Jim Verhulst - Editorial Writer
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.
Kyle Rittenhouse puts his hand over his face as he is found not guilty on all counts at the Kenosha County Courthouse on Nov. 19, 2021, in Kenosha, Wis.
Kyle Rittenhouse puts his hand over his face as he is found not guilty on all counts at the Kenosha County Courthouse on Nov. 19, 2021, in Kenosha, Wis. [ SEAN KRAJACIC/POOL | Getty Images North America ]
Published Nov. 24

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 “Kyle Rittenhouse Was a Minor. Prosecuting Him as One May Have Been Better,” by Stephanie Mencimer in Mother Jones.

The context, from the author: A racist Wisconsin law kept him out of the juvenile justice system.

The excerpt: It’s not popular to point out that (Kyle) Rittenhouse was a child at the time of the Kenosha shootings, especially in light of the jury’s resounding “not guilty” verdict. But when Rittenhouse took an AR-15 to join armed adult militia members claiming to be protecting property from protesters, he wasn’t old enough to vote. He couldn’t buy booze, join the military, or in some states, even have a full-privilege drivers’ license. He was by every other legal and social measure still a kid, and one whose case should have been handled in the juvenile justice system.

From “Ending Climate Change ‘Has to Come From Mass Popular Action,’ Not Politicians,” from an interview with Noam Chomsky in Jacobin.

The context: Noam Chomsky talks about U.S. hypocrisy in stoking needless conflict with China, the unnecessarily bloody and grinding war in Afghanistan, and why the United States could easily solve climate change.

The excerpt, from one of Chomsky’s answers: But the problem (with fighting climate change) is: Can you get the will to do it? It’s not going to come from the leadership. It has to come from mass popular action. And the scandal and tragedy is that that’s coming only from young people. The climate strike earlier this year — young people. The “Sunrise Movement” in the United States, which impelled the Biden administration to at least adopt a reasonable proposal on paper — it’s young people. When Greta Thunberg stands up at the Davos meeting and says, “You have betrayed us,” she’s exactly right. She got a light applause, and then they said, “Nice little girl, why don’t you go back to school? We’ll take care of it.” It can be done. But it’s going to take plenty of effort and energy.

From “America’s Decline Started at Home,” by Alfred McCoy in via The Nation.

The context, from the author: When will shifting geopolitics and climate change fully cripple Washington’s current world order?

The excerpt: By charting the course of climate change, it’s possible to draw a political road map for the rest of this tempestuous century — from the end of American global hegemony around 2030, through Beijing’s brief role as world leader (until perhaps 2050), all the way to this century’s closing decades of unparalleled environmental crisis. Those decades, in turn, may yet produce a new kind of world order focused, however late, on mitigating a global disaster of almost unimaginable power.


From “Mass Psychosis,” by Tom Nichols in Peacefield, a newsletter.

The context, from the author: Perhaps we need less “understanding” and “dialogue,” and a little more stoic common sense. ... The remedy for saving our corroded public life lies within ourselves rather than through the law and regulation.

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The excerpt: We’re now a nation of paranoid shut-ins by our own choice, and our tabloid excitement comes in far greater volume from the internet and cable. Lonely, bored, desperate for anything that will make our lives interesting, and convinced that we should all be at the center of great dramas, we feed on trash strewn before us by clever entrepreneurs who can monetize the movement of our eyeballs and the twitch of our mousing hand. The presence of another human being is a great corrective to this self-imposed isolation. Someone next to us on a barstool or a church pew or in a bowling alley forces us to say things out loud and then see the look on someone else’s face when they say: “Gee, Bob, you’re my pal, but that’s just crazy talk.” We need to say this to each other more often.

From “For Whom Were The Cities Saved?” by Matthew Schmitz in the American Conservative.

The context, from the author: Perhaps the decline in urban order, cheered on by creative-class liberals, was inevitable.

The excerpt: Voters and politicians on the right have begun to reckon with the unintended consequences of Bush-era foreign policy. But they have yet to confront the unintended consequences of conservative urban policy. Cities were made safe — for liberalism. The social base for conservative policy — people who are working-class, ethnic, of limited means and narrow outlook, more enamored of neighborhood and kin, stability and order, than of freedom and opportunity — was not conserved by conservative policy.

From “Kyle Rittenhouse And Every Able-Bodied Man Had A Moral Obligation To Protect Kenosha,” by Evita Duffy in The Federalist.

The context, from the author: Any able-bodied man over 16 years old had a moral obligation to defend Kenosha against vandals, looters and arsonists attacking while police stood down.

The excerpt: (Kyle) Rittenhouse was not alone. When I was in Kenosha, I observed countless men standing with baseball bats, handguns, semi-automatic rifles, and shotguns in front of their businesses and homes. In fact, my now-fiancé, who accompanied me while I was reporting, was also armed. You had to be.