America is very fat. Being very fat is bad for you. Being very fat is expensive.
Now is the time to say that in defense of innocent life there is no stutter in “from conception to natural death.”
For too long we have let memories we cherish—of farms and farmers, of homesteads and pioneers, of cowboys on the range and Native Americans hunting the great herds—disguise how much we have lost and abandoned.
I’m writing this as a letter because we’ve often had this conversation aloud, but this lets you return to it at your leisure. Nothing that I say here will be new to you, but I’m writing this so that others can read it, too. Because there’s something to the intergenerational warfare narrative of our moment, it is fitting to frame these issues as a grown child’s reflection on the status of his parents.
I will happily agree that those are three of the sins of the American Right. But while Olsen ties snobbery and hubris primarily to Republican religiosity, separating them out from market fundamentalism, I consider the three of a piece with each other, and Olsen’s concern about GOP Christianity a bit of a red herring.
Taking the side of ancient particularity in its long-standing quarrel with modern universalism, I warned in a July Commons post against the temptation to orient American policy towards China around the moralizing language of human rights that has dominated international discourse since the Second World War.
This is one of those half-baked blog posts that are the point of a blog but increasingly rare; after all, in the digital era everything seems to just get slicker and more centralized. There are only three sites to post to and you have to be on, and casual-Friday professional, you know?, for your brand. If you want to spitball you can just tweet. Anyway.
It is all going to get worse. No matter what happens in November, the weirdness and hysteria that have made 2020 feel so extremely like itself will only escalate into 2021
When does something become a cliché? I’m not sure. Truisms lose a certain power after much repetition, but it doesn’t make them less true. That fundamental political conflicts are always theological is an old observation by theorists that still bears repeating, always suggesting something new.
The Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to eradicate the Uighur Muslim population in favor of the Han majority are horrifying. Programmatic abortions and sterilizations, slave labor, and “re-education” camps recall atrocities of the past. At the same time, the CCP’s ambitions for Hong Kong outrage westerners committed to liberty and the rule of law. And its record for the treatment of prisoners and religious dissidents is miserable.
As we seek a realignment in American political economy we would do well to rediscover the thought of a 19th-century critic who did not like us very much. John Ruskin (1819–1900) found Americans obsessed with a liberty he considered license and naively committed to an ideal of equality he believed impossible: “also, as a nation, they are wholly undesirous of Rest, and incapable of it.” In her utilitarian preoccupation with commercial ventures, America had inherited Montaigne’s English vice of inquietude and seemed unlikely to recover.