and effort; there’s no getting around this. As such, it competes with the demands of our ordinary lives. That’s a huge imposition, and the time commitment may be enough to deter some people who are craving spiritual practice but find it too daunting to rearrange their lives to make room for it.

The Hindu concept of Vanaprastha (in Sanskrit, “retiring into the forest”) is illuminating here. Consistent with Fowler’s findings, Hindu sages have long taught that middle age brings a natural longing for spiritual development. But it doesn’t come without cost; it requires stepping back from the pressures of ordinary life. A person must focus less on worldly ambition to create more space for spiritual practice—prayer, meditation, reading. …

[Yet] who has even a free half hour every day to read and pray? Who has a block of time every weekend to spend sitting in a house of worship? …

But what if, instead of seeing your spiritual journey as an imposition on your scarce time and energy, you shift your mindset to see spiritual exploration as an adventure in and of itself? … Reframe your spiritual journey as a research project in which you are the human subject, a pilgrimage that could help you learn more about yourself, and about life itself.

If you are feeling an unexpected spiritual pull, realize that it is normal. … No matter where you wind up, the journey of spiritual discovery can be one of life’s greatest delights. As the Indian yogi and poet Sri Aurobindo described the adventure of faith:

A divine force shall flow through tissue and cell
And take the charge of breath and speech and act
And all the thoughts shall be a glow of suns
And every feeling a celestial thrill.

Celestial or not, the thrill is real. Lean into it.

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/08/guide-exploring-religious-faith-adult/615220/

23.) “Anti-racist Arguments Are Tearing People Apart” – by Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, Aug. 20, 2020

The viral youtube video was cued to begin at 42:23, the moment most likely to elicit incredulity. A webcam was tight on the face of Robin Broshi, a middle-aged white woman. She was upset. The edge in her voice sought to explain, to emphasize, to insist, that a wrong had been done.

“It hurts people,” she said, “when they see a white man bouncing a brown baby on their lap and they don’t know the context!”

Wait. What?

“That is harmful!” she continued. “That makes people cry! It makes people log out of our meetings.” The video’s description mentions the “NYC Community Education Council for Manhattan District 2,” which serves more than 60,000 students spread across 121 schools.

I made a series of rapid assumptions about what I was watching. I surmised that Broshi was a college-educated, upper-middle-class progressive who sits on some sort of education council in the public-school system and owns copies of White Fragility and How to Be an Antiracist. I surmised that she was calling someone out. And I surmised that her white, male target was offscreen rolling his eyes. All of which turned out to be correct.

But I also felt confused. Why would a New Yorker in 2020 see an adult holding a baby with a different phenotype and presume something nefarious was afoot? Until recently, I would have expected that sort of retrograde attitude from the alt-right. Beleaguered curiosity prompted me to burrow down an unlikely rabbit hole: extended footage from several NYC Community Education Council District 2 meetings. I wanted to understand what seemed to be the latest confounding addition to the rapidly changing code of elite, “anti-racist” manners.

What I found was more complicated and troubling than one perplexing viral moment. All 11 members of the council are highly educated parents who volunteer time and energy in hopes of improving public schools. Council membership requires lots of tedious, mostly thankless work of a sort that no one undertakes for the power: The resolutions that pass at meetings aren’t even binding on the Department of Education. Yet this advisory body of well-meaning people is plagued by polarizing disagreements about the nature of anti-racism that undermine its ability to effect change. And if this particular incident is exceedingly strange––almost a caricature of how conservatives think identitarian leftists behave––it also illuminates how the fight over anti-racism could roil many other institutions all across the country.

“Robin,” he said, “I would like to directly ask you a question. You alleged racist behavior. What exactly was that racist behavior about having my friend of five years over at my house in my living room with her daughter who is best friends with my daughter and her nephew? What is racist about that?”

