By Gustavus Stadler | I knew that when my book came out, I would inevitably be asked questions like, “What would Woody Guthrie do today? Where would he stand on this issue? What would he think of this candidate or that elected official?” I’m mostly accustomed to writing about topics at least several decades distant from the present, and I try hard to honor the otherness of the past, rather than portray it as a simpler version of the now. Plus, responses to such questions so often depend more on the projections of the answerer than on historical evidence.
By Enrico Gnaulati | Under normal circumstances, family life in America is a “fire shower of stress, multi-tasking, and mutual nitpicking” according to journalist Benedict Carey, covering the results of a four-year-long UCLA observational study of thirty-two urban families for the New York Times. A survey funded by Sleepopolis a few years back discovered that kids have an eye-popping 4,200 arguments with their parents before they turn eighteen, averaging fourteen minutes long, with parents “winning” upwards of sixty percent of the time.
We were hoping Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would hold out through November. After serving twenty-seven years on the nation’s highest court, she passed away on September 18. She was eighty-seven. A legal, cultural, and feminist icon and champion of gender equality, she was an inspiration, a bastion of strength and courage. We asked some of our authors to reflect on her legacy and share their remembrances here.
A Q&A with Sumbul Ali-Karamali | I grew up Muslim and bicultural (Indian and American) in a time and place where I happened to be the only Muslim most of my acquaintances knew. So I got saddled with answering all their questions! Not only did I become good at answering questions about Islam in a way that those around me could understand and relate to (starting in elementary school!), but I also found I really loved coming up with answers that built bridges between my religious-cultural community and theirs. The questions I got were never addressed in the media and still aren’t.
President Ronald Reagan won over voters with his Midwest wholesomeness, his rehearsed charisma forged from years as a B-movie actor, and more importantly, his “old-fashioned” American pride. His sense of American pride appealed massively to white conservatives, as well as converts to Republicanism, and threw obstacles in the path of civil rights legislation. His racist policies were devastating for Black and Brown Americans during his presidency, and the effects still resonate today.
By Philip Warburg | In his newly released $2 trillion energy and infrastructure plan, Joe Biden set a nationwide goal of 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035. Solar power figures prominently in his plan, but it’s not clear whether low-income households will share in this historic opportunity. With racial injustice and economic inequality gaining long-overdue attention, we need to look at the gap between established homeowners who have solar power on their homes and people living in more modest circumstances who can’t afford this climate-friendly investment.
By Kavita Das | America, “the land of the free, and the home of the brave” has long been a beacon to people around the world who journeyed to this country seeking freedom from political, cultural, or religious tyranny. We tout ourselves as a country where everyone is free to be who they are and live out their ideals. But America’s brand of absolute freedom can be lethal. Our red, white, and blue banner of freedom cloaks selfishness and greed.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | Pressed by a relentless working class movement, the Seattle City Council on July 6 adopted a first-time-ever tax on Amazon and other big businesses that will bring in at least $214 million a year to fund affordable housing, Green New Deal projects, and union jobs. The win was a stunning turn of events: just two years earlier, Amazon, the Chamber of Commerce, the corporate-backed mayor, and several business-oriented labor leaders forced the city council to rescind a newly adopted tax on big business of only $47 million a year.
By Polly Price | Heartening news from Alabama—Governor Kay Ivey ordered face coverings be worn in public, an emergency measure to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus there as the state reached a new record daily death toll. A recognition in the midst of a still unfolding disaster that face masks work.
By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker | Sociologist James O. Young writes that cultural appropriation happens when people from outside a particular culture take elements of another culture in a way that is objectionable to that group. According to Young’s definition, it is the objection that constitutes appropriation, as distinguished from cultural borrowing or exchange where there is no “moral baggage” attached. Native American cultural appropriation can be thought of as a broad range of behaviors, carried out by non-Natives, that mimic Indian cultures. Typically, they are based on deeply held stereotypes, with no basis at all in knowledge of real Native cultures.
