Death of Democracy

Richard Rorty, a prominent 20th-century philosopher and public intellectual, wrote an obscure book in 1998, Achieving Our Country, looking back on America from a vantage point 100 years in the future. Defying belief, he correctly predicted the election of a strongman in our country in 2014, missing by only two years the rise of Trump. Rorty based his prophecy on a trend that he saw already developing because Democrats were abandoning working-class interests. Check out, in his own words, how dead-on his predictions were: “It’s dawning on working folks that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs …

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Liberals, it’s time to stop gazing at our navels

In a few short weeks, the election will be over and, win or lose, we will have to pick up the pieces and move on. How is that possible with all the bad blood and name-calling between the left and the right? In a word, we must have empathy for the other side. What I am going to say, I’ve felt for a long time, alluded to in my pieces, but now have the courage to say it flat-out, buttressing my case with a recent podcast and a book. The podcast is an interview with Arlie Hochschild about her recent book, Strangers in Their Own …

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Whatever happened to our sense of right and wrong?

When I was young, success was not being rich but being a person of good repute: honest, hardworking, and willing to help others. We were taught stories in school about how presidents should be honest and of good character: stories about how George Washington confessed about cutting down the cherry tree and Abe Lincoln walking 3 miles at night to return 6 cents he had overcharged a customer. Also, we held religious stories in common, like how it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven. Yet now we have elected a rich …

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“The New Hampshire Advantage”—But, For Whom?

Ray Duckler recently wrote a disturbing column in the Concord Monitor about Pittsfield, one of New Hampshire’s property-poor towns, struggling to provide an adequate education for their kids. He quotes one of Pittsfield’s high school students, who addressed the Senate last summer: “every year, we’re set up to lose more and more, and at some point, there’s just going to be nothing left.” I have many fond memories from attending Pittsfield High School many years ago and received, at that time, an education good enough to get into Columbia. But, over the years, our educational system has become increasingly unequal, hamstringing property-poor towns, increasingly unable …

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Getting Real

I’ve written previously about not being able to shake my formative experience as a child, reveling in being outdoors and working with my hands, which lead to my first career as a stonemason. Perhaps I needed that hands-on, physical release because, like many men of my generation, I was divorced from my feelings. I loved theories and ideas, living in my head most of the time. I needed the physical escape of lifting rocks in the here-and-now to release the pressure of countless competing thoughts, swirling in my head. Due to occupational infirmities as I approached 50, I enrolled at Antioch New England Graduate School …

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Ominous Clouds Are Gathering

No more excuses! Forced into isolation by the pandemic, we now have the time and space to “to think what we are doing,” as Hannah Arendt long ago urged. Arendt, perhaps the foremost political philosopher of the 20th century, observed that in the past we didn’t have to think: “tradition, religion, and authority told us how to behave and defined our moral options of right and wrong, the mass of humanity did not need to think for themselves…” However, nowadays, she wrote, its a free-for-all, with no guard rails on how we should act. “Adrift in a world in which everything and anything is possible, …

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