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 “A Key Reason Jan. 6 Rioters Aren’t Facing Sedition Charges: They’re White,” by Anthony Conwright in Mother Jones.
The context, from the author: Looking back at historical trials of sedition, a pattern emerges.
The excerpt: No one has been charged with sedition, because America does not talk about violent expressions of white supremacy as sedition. Even when it manifests as a coup against America itself. Not every person who stormed the Capitol is enrolled in a white supremacist group, but one does not need to avow white supremacy to be its surrogate. What other ideology imbues a mob with the power to besiege the citadel of American democracy and attempt to usurp an election, all in the name of “patriotism”?
The context, from the author: Meatpackers are colluding with each other to generate superprofits at the expense of everyone else. Nationalizing one of them isn’t particularly radical — it’s a commonsense policy solution.
The excerpt: If there are four companies that control the meatpacking market, and the government thinks that they are colluding in a way that generates superprofits at the expense of adjacent market players, then the government should simply buy one of the four companies and run it properly. You don’t need yearslong efforts to maybe increase competition through subsidizing new firms. Simply nationalizing one of the big players would allow you to increase competition and bust up collusion in a few months.
The context, from the author: The American Legislative Exchange Council is pushing cookie-cutter laws that could lock pension funds and taxpayers into losing deals — while propping up coal and other fossil fuel firms.
The excerpt: The irony of the fossil fuel industry’s ire against so-called “ESG activists” and the “woke mob” is that the major financial companies boasting about their commitments to sustainable investing are still generously financing fossil fuels, thanks in large part to the lack of any formal definition for what falls under the still impossibly broad ESG umbrella. (ESG stands for environmental, social, and governance, refers to some recently fashionable branding that vaguely defines a set of criteria by which investors might center their portfolios on firms with sustainable business practices, for which there is no formal taxonomy or regulations.) However unhinged from reality their gripes about ESG are, it does genuinely seem to be getting under their skin.
FROM THE RIGHT
The context, from the author: As we all know from the past eighteen months, there has been a low-grade civil war in the United States over the tripartite question of in what, by whom and how America’s children are to be educated.
The excerpt: In some way and on some level, virtually all parents believe that they do or should have the ultimate right to determine what and how their children are taught and by whom. Having been denied this indispensable right, America’s moms and dads are now rising up to protest the violation of their most basic human right qua parents. Whether they know it or not, this is what they’ve been fighting for. But here is the problem: this right is so fundamental to the human experience and it has seemed so obviously self-evident to people around the world through all time that it has never really been properly explained, defended or recognized.
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The context, from the author: Let’s face it, the central problem of our times may not be incipient fascism, as much as it is our collective political and cultural exhaustion.
The excerpt: Here’s my confession: Over the holidays, I took quite a lot of time off to recharge and reset so I’d be ready for the new year. I really hoped I’d return energized, but, the truth is that I’m tired. ... I don’t think I’m alone and I don’t think this sense of enervation is confined to the olds — it’s the background noise of our lives these days and a subtext of all of our conversations. The world is too much with us, of course, but the real problem it is that it so dumb, so infused with mind-numbing bad faith, and a grinding sense of futility that anything will matter or change.
From “How I Joined The Resistance,” by J.D. Vance in The Lamp.
The context, from the author: I had immersed myself in the logic of the meritocracy and found it deeply unsatisfying. And I began to wonder: Were all these worldly markers of success actually making me a better person? I had traded virtue for achievement and found the latter wanting.
The excerpt: It’s possible, of course, to overstate our own inadequacies. I never cheated on my would-be spouse. I never became violent with her. But there was a voice in my head that demanded better of me: that I put her interests above my own; that I master my temper for her sake as much as for mine. And I began to realize that this voice, wherever it came from, was not the same one that compelled me to climb as high as I could up our ladder of meritocracy. It came from somewhere more ancient, and more grounded — it required reflection about where I came from rather than cultural divorce from it.