Opinion | What Happens When Our Leaders Lack Moral Courage

“Over the years, thousands of cadets at the United States Military Academy, myself included, have memorized and recited West Point’s Cadet Prayer. “Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong,” the prayer goes, “and never to be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won. Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns to compromise with vice and injustice, and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy.”

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Opinion |  – by The Big Story You Don’t Read AboutDavid Brooks – The New York Times

“My colleague David Bornstein points out that a lot of American journalism is based on a mistaken theory of change. That theory is: The world will get better when we show where things have gone wrong. A lot of what we do in our business is expose error, cover problems and identify conflict.

The problem with this is that we leave people feeling disempowered and depressed. People who consume a lot of media of this sort sink into this toxic vortex — alienated from people they don’t know, fearful about the future. They are less mobilized to take action, not more.

Bornstein, who writes for The Times and also co-founded the Solutions Journalism Network, says that you’ve got to expose problems, but you’ve also got to describe how the problems are being tackled. The search for solutions is more exciting than the problems themselves.

But many of our colleagues don’t define local social repair and community-building as news. It seems too goody-goody, too “worthy,” too sincere. It won’t attract eyeballs.

That’s wrong.

I’ve spent the past year around people who weave social fabric, and this week about 275 community weavers gathered in Washington, for a conference called #WeaveThePeople, organized by the Weave project I’ve been working on at the Aspen Institute.”

David Lindsay:

David Brooks, thank you for a lovely and profound op-ed. Reading this piece was one of the best parts of my day, and the comment by the Vietnam Veteran, who was saved by a weaver, is to die for. I hope you can weave more of current events into your narratives: climate change, the sixth extinction, income inequality, and forecasts of a future diminished by overpopulation and pollution.  You need to help preserve our environment, if you want to protect all the beautiful weavers.

David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth Century Vietnam” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com. He performs a folk concert of songs and stories about Climate Change and the Sixth Extinction.

Opinion | President Trump- Come to Willmar – by Thomas Friedman – The New York Times

“. . .  That’s not what I’ve found. America is actually a checkerboard of towns and cities — some rising from the bottom up and others collapsing from the top down, ravaged by opioids, high unemployment among less-educated white males and a soaring suicide rate. I’ve been trying to understand why some communities rise and others fall — and so many of the answers can be found in Willmar.

The answers to three questions in particular make all the difference: 1) Is your town hungry for workers to fill open jobs? 2) Can your town embrace the new immigrants ready to do those jobs, immigrants who may come not just from Latin America, but also from nonwhite and non-Christian nations of Africa or Asia? And 3) Does your town have a critical mass of “leaders without authority”?”

Opinion | The Tawdry Trump-Nadler War – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By David Brooks
Opinion Columnist

May 9, 2019, 828
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Representative Jerry Nadler went “there,” declaring the nation is in a “constitutional crisis.”CreditCreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

“Our system of checks and balances requires that political leaders hold two opposing ideas in their heads simultaneously. If you’re a political leader, the first is that your political opponents are wrong about many things and should be defeated in elections. The second is that you still need them. You need them to check your excesses, compensate for your blind spots and correct your mistakes.”

David Lindsay:  Brooks has the clearest argument I have heard, as to why the Democrats should slow down, and not jump into impeachment. They should hold their fire, until they have tried to get Robert Muller to testify, and hear what he has to say. David Leonhardt has warned that impeaching Trump prematurely will make him a martyr, and empower and rebuild his crumbling party.

Opinion | The Difference Between Happiness and Joy – By David Brooks – The New York Times

David Brooks

By David Brooks

Opinion Columnist

An Arizona State University student prepared for graduation on Monday.CreditDeanna Dent/Arizona State University
“On Monday I was honored to speak to the graduating students at Arizona State University. It was an intimidating occasion. A.S.U. is the most innovative university in the world. Plus, there were 35,000 people in the football stadium.

Anybody speaking to college students these days is aware of how hard it is to be a young adult today, with rising rates of depression, other mental health issues, even suicide.

So while these talks are usually occasions to talk about professional life, my goal was to get them thinking about the future of their emotional lives, which is really going to be at the center of everything.

There are two kinds of emotion present at any graduation ceremony. For the graduating students there is happiness. They’ve achieved something. They’ve worked hard and are moving closer to their goals.”

U.N.C. Charlotte Student Couldn’t Run So He Tackled the Gunman – The New York Times

By David Perlmutt and Julie Turkewitz

“CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In an alert that flashed across computer and phone screens all over campus, the instructions were spare but urgent: “Run, Hide, Fight. Secure yourself immediately.”

But Riley Howell could neither run nor hide. The gunman was in his classroom. So, the authorities said, he charged at the gunman, who had already fired several rounds, and pinned him down until police officers arrived.”