Broshi stated, “Proximity to color does not mean you’re not racist,” adding, “Did you read Ibram Kendi? Did you read How to Be an Antiracist? All people are capable of racist behavior. We apologize when we offend people of color and they get upset and log out of a meeting immediately because they see white people exhibiting their power over people of color. How can I convince you if you won’t even read a book about white fragility or Ibram Kendi?” Shortly after, Broshi delivered her soon-to-be-viral monologue: “It hurts people when they see a white man bouncing a brown baby on their lap and they don’t know the context! That is harmful! That makes people cry. It makes people log out of our meetings. … And they give me a hard time. Because I’m not vocal enough. … I’m getting pressure for not being enough of an advocate. I take that to heart. That hurts me. And I have to learn how to be a better white person. Read a book. Read Ibram Kendi. Read How to Talk to White People. It is not my job to educate you. You’re an educated white male. You can read a book. And you can learn about yourself.”

If a member of a civic body expressed frustration that a colleague refused to read the Bible, the Quran, The Wealth of NationsThe Communist ManifestoAtlas Shrugged, or Dianetics, and couldn’t understand an accusation until they did, most observers would see the problem. Drawing on outside concepts is fine. But if you can’t explain your position unless everyone reads your source material, then the fault lies with you. No one in a public meeting should have to read the books you consider important, much less accept that the ideas in those books are sacrosanct. …

Anti-racism is a contested concept that well-meaning people define and practice differently. Folks who have different ideas about how to combat racism should engage one another. They might even attempt a reciprocal book exchange, in which everyone works to understand how others see the world. …

As long as sharp disagreements persist about what causes racial inequality and how best to remedy it, deliberations rooted in the specific costs and benefits of discrete policies will provide a better foundation for actual progress than meta-arguments about what “anti-racism” demands.

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/08/meta-arguments-about-anti-racism/615424/

24.) “Young Adults Report Rising Levels of Anxiety and Depression in Pandemic” – by Jan Hoffman, The New York Times, Aug. 13, 2020

The collateral damage from the pandemic continues: Young adults, as well as Black and Latino people of all ages, describe rising levels of anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts, and increased substance abuse, according to findings reported by the [CDC]. …

The researchers argue that the results point to an urgent need for expanded and culturally sensitive services for mental health and substance abuse, including telehealth counseling. In the online survey… in late June, the prevalence of anxiety symptoms was three times as high as those reported in the second quarter of 2019, and depression was four times as high.

The effects of the coronavirus outbreaks were felt most keenly by young adults ages 18 to 24. According to Mark Czeisler … nearly 63 percent had symptoms of anxiety or depression that they attributed to the pandemic and nearly a quarter had started or increased their abuse of substances, including alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs, to cope with their emotions.

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/13/health/Covid-mental-health-anxiety.html

25.) “When Trump Calls a Black Woman ‘Angry,’ He Feeds This Racist Trope” – by Melena Ryzik, Reggie Ugwu, Maya Phillips, and Julia Jacobs, The New York Times, Aug. 14, 2020

Kamala Harris may become the first Black woman elected as vice president, but for now she’s still being slotted into a well-worn mold, as President Trump and his allies seek to cast her as “a mad woman.” Within hours of her joining Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket on Tuesday, Mr. Trump branded her “extraordinarily nasty,” and then “so angry,” as the rhetoric ratcheted up. By Thursday, a Trump campaign fund-raising email called her “the meanest” senator.

All of it played on a racist trope that goes back generations in American culture, and has a complicated history in forging gender identity, power and class. The “angry Black woman” remains a cultural and social fixture, a stereotype that has been used to denigrate artists, athletes and political figures.

“The notion of the angry Black woman was a way — is a way — of trying to keep in place Black women who have stepped outside of their bounds, and who have refused to concede the legitimacy of being a docile being in the face of white power,” said Michael Eric Dyson

The trope, like all stereotypes, is meant to make its subject into something one-dimensional and easier to puncture. It demeans Black women who are perceived as angry by dismissing them as shrews whose opinions do not count because they are pushed to rage by everything, and nothing.

