Opinion | I Am Not a Housewife. I’m a Prepper. – By Mira Ptacin – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Ptacin is a writer.

Credit…Julianna Brion

“Before the pandemic, I was working on a book about doomsday preppers — people who are actively preparing for the end of the world, or at least major disruptions to our comfortable daily lives. Starting out, my idea of prepping matched the stereotype I’d so often seen: the prepper as a rural, military-minded dude who gathers canned food, guns and ammo, and heads to the hills to wait out the zombie apocalypse.

For the most part, I found the stereotype to be accurate, in spirit if not in detail. A majority of the preppers I encountered were male. They were white, and fearful, though it was masked by a strange facade of pride and bravado. Their prepping was a pre-emptive reaction to what they swore was coming and needed to hide from (in their bunkers) and be ready to fight (with their weapons): civil unrest. There wasn’t a sense of prepping to have enough to share, or to take care of one another. It was more stockpiling ammo along with trail mix. N95 masks next to the powdered milk and pepper spray.

I also spoke to preppers who were professional bunker builders with enormous YouTube followings, who wore MAGA hats through airports, filmed other people’s reactions, then proudly posted them alongside their videos of igniting dynamite next to their bunkers to display their durability. I met preppers who had wine cellars that doubled as safe rooms, pantries with secret doors that stored their automatic rifles. They were positive the end was coming — not from climate change, but from civil unrest, which I sensed to be code for “brown and Black people.” These guys were preparing, all right, but they were also hoarding, and not to save up to share and take care of their communities; they were hoarding so that they wouldn’t have to adapt. I assume they were kind enough to speak to me because, well, I’m a white woman, and they were happy to mansplain. I found little hope of having my assumptions overturned or finding a way to relate to it.

Then I met Lisa Bedford, a woman known in the prepper community (and on her website) as Survival Mom. She told me that the head-for-the-hills scenario bears little relation to what people actually experience in disasters or other disruptions — and because of that she focuses on another type of prepping: ultimate homemaking and community resilience. “We moms have always and quietly thought in terms of what if, Ms. Bedford said. “Instead of thinking, ‘What if my kids get too cold outside?,’ we’re thinking, ‘What if this snowstorm keeps us in the house for a couple of weeks and the roads are closed?’” The most basic rule of prepping, she told me, isn’t having a lot of guns and ammunition to fight marauders. It’s the Rule of Redundancy: Have a backup, and then have a backup for your backup.”

Opinion | Those Biden ‘Gaffes’? Some Key Voters Actually Like Them – The New York Times

By Stephanie Muravchik and 

Ms. Muravchik and Mr. Shields are the authors of the forthcoming “Trump’s Democrats.”

Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

“If Joe Biden is going to rebuild the Democrats’ “blue wall” and win states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, and claim the White House, he will need to appeal to the working-class Democratic communities that put Donald Trump over the top in 2016. They include more than 200 counties that supported Barack Obama twice before voting for Mr. Trump.

Many of these places had long records of unbroken support for Democratic presidential candidates, some even stretching back to before the New Deal.

Mr. Biden needs to tune in to their cultural sensibilities if he’s going to bring at least some of these pivotal blue strongholds back into the Democratic fold. He is one of the few Democrats, as a child of working-class Scranton, Pa., capable of doing so.

We spent the past few years hanging out in bars, churches and town council meetings with these voters — whom we call “Trump’s Democrats.” We interviewed nearly 100 people in three formerly blue strongholds that voted for Mr. Trump: Johnston, R.I., a suburb of Providence; Ottumwa, Iowa, a small industrial city and an inspiration for the setting of the Roseanne Barr show; and Elliott County, a tiny Appalachian community in northeastern Kentucky.

Despite their geographic diversity, these places have much in common with one another and with the many Democratic communities that swung for Mr. Trump in critical Midwest battleground states. They are overwhelmingly white and working class. They care about patriotism and serving their country and are especially attached to the places they live, with strong, place-based loyalties.

Their honor culture is common throughout the world and in many American communities that are not dominated by the professional managerial class.

As part of that, they share what we would call a Trumpian political culture.

