Jim Verhulst - Deputy Editor of Editorials
Here’s what to read from the left and the right | Column
Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
Federal officers use chemical irritants and crowd control munitions to disperse Black Lives Matter protesters outside the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Portland, Ore.
Federal officers use chemical irritants and crowd control munitions to disperse Black Lives Matter protesters outside the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Portland, Ore. [ NOAH BERGER | AP ]
Published Nov. 20, 2021

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 “When You Condone Chaos, You Condone the Consequences of Chaos,” by Freddie deBoer, a socialist, writing on his Substack.

The context, from the author: I do want to say this. At the time of the Kenosha riots, many many people along the left-of-center, including otherwise reformist liberals, endorsed riots to some degree or another. I know quite a few people who were willing to say that riots were just good on the merits.

The excerpt: Well, yes — sites of lawlessness and violence are good places to break the law and commit acts of violence. Perhaps the thing for thinking people to do, then, is not to pretend that such scenes are good for getting justice or anything else. Perhaps we should not give violent right-wing actors the cover of lawlessness and the excuse of mass violence, which they will inevitably use for their own ends. And people who never experience more disorder than they find in line at Whole Foods should probably stop romanticizing that which is inflicted on the poor neighborhoods they ostensibly have such humanitarian concern for.

From “It’s Not the Other America. It’s Just America,” by Mark Murrmann talking with Matt Black in Mother Jones.

The context, from the author: The photographer Matt Black makes an epic journey through the places in America that “don’t matter” and then talks about what he learned and the images he made in putting together his book American Geography.

The excerpt: With his project, Black wanted to pull (disparate places where poverty exceeds 20 percent) together, across geography, like some sort of continental Mad magazine fold-in. “You’re not encouraged to think of Appalachia and the Rio Grande Valley in the same breath,” Black says. “Put these places next to each other and you see the connections. You’re feeling the connections, too.” The connections aren’t merely a matter of shared economic pain, Black found during his travels. “They have a certain outlook on life. When you’re from a place like this, there’s a certain common language, a way of looking at things. A skepticism,” he says. “The more I dug into this, the more it became about social power and identity. The feeling that ‘we don’t matter.’ That’s so much more important than money. It’s not about how much cash you have. It’s about how much you and your community have been deemed to matter to the rest of us. That’s what really affects people, their self-worth, their self-esteem, their pride — where they come from.”

From “What Happened to Gun Culture,” by Benjamin Wallace-Wells in the New Yorker.

The context, from the author: During the past three decades, the gun culture became one of the most dangerous elements of the right. How much of that can be blamed on the NRA?

The excerpt: The NRA itself has worked hard to leave the impression that the ideology of gun ownership has been constant, emphasizing a Second Amendment politics that flattens the distinction between the 18th century and the present, and marketing AR-15s as if they were made for hunting. But, by the time of Sandy Hook, the gun culture that (gun-industry insider Ryan Busse, author of “Gunfight”) saw around him was all new: the treatment of lobbyists as charismatic leaders, the black-rifle influencers, the military weapons in the stores, and the military imagery used to market them. What he is documenting is not a timeless gun culture but the world that the NRA built.

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From “Misreading the Politics of ‘Normalcy,’ ” by Charlie Sykes in The Bulwark.

The context, from the author: And yet …. the GOP has opened a massive lead in the polls — and appears poised to win landslide victories in the mid-terms next year.

The excerpt: The (poor Democratic poll) numbers also suggest a more fundamental flaw — Biden was elected to restore a sense of “normalcy.” But these are not normal times, and perhaps the reality is that a normal approach to politics in profoundly abnormal times is a formula for political disaster. This is a year that began with an attempted coup, and yet Biden has sought to govern in a more or less conventional way; dusting off progressive policy proposals and maintaining a low-profile, non-intrusive style of governing. The result is a dramatic disconnect in our politics.

From “The Corruption of History,” by Ramesh Ponnuru in the National Review.

The context, from the author: To a greater extent than even most of its opponents realize, the reign of Roe v. Wade has relied from the very beginning on a false and sometimes fraudulent version of history.

The excerpt: The truth is that for centuries Anglo-American law forbade abortion from the first time an unborn child was known to be alive, and that as knowledge of biology accumulated the law was deliberately changed, the better to protect unborn life. Activists in favor of a constitutionalized right to abortion have gone to great lengths to obscure and misrepresent the record — corrupting both history and law.

From “Russian Into War,” by Bradley Devlin in The American Conservative.

The context, from the author: In an attempt to score partisan points, some House Republicans are making a terrible foreign policy error on Ukraine.

The excerpt: The push for the United States to pursue a more aggressive course of action against Russia regarding Ukraine, or any of our allies in the region that we have some kind of mutual defense agreement with, is not only divorced from geopolitical reality, but is dangerous. Despite what some may say regarding our purported defense commitments to Ukraine, or Georgia, Romania, Bulgaria, or any of the other countries in the greater Black Sea region, the outbreak of an armed conflict would imperil the long-term stability and security of the other nations we’ve claimed to defend. The Republicans behind the letter (signed by 15 Republicans in Congress who pressured the Biden administration to “take immediate and swift action to provide support to Ukraine”) in lockstep with the foreign policy establishment and the military industrial complex, are advocating for a military solution where political solutions abound.