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
The context, from the author: Leading conservative pundits today are pounding themes that were popular among opponents of Reconstruction.
The excerpt: Many white people have long rejected the idea of sharing political power. It was this conviction that led them to view Reconstruction as the “great political crime of the century,” as J. P. Thomas, the superintendent of a military school in South Carolina, said in 1868. It also led them to proclaim the appointment of a Black man as the postmaster of Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1868 to be not a shining example of the possibilities of multiracial democracy, but hurtful and demeaning, an “expression of contempt — a slap in the face of the state — an unprovoked and unfeeling insult.” And it was this same conviction that led Tucker Carlson to claim, just this past April, “I have less political power because they’re importing a brand new electorate. Why should I sit back and take that?” Carlson was echoing the zero-sum logic that white reactionaries have spouted for more than a century.
The context, from the author:All the water still has to go somewhere.
The excerpt: But by putting numbers on how bad the flooding could get if seawalls are erected haphazardly or without cooperation, the new modeling may encourage more collaboration between neighbors. ... And it might also make planners consider alternatives to walls. Nature actually has another solution ready to go: using the landscape to our advantage. (Climate scientists call this a nature-based solution because it leverages natural processes instead of trying to engineer our way out of a problem.)
The context, from the authors: The Tokyo 2020 Olympic games are just like every other Olympics: a bonanza for corporate profits, and miserable for everyone else. The Olympics can’t be reformed — it’s time to abolish them.
The excerpt: No phrases can capture the colossal screw-ups happening on all levels in order to satisfy some TV and brand contracts. It’s beyond hyperbole. In defiance of the will of the entire world, the Olympics are still happening. Why? Because NBCUniversal and other Olympic partners plan on making a “record profit” on presold rights. These are the games that the IOC and Olympic boosters promised would be the most innovative, most sustainable (they’re not), “best ever prepared,” and most socially responsible in history — a line they’ll probably stick to, no matter how high their body count.
FROM THE RIGHT
The context, from the author: By all means, let’s be as truthful as possible about the Alamo and the Texas Revolution. But it’s pointlessly destructive to tear down what deserves to be honored and to forget what — as Sam Houston insisted so ringingly and aptly — should be remembered.
The excerpt: If there are legitimate disputes over the historical record, it’s really not hard to understand why a badly outnumbered garrison of men who fought ferociously against a government force almost to the last man and provided a rallying cry for a rebellion that quickly swept to success occupies an outsize place in our imagination. Especially given that two of the most famous Americans of the time, Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, died there. Such an event is inevitably catnip for myth-making, but even when stripped down to its essence, the Alamo and the aftermath were truly extraordinary.
From “What We Buy When We Buy Local,” by Madeline Johnson in the American Conservative.
The context, from the author: The price we put on consumer goods should account for the worlds they bring into being.
The excerpt: The world that leaps into being in response to my one-click (Amazon) purchase is one of warehouses the size of neighborhoods and neighborhoods dreary as warehouses, connected by freeways and streets full of little blue trucks. Social media, video games and television continuously expand their claims on our wallets and free time to fill the void left by any interest, beauty or surprise in our built surroundings and daily errands.
The context, from the author: Conservative and Republican elites mocked the populist revolt in their midst right up until the moment they embraced and enabled it.
The excerpt: How effective was (Donald) Trump at scrambling our political categories? Ask yourself these questions: If you support America’s free trade regime, are you on the left or the right? If you tend to support America’s overseas military commitments and its national-security state, are you on the left or the right? If you support reforms to America’s overburdened welfare state, are you on the left or the right? These questions would have been easier to answer five years ago.