We live in a partisan age, and our news habits can reinforce our own perspectives. Consider this an effort to broaden our collective outlook with essays beyond the range of our typical selections.
FROM THE LEFT
From “The GOP Is Turning the January 6 Insurrection Into a New Lost Cause,” by Nathalie Baptiste in Mother Jones.
The context, from the author: Rewriting history has officially begun.
The excerpt: Rewriting history is a staple of American mythology. Across the country, one can find people who sincerely believe that slavery wasn’t that bad, the Civil War was fought over states’ rights and that, had he not been murdered by a racist, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would’ve been a Republican today. American exceptionalism requires recasting the particularly ugly parts of our past into rosier scenarios. And now, just a few months after the insurrection at the Capitol, the Republican Party has laid the groundwork for repeating this grand tradition, creating their own version of the Lost Cause narrative from the Civil War.
From “Prisoners and the Pandemic,” by Tana Ganeva in Rolling Stone.
The context, from the author: Elderly prisoners are arguably the most vulnerable population to the ravages of Covid, yet efforts to release them through compassionate release or home confinement have been halting at best.
The excerpt: The recidivism rate for seniors is extremely low — as little as three percent, per one study — and the cost of caring for them in prison is much higher than the risk that they will be a danger to society. “It serves no purpose other than revenge to keep elder people in prison until near death,” says Jose Saldana, director of the advocacy group Release Aging People from Prison (RAPP), who himself served a 38-year prison sentence and was released in 2018 at the age of 66.
From “Conservatives Love Coal Miners — Until They Go on Strike,” by Jacob Morrison in Jacobin Magazine.
The context, from the author: The Right has worked hard in recent years to portray itself as defenders of beleaguered coal miners. But over a thousand miners are currently on strike in Alabama and we haven’t heard a peep about it from conservative talking heads. Weird.
The excerpt: If the same right-wing talking heads who spend hours wailing about Mr Potato Head a few weeks ago decided to rally around the strikers, many in the conservative rank and file would join them. But those conservative talking heads never will, because it threatens the class interests of them and the bosses they carry water for.
FROM THE RIGHT
From “The Conventional Wisdom on UFOs Is Shifting,” by Jim Geraghty in the National Review.
The context, from the author: The conventional wisdom about UFOs — not necessarily space aliens, but the existence of flying objects that authorities cannot identify — is shifting rapidly; it’s like you can feel the ground moving beneath your feet.
The excerpt: Human beings are messy, divided, sometimes mean. We’re capable of great acts and great mercy, but also atrocities and cruelty. Collectively, some group of people somewhere on Earth has been fighting wars over territory, resources, cultural differences, and faith for the entirety of human existence. Our societies are getting better — gradually — but human nature hasn’t changed much if it has changed at all. We exhibit short-term thinking, self-destructive bad habits, impulsive decision-making, greed, arrogance, stubborn denial of inconvenient facts, and lie to others and ourselves. An alien civilization capable of developing the technology to travel between star systems — and to create stealthy surveillance craft! — probably worked a lot of these issues out a long time ago. We must look like unruly toddlers to them. Maybe we are best watched from a safe distance.
From “Critical Race Theory’s Battle In The Burbs,” by Matt Purple in the American Conservative.
The context, from the author: Loudoun County, Va., becomes ground zero in the fight against wokeness, complete with lies, blacklists and creeping authoritarianism.
The excerpt: The first thing the good people at the Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) would like you to know is that they don’t teach critical race theory. To be sure, their staff might speak in the gibberish parlance of critical race theory—publishing a “comprehensive equity plan,” adopting Ibram Kendi’s Manichaean dichotomy of “racism” versus “antiracism,” gibbering about “white privilege.” They might be dumping millions of dollars into “equity training” and woke consulting firms. They might have distributed a graphic that lists “perfectionism” and “individualism” as symptoms of “white supremacy culture.” But none of this amounts to critical race theory. Why? Because they don’t call it critical race theory.
From “Discovering Columbus: Heroes and history in an ideological age,” by Robert Royal in the Claremont Review of Books.
The context, from the author: It is now taken as self-evident that the whole history of Western exploration and expansion is nothing but a tale of exploitation, imperialism, and “white” supremacy. Any attempt to sort out the good and bad present in the discovery of the Americas, as in all things human, amounts to making excuses for genocide and racism.
The excerpt: It’s very difficult to escape the network of human evils that have existed throughout history. The American author Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a highly influential book in 2015 on the history of racism and white supremacy, Between the World and Me, in the form of a kind of message to his son, Samori. The son was named after a late 19th-century African leader, Samori Ture, a devout Muslim who fought French colonialism in West Africa—but who also captured and sold black slaves, in time-honored African tradition, to finance his empire-building. To recall such things is not to excuse Europeans or Christians who should have behaved better then and still should now. But it is to get a clearer picture of what we as a species have been, rather than the fictional representations of purely good and purely bad actors that have displaced the truth.