In the communities we visited, some of their most beloved Democratic politicians have a Trumpian sensibility: They are macho, quick to engage in political conflict and relentless counterpunchers. One is Ottumwa’s Jerry Parker, a former mayor and a current county supervisor. He supported Hillary Clinton during the 2016 primaries; during one local primary meeting, he threatened to take a conflict with a Bernie Sanders supporter “outside.” “

Opinion | The Best Reason to Go to College – By Pico Iyer – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Iyer is an author.

Credit…Ben Margot/Associated Press

As colleges throughout the United States reopen, facing a weird new landscape of empty rooms and scattered classmates, it’s easy to wonder what these traditional places of learning still have to teach the rest of us. Long before the pandemic, campuses were in the news not so much for opening young minds as for closing down discussions and less for encouraging humanity than for promoting ideologies.

Upon my own return to a university classroom, in the spring of 2019, after a hiatus of 37 years, I imagined that my tastes and values, my very language, might seem out-of-date to many of the students I was instructing, and I’m sure they did. I suspected that these teenagers would be much less concerned with books than I and my old classmates were, and I was right. I assumed that as a writer who had been crisscrossing the globe for 45 years, I’d have wisdom about travel to impart, and I was wrong: Thanks in part to their generous and well-endowed university, the 16 undergraduates in front of me spent the first class speaking of recent trips they’d taken to Nauru and Kyrgyzstan and Hongpo, among other places I’d barely heard of.

In almost every way, the young at this elite university seemed brighter, more mature, more reliable and infinitely more globally aware than I and my pals had been in our radically less diverse day. But the most beautiful surprise was to see how deeply many of them had absorbed lessons not to be found in any textbook. Picking up a campus newspaper one day, I found an article by the person I’d foolishly taken to be our class clown. He went to Mass every Sunday, he wrote, precisely because he had no religious commitment. He wanted to learn about perspectives other than the ones he knew. He admired the discipline and sense of order encouraged by such a practice, which he felt he might lack otherwise. He’d been startled by the open-mindedness of a devout roommate, with whom he used to argue through the night. If someone of religious faith could be so responsive to other positions, he wrote, should not a secular liberal aspire to the same?

I realized, as I read the piece, that I had little to teach such students in a class ostensibly about exploring cultures different from our own. More deeply, I was impressed by how imaginatively a young person was addressing the central problem of the times: the fact we’re all united mostly by our divisiveness. Whether in the context of climate change or the right to life — let alone the ethics of trying to protect others from a killer virus by simply wearing a mask — more and more of us refuse ever to cross party lines. And in an age of social media, when we all imagine we can best capture the world’s attention by shouting as loudly as possible, there’s every incentive to take the most extreme — and polarizing — position around.

Opinion | With the Speech of His Life, Joe Biden Becomes the Man for This Moment – By Frank Bruni – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Illustration by The New York Times; Photograph by Erin Schaff/The New York Times

“Let’s be honest. One of the big questions attending Joe Biden’s big speech at the Democratic National Convention was whether he still had enough gas and enough grip to get to the end of it without losing velocity or swerving this way and that.

He did. He absolutely did. Is he in the fleetest, shiniest, nimblest form of his very long career? No. And Donald Trump — no Ferrari himself — is constantly trying to exploit that.

But as I watched Biden, 77, on Thursday night, I kept thinking that there’s another way to look at all the miles on his odometer and the unusually long road that he traveled to his party’s presidential nomination, which he first sought, disastrously, more than three decades ago.

He’s a paragon of stamina and stubborn optimism for a country that desperately needs one. In a period of great pain, he’s a crucial lesson in perseverance.”

“I understand it’s hard to have any hope now,” he said, fusing his own story, one of extraordinary loss and extraordinary endurance, with America’s. “On this summer night, let me take a moment to speak to those of you who have lost the most.

