Selected readings from the left and from the right

Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
Published February 1
Updated February 4

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 “Forget the Wall — the Opioid Crisis Is Trump’s Real National Emergency,” by Rajan Menon in the Nation.

The context, from the author: Opioid overdoses claimed nearly 50,000 American lives in 2017 alone, more than 9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

The excerpt: President Donald Trump ought to be particularly attentive to the country’s raging opioid addiction. Many of the hardest-hit places are home to the very voters who helped elect him. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he presented himself as their champion, bemoaning the hardships of factory workers, miners, loggers, and others zapped by layoffs or wage cuts and living in communities in which the better-paying jobs on which they had depended, often for generations, were disappearing.

From “The False Martyrdom of Roger Stone,” by Matt Ford in the New Republic.

The context, from the author: Republicans are portraying him as a victim of the police state, but really they’re just trying to discredit the Russia investigation.

The excerpt: What happened to Roger Stone can indeed happen to anyone. It just rarely happens to people like Roger Stone. Police militarization is a widespread problem in American society. It erodes trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, and may therefore have a counterproductive effect on crime rates and police violence. While it may have been overkill to send 12 armed and armored federal agents to arrest the 66-year-old Stone before dawn, it’s certainly not extraordinary under American standards. His experience just happens to be more commonly experienced by communities of color and Americans from disadvantaged backgrounds.

From “The Democrats Are Climate Deniers,” by Branko Marcetic in Jacobin Magazine.

The context, from the author: If the Democrats really believed the science on climate change, they’d be offering far more radical proposals. We have to make them.

The excerpt: It’s a disgrace that even Democrats who are considered progressive and reside in safe blue districts treat climate change as a boutique side issue, or even continue to take money from fossil-fuel companies. The idea that talking about climate change is a political drawback — the typical excuse Democrats give to explain their presence on the sidelines — is untenable anyway; (Bernie) Sanders does it all the time and manages to stay the country’s most popular politician,


From “This Is What Anti-Christian Bigotry Looks Like,” by David French in the National Review.

The context, from the author: Talk to virtually any social conservative — especially a Christian conservative — and they will tell you that they feel free less free to speak and to exercise their religion now than they did five years ago, or 10 years ago, or 20 years ago. Why? Because of cultural shunning. Because of cultural shaming.

The excerpt: Combatting intolerance is a matter of persuasion, and it depends on Christians exercising a degree of personal courage and resolve — if you feel pressure at work, speak anyway. If you see a colleague facing persecution for his beliefs, stand with him. If a Christian school faces public shame and public sanction for its fidelity to Scripture, send your kids anyway. Silence and compliance only embolden those who seek to sideline Christian thought and belief.

From “No Amount Of U.S. Intervention Is Going To Save Afghanistan Now Or Ever,” by Daniel DePetris in the Federalist.

The context, from the author: To Washington establishment, withdrawing from an unwinnable conflict is synonymous with losing, while staying on the endless merry-go-round that is the war in Afghanistan is an illustration of victory and resolve — even if the ride eventually breaks down and sends you to the hospital.

The excerpt: After a decade and a half of being stuck in a morass, it’s easy to forget why the United States is involved in Afghanistan in the first place. The Afghanistan mission wasn’t originally about spreading democracy into Central Asia, engineering a western free-market economy from scratch, or engaging in a social science experiment. It was about striking back hard against Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network, exacting revenge for the deaths of those lost on 9/11, and sending a clear message to any other terrorist organization around the world that thought it should emulate 9/11.

From “In Defense of Cultural Appropriation,” by Graham Daseler in the American Conservative.

The context, from the author: What is human civilization but a series of cultural exchanges? Unless you live your life in utter isolation, you won’t be able to help appropriating somebody else’s culture, whether it be when you bite into a slice of pizza (an Italian invention), put on your socks (a Greek invention), or read this sentence (written in Latin script). And that’s to say nothing of the imperishable works of art that have resulted from cultural appropriation—everything from Hamlet to Huckleberry Finn, from the frescos in the Sistine Chapel to the films of Akira Kurosawa.

The excerpt: Opponents of cultural appropriation (need) to smuggle power into the conversation. The exchange of cultures is wrong, they say, only when it goes from the weak to the strong, not the other way around. “A deeper understanding of cultural appropriation,” Maisha Z. Johnson explains, “refers to a particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.” The trouble with the word “power,” as Johnson and others use it, is that it is not only vague but variable.