Opinion | Reverend- You Say the Virgin Birth Is ‘a Bizarre Claim’? – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

Nicholas Kristof

By Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

This is the latest in my occasional series of conversations about Christianity. Here’s my interview, edited for space, with Serene Jones, a Protestant minister, president of Union Theological Seminary and author of a new memoir, “Call It Grace.”

KRISTOF Happy Easter, Reverend Jones! To start, do you think of Easter as a literal flesh-and-blood resurrection? I have problems with that.

JONES When you look in the Gospels, the stories are all over the place. There’s no resurrection story in Mark, just an empty tomb. Those who claim to know whether or not it happened are kidding themselves. But that empty tomb symbolizes that the ultimate love in our lives cannot be crucified and killed.

For me it’s impossible to tell the story of Easter without also telling the story of the cross. The crucifixion is a first-century lynching. It couldn’t be more pertinent to our world today.”

. . . . .

Kristof and Serene Jones end:

I’ve asked this of other interviewees in this religion series: For someone like myself who is drawn to Jesus’ teaching but doesn’t believe in the virgin birth or the physical resurrection, what am I? Am I a Christian?

Well, you sound an awful lot like me, and I’m a Christian minister.

I often feel like we are in the middle of another reformation in a 500-year cycle. John Calvin and Martin Luther had no idea they were in the middle of a reformation, but they knew that church structures were breaking down, new forms of communication were emerging, new scientific discoveries were being made, new kinds of authorities and states and economic systems arising — all like this moment in time. This creates a spiritual crisis and a spiritual flexibility.

Christianity is at something of a turning point, but I think that this questioning and this reaching is even bigger than Christianity. It reaches into many religious traditions. This wrestling with climate change, and wrestling with the levels of violence in our world, wrestling with authoritarianism and the intractable character of gender oppression — it’s forcing communities within all religions to say, “Something is horribly wrong here.” It’s a spiritual crisis. Many nonreligious people feel it, too. We need a new way entirely to think about what it means to be a human being and what the purpose of our lives is. For me, this moment feels apocalyptic, as if something new is struggling to be born.

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Like 2,000 years ago?

Yes. Something was struggling to be born on that first Easter. It burst forth in ways that changed the world forever. Today I feel that spiritual ground around us shaking again. The structures of religion as we know it have come up bankrupt and are collapsing. What will emerge? That is for our children and our children’s children to envision and build.

Opinion | From the Ashes of Notre-Dame – The New York Times

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David Lindsay:

I read Ross Douthat for the same reason I floss, to practice fighting plaque. I love the power of his prose, and can get mesmerized by it.
Here is a commenter, that explains my beef with many Christians.

R Calhoun
Oxford UK2h ago
“…liberal Christianities usually end up resembling a post-inferno cathedral, with the still-grand exterior concealing emptiness within.”

My goodness. If that is how you describe your fellow believers I shudder to think of how you would describe my family—married 25 years, two daughters, supporters of our community and institutions, but devout atheists—“a vast void of emptiness within”? “a supermassive black hole of emptiness within”?

Notre Dame is a monument to the glory of God, but also to the shear audacity of a human society willing to embark on a construction project taking generations to complete. It embodies an ability to work on long-term goals that is sorely needed to address the problems we face as a human culture—economic inequality, climate change, extirpation of species beyond those we raise for food. This is why the burning of Notre Dame is a calamity for all of us; our medieval forebears built this cathedral not as a momument to themselves but to their culture, and they built it to last.

In your columns you frequently and, in my opinion, unfairly, decry the spiritual vacuum of all but the most conservative believers. One can have meaning in one’s life without the supernatural. Consider if you will Earth as the most beautiful cathedral of them all; it too is on fire, albeit a slow smoldering one. As with Notre Dame we must quench those fires, and like Notre Dame we must rebuild, carving and setting each stone for the benefit of generations yet to come.

4 Replies152 Recommended

I read Ross Douthat for the same reason I floss, to practice fighting plaque. I love the power of his prose, and can get mesmerized by it.
Here is a commenter, that explains my beef with many Christians.

R Calhoun
Oxford UK2h ago
“…liberal Christianities usually end up resembling a post-inferno cathedral, with the still-grand exterior concealing emptiness within.”

My goodness. If that is how you describe your fellow believers I shudder to think of how you would describe my family—married 25 years, two daughters, supporters of our community and institutions, but devout atheists—“a vast void of emptiness within”? “a supermassive black hole of emptiness within”?

Notre Dame is a monument to the glory of God, but also to the shear audacity of a human society willing to embark on a construction project taking generations to complete. It embodies an ability to work on long-term goals that is sorely needed to address the problems we face as a human culture—economic inequality, climate change, extirpation of species beyond those we raise for food. This is why the burning of Notre Dame is a calamity for all of us; our medieval forebears built this cathedral not as a momument to themselves but to their culture, and they built it to last.