He told them: “I know the deep black hole that opens up in your chest — that you feel your whole being is sucked into it. I know how mean and cruel and unfair life can be sometimes.” And, he said, “The best way through pain and loss and grief is to find purpose.” “

 

Opinion | Joe Biden and the Leaders of 2020: Educated by Public Universities – By Sarah Vowell – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Gregobagel/iStock, via Getty Images

“Since the Harvard-Yale game that was the 1988 general election, all U.S. presidents, including the Wharton School graduate currently occupying the White House, have been Ivy League alumni. President Gerald Ford (University of Michigan, ’35) often ditched “Hail to the Chief” as his walk-on music and replaced it with his college fight song, but he never won the Electoral College, having assumed the Oval Office after Richard Nixon resigned.

So if Joe Biden (University of Delaware, ’65) prevails in November, he will be the first graduate of an American public university to be elected president since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Technically, the University of Delaware bills itself as “private-public” because of an arcane corporate charter. Yet it is a state-funded land-grant college charging out-of-state students about $11,000 more in tuition than residents, and it was defined as public by the court that ordered it to desegregate in the 1950s. So we state school alumni will be claiming Mr. Biden’s potential victory as our own. And just as L.B.J. had a fellow state schooler on the ticket in Vice President Hubert Humphrey (University of Minnesota, ’39), Mr. Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, is a Howard alum who also graduated from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

A flashback in Richard Ben Cramer’s book “What It Takes” found Mr. Biden, as a young father and Senator, holding court in a Delaware backyard pontificating on college to other parents: “‘There’s a river of power that flows through this country … And that river,’ Joe said, ‘flows from the Ivy League.’” “

The Decline of Historical Thinking – By Eric Alterman | The New Yorker

” “Yes, we have a responsibility to train for the world of employment, but are we educating for life, and without historical knowledge you are not ready for life,” Blight told me. As our political discourse is increasingly dominated by sources who care nothing for truth or credibility, we come closer and closer to the situation that Walter Lippmann warned about a century ago, in his seminal “Liberty and the News.” “Men who have lost their grip upon the relevant facts of their environment are the inevitable victims of agitation and propaganda. The quack, the charlatan, the jingo . . . can flourish only where the audience is deprived of independent access to information,” he wrote. A nation whose citizens have no knowledge of history is asking to be led by quacks, charlatans, and jingos. As he has proved ever since he rode to political prominence on the lie of Barack Obama’s birthplace, Trump is all three. And, without more history majors, we are doomed to repeat him.”

Source: The Decline of Historical Thinking | The New Yorker

Fighting the Coronavirus, from New York to Utah – By Dhruv Khullar | The New Yorker

“In late March, Scott Aberegg, a critical-care doctor at the University of Utah, was eating lunch in his hospital cafeteria. On his phone, he noticed an e-mail that was circulating among the trainees in his department. It was from the American Thoracic Society, a professional organization of physicians who treat lung disease and critical illness. “As you have undoubtedly heard, there is a coronavirus surge in New York City,” the message read. “The situation is dire . . . and your colleagues need your help.” The e-mail offered same-day credentialling and licensing, as well as free travel, housing, and meals to doctors who volunteered to work in the city’s hospitals. The e-mail was so extraordinary that Aberegg wondered if it could be a scam.

Aberegg grew up on a small horse farm in Alliance, Ohio, about sixty miles southeast of Cleveland. His father worked in retail at Sears and later trained horses and sold livestock equipment; Aberegg was the first in his family to attend college. In the winter of 1997, when he was in his third year of medical school at Ohio State, he did a rotation with James Gadek, a legendary critical-care doctor. A few weeks in, Gadek heard that a trainee’s relative was dying in a hospital several hours away. The medical team there believed the case to be hopeless; Gadek rode down in an ambulance, brought the patient back, and started treatment himself, in his own I.C.U. The patient recovered. Watching his supervisor go to such lengths, Aberegg thought, I want to be like that guy. Now, in Salt Lake City, he replied to the e-mail from the American Thoracic Society, saying that he was available.

Around the same time, Tony Edwards, a third-year critical-care fellow who worked at Aberegg’s hospital, got the same e-mail. He and his wife, Ashley, a former I.C.U. nurse, had been working in Dallas in 2014, when the first Ebola patient on American soil—a man fleeing the outbreak in Liberia—grew sick there, and the virus threatened to spread. Tony was a medical resident in the infectious-disease service; Ashley’s I.C.U. was chosen as the one to which Ebola patients would be sent if the outbreak grew. Though the virus was contained, a patient died and two nurses were infected. The Edwardses felt that they’d experienced a near-miss. “We kind of went through the drill before,” Ashley said. “Being through that got us ready for this.”