By Howard Bryant | America prefers to view itself as a civilized society and, as such, the latter is the obvious, proper, and decent response. Yet judging by its obsession with law enforcement, America acts as if the former is its natural order—that violent crime is but a bad mood away and only the shield, the Glock, and the squad car stand between life and senseless death at the hands of our neighbors. Americans cling to this contrived state of emergency despite decades of research confirming that killing as a primary instinct is extremely rare, a dystopian fantasy compared to the socioeconomic factors that drive people to violent crime.
By Lori L. Tharps | I feel like celebrating! More than five years ago, I wrote a post that then led to an opinion piece in the New York Times, advocating for journalists and publishers to capitalize the B in Black when referring to Black people. On Friday—yes, Juneteenth Day—the Associated Press officially announced that they would be making the change in their stylebook, signaling a universal change as almost every single news organization in the United States follows the guidelines set by the AP. I feel like a major victory has been won.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | Twenty years ago, in the middle of historic mass protests against the World Trade Organization, police chased hundreds of peaceful protesters out of downtown, north on First Avenue and surrounded them just half a block beyond Seattle’s iconic Labor Temple, preparing for mass arrests. It was December 1, 1999. As the police roundup unfolded, a group of us meeting inside the Labor Temple spilled out into the street. Ron Judd, the head of the King County Labor Council, whom I worked for at the time, was aghast to see the protesters essentially held at gunpoint.
By Ryan Lugalia-Hollon | After forty years of mass incarceration and roughly 150 years of police brutality, we are being called to imagine a public safety system without policing. But do our minds even let us go there? Do they let us dream beyond surface-level reforms? Can we envision a wildly new and just infrastructure for peace and protection?
By Philip Warburg | Despite its momentous impact on global warming, air travel continues to fly beneath our environmental radar. Plastic straws and idling cars draw righteous ire, but how many of us take to the skies with unthinking abandon? Left unabated, commercial aviation by mid-century may produce up to a quarter of the carbon emissions that our planet can tolerate if we are to avert the more devastating impacts of climate change.
By Philip Warburg | Before the age of COVID-19, a steady drone of jets could be heard on a typical spring morning outside our home, a dozen miles from Boston’s Logan Airport. Today, we hear a chorus of birds. With air travel down ninety-four percent and half the US commercial plane fleet grounded, members of my family—like millions of other Americans—have sought new ways to communicate and connect. Once the pall of this pandemic has lifted, will we resort less readily to the hypermobility that, until recently, was so integral to our lives?
By Jonathan Rosenblum | May 1 is here, which means rents and mortgages are due, and tens of millions of Americans will be unable to pay. Officially, thirty million people are newly unemployed. But the real number is higher, as government statistics fail to account for the 1.5 million-plus app-based drivers, other gig economy workers, independent contractors, and workers in the informal economy who have suddenly found themselves without work or income.
By Wen Stephenson | As I write, it is six weeks since everything changed where I live, in eastern Massachusetts, when the schools closed and businesses began sending their employees home. Today the Boston Globe reports 39,643 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, and at least 1,809 deaths, more than 400 of them in my county. The US now has more than three-quarters of a million confirmed cases and at least 37,000 deaths, most likely far more, with 2,000 or more dying per day—and unconscionably disproportionate losses in Black and Brown communities. Globally, at least 166,000 people have died. The old and infirm, the poor, the vulnerable, the racially marginalized, suffer most. As always.
By An Xiao Mina | “Is it true?” a friend asked me through a text message. “Is there already a cure?” They sent me a video purporting to announce a cure for COVID-19 through various treatments. It was just one of many floating around online, amidst rampant memetic misinformation promoting conspiracy theories and misconceptions alike.
By Rosemarie Day | Ninety-two percent of working-age adults believe that affordable healthcare should be a right in this country. Regardless of party affiliation, the vast majority of Americans support this position. And yet, this election cycle, the political messaging surrounding healthcare has been dominated by rhetoric that divides us. From a president who claims (falsely) that he is protecting people with preexisting conditions, to one of the two remaining Democratic candidates (Sanders) who champions Medicare for All (“he wrote the damn bill!”, after all), Americans can feel trapped by these polarized positions.