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: The leaders of a commission on democracy now say “it was a mistake” to meet at Harlan Crow’s mansion.
The excerpt: After ProPublica revealed that billionaire and GOP megadonor Harlan Crow spent decades lavishing Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas with pricey gifts and globetrotting trips, follow up stories noted Crow is an ardent collector of Nazi memorabilia and indigenous American artifacts. What’s on display at his Dallas mansion includes two Hitler paintings, a signed copy of Mein Kampf, and swastika-embossed linens. Crow also has a death mask of Sitting Bull and a set of slavery-related items. In 2014, Crow described his displays as “a historical nod to the facts of man’s inhumanity to man.” Several years later, members of a national bipartisan commission who attended a dinner at his residence were disturbed by the relics, prompting an organizer of the group to raise the issue with Crow, according to correspondence between Crow and this commission obtained by Mother Jones. Leaders of the commission now say it was a “mistake” to hold an event at Crow’s home.
The context, from the author: Here is the long afterlife of a forgettable fling with a reality-television personality.
The excerpt: Too much has happened too quickly involving too many people crammed into too small a universe. The same stars from reality television are the stars of our politics and our politicians are TV personalities and they all know one another and nobody ever goes away and the character arcs get crossed and tangled and sometimes it’s hard to keep it all straight.
The context, from the author: Despite being proven wrong time and again, trickle-down economics keeps limping forward, resurrected by governments to justify tax cuts for the rich with false promises of prosperity for all.
The excerpt: Today, (economist Arthur) Laffer’s napkin (with a parabolic curve suggesting that lowering the higher income-tax rate, rather than raising it, is the answer) is displayed at the National Museum of American History. Exactly what the “optimum” tax rate it indicates for the rich and corporations has never been made clear — the ideological power of the curve is in its conceptual ambiguity. Nonetheless, the scribblings it contains have gone on to shape the content of global economic discourse for decades. Its failures have been repeatedly and roundly documented.
FROM THE RIGHT
The context, from the author: My hope is that Vladimir Kara-Murza will be remembered as a Russian hero — and a human one — when Vladimir Putin, his partners, and his supporters around the world are nothing but dust.
The excerpt: If you’re lucky in life, you get to know a great man, and those of us who know Vladimir Kara-Murza are very lucky indeed. He is a Russian journalist, historian and politician. He worked alongside Boris Nemtsov, the leader of the opposition (murdered in 2015). Twice, Vladimir has survived murder attempts, by poison. For the past year, he has been a political prisoner. Vladimir is being tried for high treason, because he criticized the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine. His health is very poor. He has now made his final statement in court.
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The context, from the author: Much of what separates the good historic sites from the bad is an approach of stewardship rather than social justice. Do the leadership, staff, donors and partners of a historic site desire to educate citizens on their nation’s past, or transform visitors and the country through activism? How Colonial Williamsburg, the world’s largest living history museum, answers this question will determine its course.
The excerpt: Colonial Williamsburg is at a crossroads. It can follow James Madison’s home of Montpelier, whose leadership now has no interest in honoring a “dead white president and a dead white president’s Constitution” and seeks to use historic sites to reinterpret America as a nation defined by white privilege and systemic racism. Or it can aspire to be like George Washington’s Mount Vernon, which is committed to historical standards and commemorating Washington’s and America’s story fairly, honestly and modestly. The difference is one of activism versus education, and the stakes are the principles upon which America was founded.
The context, from the author: Move over, Adolf Hitler, the left has a new awful human being to compare to Republican leaders. Scientific American recently compared Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to Italy’s brutal Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini — with multiple examples to “prove” the comparison.
The excerpt: What the hell does a once-trustworthy scientific and medical publication have to do with politics, let alone the radical leftist ideology necessary to compare a popular American governor to a brutal dictator who forged a violent paramilitary fascist movement, and whose soldiers murdered thousands of civilians, bombed the Red Cross, dropped poison gas, starved infants in concentration camps and tried to annihilate cultures deemed inferior? In a perverse article titled Fascism’s History Offers Lessons about Today’s Attacks on Education, the author argued that “moves in Florida to control public education mirror past fascist strategies in ways that are disquieting for American democracy.”