Archive | About

In Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” Mark Antony’s funeral oration for Caesar turns the public against Brutus, leader of the cabal that murdered Caesar, by repeating “Brutus is an honorable man.” Antony juxtaposes that phrase with muted praise of Caesar, until the meaning of the phrase slowly changes from descriptive to ironic, revealing in the end that Brutus, and the murder of Caesar, were both dishonorable.

If, despite [Christine Blasey Ford]’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, [Brett] Kavanaugh is confirmed, I hope someone in the Senate will use the word “decency” similarly, in a way that makes plain what he or she believes a man can do to a woman without damaging his reputation: “Brett Kavanaugh may have held down a 15-year-old girl and made her fear she was going to die, but Brett Kavanaugh is a decent man. Brett Kavanaugh may have humiliated a woman by forcing his penis into her face, but Brett Kavanaugh is a decent man.”

Theresa Brown, “Decent Men Don’t Do These Things”

[This] is precisely how “religious liberty” works today. You maximize the moral anguish of those whose religion and values you favor and minimize the rights and suffering of those you disfavor.

[…] [Brett Kavanaugh] endorsed the appeal to “history and tradition” in justifying the mixing of religion and government functions, but showed no awareness that such appeals invariably confer privilege on those religions best able to claim this history for themselves.

Katherine Stewart, “Whose Religious Liberty Is It Anyway?”

There is a very long game being played here. Young people graduating from law school today have never lived in a world in which Clarence Thomas was not on the Supreme Court. The very fact of his position and his persistence makes opinions that would have been hooted out of the room a few decades ago look respectable in many eyes. In 1997, in Printz v. United States, he was the first modern justice to assert that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to own a gun, and to invite anyone interested to bring the right case to a Supreme Court newly open for Second Amendment business. It took a mere 11 years, and we were handed District of Columbia v. Heller.

Linda Greenhouse, “Is Clarence Thomas the Supreme Court’s Future?”

[Y]ou can take it away, as far as I’m concerned—I’d rather spend the afternoon with a nice dog. I’m not kidding. Dogs have what a lot of poems lack: excitements and responses, a sense of play, an ability to impart warmth, elation.

Howard Moss, in Robert Leiter, “An Interview”

It is by this point a commonplace that inequality is as bad as it has been in a century, that every sector of the population save the richest is treading water at best.

What is perhaps unusual about [Alicia] Quart’s book is her attention to how we feel about it—specifically our peculiar willingness to take personal responsibility for problems that are not our fault. Everyone Quart talks to is acutely stressed, which makes sense. But everyone also feels guilty. Why? People have been so successfully inculcated into neoliberal ideology that nobody thinks twice about feeling bad about not making enough money. Of course, what makes the ideology persuasive is that there’s a grain of truth to it; there are people who through a combination of dedication and luck manage to overcome their inherited lot. Yet the issue is overwhelmingly structural and social, not individual or moral. We haven’t failed; Capitalism has failed us. As Quart reminds her reader—and as every story in the book is meant to illustrate—the economic bind we find ourselves in cannot be solved by personal discipline or better financial decisions. The truly wise are those born into a family in the 1 percent.

Emily Cooke, “In the Middle Class, and Barely Getting By”

Those of us invested in love can choose, must choose noncooperation. We buy less, we consume less, we take ourselves off the grid despite efforts to force us to remain on it, we politely decline the carrot of state-sanctioned marriage, we dedicate ourselves to friendship as our organizing, bedrock relationship; we study and talk about how to become, in fact, a society of friends. Our quiet, simple lives are invisible sabots tossed into the gears of capitalism.

And yet we want to test ourselves—we need to be tested, even as anyone with a minimal understanding of religion or philosophy understands the impermanence of all material things, especially those created by humans. So we seek our testing in the world of our imaginations; we make commitments; we take vows.

Fenton Johnson, “The Future of Queer”

It is worth remembering that [Jordan] Peterson can be more accurately described as a previously obscure Canadian academic who believed, erroneously, that he would soon be forced by law to use gender-neutral pronouns and who refused to bow to that hypothetical demand. The proposed human rights policy that made Mr. Peterson famous is now Canadian law, and no instance of “compelled speech” has occurred as a result of it or resulted in criminal charges, as Mr. Peterson feared. On the issue of legal requirements for pronoun use, things remain the way Mr. Peterson wanted them—the same.

Mr. Peterson was taking a stand not against power in that instance but on behalf of it.

Jesse Brown, “Only a Country Like Canada Could Produce a Guy Like Jordan Peterson”

What I know is that on the nights when I force myself to open a book, I feel like a person, an individual engaged in an activity at once secret and communal, rather than a receptacle of mass information.

Christine Smallwood, “Reading in the Dark”