In your columns you frequently and, in my opinion, unfairly, decry the spiritual vacuum of all but the most conservative believers. One can have meaning in one’s life without the supernatural. Consider if you will Earth as the most beautiful cathedral of them all; it too is on fire, albeit a slow smoldering one. As with Notre Dame we must quench those fires, and like Notre Dame we must rebuild, carving and setting each stone for the benefit of generations yet to come.

4 Replies152 Recommended

 

A first draft of this column was written before flames engulfed the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, before its spire fell in one of the most dreadful live images since Sept. 11, 2001, before a blazing fire went further than any of France’s anticlerical revolutionaries ever dared.

My original subject was the latest controversy in Catholicism’s now-years-long Lent, in which conflicts over theology and sex abuse have merged into one festering, suppurating mess. The instigator of controversy, this time, was the former pope, the 92-year-old Benedict XVI, who late last week surprised the Catholic intelligentsia with a 6,000-word reflection on the sex abuse crisis.

Portions of the document were edifying, but there was little edifying in its reception. It was passed first to conservative Catholic outlets, whose palpable Benedict nostalgia was soon matched by fierce criticism from Francis partisans, plus sneers from the secular press at the retired pope’s insistence that the sex abuse epidemic was linked to the cultural revolution of the 1960s and the 1970s.

The column I was writing before the fire was mostly a lament for what the document’s reception betokened: A general inability, Catholic and secular, to recognize that both the “conservative” and “liberal” accounts of the sex abuse crisis are partially correct, that the spirits of liberation and clericalism each contributed their part, that the abuse problem dramatically worsened during the sexual revolution (a boring empirical fact if you spend any time with the data or the history) even as it also had roots in more traditional patterns of clerical chauvinism, hierarchical arrogance, institutional self-protection.

via Opinion | From the Ashes of Notre-Dame – The New York Times

Opinion |  The Democrats’ Complexity Problem – by Tim Wu – The New York Times

“One bright area in these dark days of American politics has been a blossoming of bold and interesting progressive policy ideas, such as wealth taxes, postal banking (offering basic financial services to customers who might not otherwise have access to them) and breaking up the giants of the tech industry. In the spirit of fresh starts, progressives should now confront an even more basic challenge: their complexity problem.

In recent decades progressives have not prioritized making policies and programs easy for most Americans to understand, use and benefit from. Fixing this problem will mean overcoming a streak of perfectionism and a certain intellectual defensiveness, but it must be done if progressives are to make government popular again.

The Affordable Care Act is a good example of the complexity problem. Yes, it was an important policy achievement, and yes, many of its problems can be rightly blamed on industry resistance and Republican efforts to dismantle it.

But the act is also exceptionally hard to understand and discouragingly daunting to make use of. An emphasis on “choice” and “transparency” resulted in a law that only a rational-choice theorist could love. The act made health insurance more complicated, not less, which is one reason that such a high percentage of medical bills go to paying administrative costs, and why the Affordable Care Act is much less popular than it could be.

It used to be said that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. Today she’s a liberal who tried to pay a babysitter without breaking the law. It is admirable that Democrats try to tackle society’s thorniest problems with the often unwieldy tools of government, but that is not an excuse for programs that are too complex for their own good.

The truth is that good public policy can actually be elegant and simple to understand, even when the social problem that it’s addressing is complex. Social Security, Medicare, bans on indoor smoking, the “do not call” list (when it worked) and public libraries are examples of government solutions that are easy to understand and to benefit from.

Avoidance of complexity and minimizing choices are hallmarks of good design, as we have learned from the technological revolution in user interfaces. The age of impossible-to-use computers and incomprehensible TV remote controls has given way to the sleek and intuitive interfaces offered by pioneers like Steve Jobs of Apple. What progressives most need now is not more brains, but better policy designers.”

My Halloween email led to a campus firestorm — and a troubling lesson about self-censorship – By Erika Christakis – Washington Post

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     October 28, 2016
Erika Christakis is an early-childhood educator and the

By Erika Christakisauthor of “The Importance of Being Little.”

The right to speak freely may be enshrined in some of our nation’s great universities, but the culture of listening needs repair. That is the lesson I learned a year ago, when I sent an email urging Yale University students to think critically about an official set of guidelines on costumes to avoid at Halloween.

I had hoped to generate a reflective conversation among students: What happens when one person’s offense is another person’s pride? Should a costume-wearer’s intent or context matter? Can we always tell the difference between a mocking costume and one that satirizes ignorance? In what circumstances should we allow — or punish — youthful transgression?

“I don’t wish to trivialize genuine concerns about cultural and personal representation,” I wrote, in part. “I know that many decent people have proposed guidelines on Halloween costumes from a spirit of avoiding hurt and offense. I laud those goals, in theory, as most of us do. But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (which is to say: bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students.”

via My Halloween email led to a campus firestorm — and a troubling lesson about self-censorship – The Washington Post