Source: Fighting the Coronavirus, from New York to Utah | The New Yorker

Opinion | John Lewis: Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Lewis, the civil rights leader who died on July 17, wrote this essay shortly before his death, to be published upon the day of his funeral.

“While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society. Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.

That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.

Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars.

Though I was surrounded by two loving parents, plenty of brothers, sisters and cousins, their love could not protect me from the unholy oppression waiting just outside that family circle. Unchecked, unrestrained violence and government-sanctioned terror had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road into a nightmare. If we are to survive as one unified nation, we must discover what so readily takes root in our hearts that could rob Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina of her brightest and best, shoot unwitting concertgoers in Las Vegas and choke to death the hopes and dreams of a gifted violinist like Elijah McClain.

Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.

Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.

You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, through decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.

Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.


John Lewis, the civil rights leader and congressman who died on July 17, wrote this essay shortly before his death.

Opinion | Meet the New C.D.C. Director: Walmart – By Bill Saporito – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Saporito is a contributor to the editorial board.

Credit…Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention opened branch offices in Bentonville, Ark., and Seattle this month. Not officially. But with the president trying to distance himself from responsibility for the coronavirus crisis, and Southern governors amplifying the damage with their flawed reopening strategies, the nation’s retailers have become the first line of defense against the pandemic.

From the headquarters of Walmart (which includes Sam’s Club) and Starbucks came the directive that all customers must wear masks. The conservative Southeasterner and liberal Northwesterner were followed by other national retailers, including Kohl’s, CVS, Walgreens, Publix and Target. Wearing a mask is a “simple step everyone can take for their safety and the safety of others in our facilities,” said Dacona Smith and Lance de la Rosa, the chief operating officers of Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club, on the corporate website.”

” . . . Rather than use policy to help corporations get a better handle on Covid-19 safety, the Trump administration is instead focused on absolving them of liability if they don’t act to keep employees and customers safe. Perversely, when the airline industry begged the Federal Aviation Administration to impose a mandatory mask rule for passengers, it got shot down. The F.A.A.’s intransigence is now threatening thousands of airline jobs, if not the carriers themselves, because consumers don’t have enough confidence that flying is safe.

If there are no customers, indemnity from liability is not of much use. It is this vacuum of responsibility that is compelling the businesses that are expert at selling coffee, underwear and groceries to manage the pandemic across their swath of the economy. That they are doing a better job than the Trump administration is beyond pathetic.”  -30-

Bill Saporito is a contributor to the editorial board.

Opinion | The Difficulties and Delights of a Pandemic Wedding – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Jes Martinez

“NASHVILLE — When our oldest son got engaged last year at sunset on a beach in Spain, my husband and I cheered from half a world away. I write these words without hyperbole: We were truly as happy about this pending marriage as two human beings could possibly be.

The parents of three sons, my husband and I would have a daughter at last, and we already loved this amazing young woman. We loved how happy she and our son make each other. We loved the way they support and challenge and admire each other, the way they are always laughing together. They are the kind of people who would rather save up for a grand backpacking adventure than a grand engagement ring, and we loved how a ring made from my great-grandmother’s tiny diamond made its way to Spain in a special wooden box that my son carried in his pocket, waiting for just the right moment to drop to one knee.

What was there not to love? There was nothing not to love.

The months that unspooled between the storybook engagement and the pandemic wedding, on the other hand, produced much that was not to love.

It was always going to be a small, do-it-yourself event: just family and their very dearest friends at Cedars of Lebanon State Park, in a historic lodge that seats only 75 people. A newly minted college graduate would be the photographer. A fellow nurse at the hospital where my daughter-in-law works would bake the cake. I would grow the wedding flowers, and the bride’s mother would make the tablecloths for the reception. But no matter how simple it looks or how homey it feels, a D.I.Y. wedding requires a lot of planning.”