“If you don’t grant us a degree of emotional complexity, then you don’t have to take us seriously, as leaders or as a constituency that has value,” said Brittney Cooper … the author of “Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower.”

Aunt Esther, known for her mix of spirituality and invective, was played by LaWanda Page, shown here with Redd Foxx on the set of NBC’s “Sanford and Son.”

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/14/arts/trump-black-women-stereotypes.html

26.) “The South won’t give up on college football. Even if it kills us.” – by Diane Roberts, The Washington Post, Aug. 15, 2020

The Big Ten and the Pac-12 will not play ball this fall. The Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Mountain West and Ivy League conferences won’t, either. But the states of the Old Confederacy have responded to the obvious dangers of playing a contact sport in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic with a collective, “Surrender, hell!”

President Trump and his fellow Republicans — especially in the South, and especially here in Florida, key to his reelection prospects — love college football. Lots of us Southern progressives love it, too: I’ve been going to Florida State games since I was 9 years old. I can tell you everything that’s wrong with the game, from the misogyny to the subconcussive hits that can cause degenerative brain disease in players to the troubling glorification of violence and militarism to the way often poor young men never get a piece of the vast sums of money they earn for the NCAA and their universities; still, I can’t help myself. I’m a lifer. I wish they could play. The players (most of them) want to play. College town restaurants, hotels and bars, purveyors of branded merchandise and the Walt Disney Co., owner of ESPN, want them to play. But I don’t see how, even in the South, where the cliche about the game being a religion happens to be true, college football can go ahead nearly as normal.

Yet the Big 12, the ACC and the Southeastern Conference, made up of mostly Southern universities (with a sprinkling of schools from the Midwest and Northeast) insist they’re ready to hit the gridiron. This is a political decision, and, to some extent, a cultural one. Trump is egging them on, tweeting “Play College Football!” …

Football always references war, and patriotism: Your side takes the other side’s territory and tries to stop them from taking yours. And just like in war, football is also about traditional masculinity. Many Americans, especially in red states, love the vision of society college football presents: Boys are big, strong and appropriately violent, while girls are small and pretty, faithfully cheering on their menfolk from the sidelines, even if the team loses by 40 points. There’s no blurring of gender roles in this retro-America, and the racial roles are pretty stark, too: Older White men are in charge (85 percent of Power Five coaches are White) while young men of color — 55 to 60 percent of Power Five football teams — perform the labor. Small wonder civil rights historian Taylor Branch famously detected “a whiff of the plantation” around college football.

Trump has made clear this is the America he likes to be president of…

Trump doesn’t like the NBA (too many Black guys wearing Black Lives Matter slogans on their jerseys, too much kneeling during the national anthem), but he adores football the way he adores the military. It is, to use one of the president’s favorite words, “tough.” In a strange and medically dubious rant on Fox Sports Radio’s “Outkick the Coverage,” he told the nation it would be a “tragic mistake” to cancel the college football season. The players, being young and strong and “in great shape,” are not as susceptible to the coronavirus, he claimed, what with them being “so powerful and so strong, not lots of body fat, although you could take a couple of offensive linemen perhaps and dispute that perhaps …” concluding that only the old and the obese are at high risk of dying from covid-19. …

Out of the 18 states represented by the three conferences still saying they’ll play this season, 11 have Republican governors, and even some of those with Democrats in charge — Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina — have Republican legislatures. These are the states where Trump’s die-hard political base thrives. If college football falls victim to the pandemic (and Republican mismanagement of it), the discontent will roil the fan latitudes. …

While SEC and ACC doctors insist the season can go ahead safely, others, including Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s chief medical officer, take a dim view of current safety protocols.

Check it out here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/08/15/ncaa-football-coronavirus-south/

One thought on “A Few Interesting Articles from the News, Pt. 3

  1. Pingback: A Few Interesting Articles from the News, Pt. 5 – Grasping at Awes

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