Yuval Harari is the internationally best-selling author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, which is probably my favorite book of 2016. In the introduction to this fascinating YouTube talk (see below), Harari discusses one of the central elements of the modern self and of the modern world: the authority of the individual’s inner voice. We decide essential questions of personal identity, of right or wrong based on our inner sense. We make critical career choices or other life decisions based on how we feel. “Look within,” we tell each other. “What’s your gut telling you?” we ask. Then there’s that ancient Greek inscription that seems to say it all: “know thyself.”
This approach is often derided by religious types. This was certainly true back a decade or so when I haunted churches, seminaries, and other evangelical enclaves. There’s a higher authority than the self, evangelicals would say. For evangelicals, this was biblical authority. For other Christians, it might reside in the church. In conservative politics, the constitution has (for all practical purposes) a biblical authority. But not so fast.
Scott, 43, never raised or pointed the gun, according to the prosecutor, but Vinson felt he posed an imminent threat because he ignored orders to drop it and stared at them in a “trance-like state”.
Is this really the kind of nation we want to live in? Where officers have a license to kill with no accountability or repercussions?
Source: The Guardian
How I rate it: 4 of 5 stars
Plot Summary: A coming of age story of Junior, a fourteen-year-old boy living with his family on the Spokane Indian Reservation. With a sense of humor along with the blanket honesty of a young adolescent, Junior narrates stories of being bullied and making a major step forward in an attempt to take ownership of his life.
Significance: Controversial as well as comedic, there are many beautiful moments in this novel that speak to the experience of growing up on “the rez.” For those, like myself, who have extremely limited knowledge of what it is like to grow up on the reservation, it was riveting and at times heartbreaking to read Junior’s diary.
For those interested/baffled/angered/betrayed by the evangelical support for Trump, here are some thoughts in the Washington Post by one of the editors of Christianity Today, Katelyn Beaty. I think she’s putting it very mildly here, being much more sympathetic than is deserved, but I have too many thoughts and emotions on this issue to even begin to comment on the so-called “Christian” born again evangelicals. Here’s an excerpt from this short op-ed:
After an election in which 81 percent of my white coreligionists supported Trump, the faith that has been my home for 20 years seems foreign, even hostile….
It’s like the way you love your offbeat uncle — the one who rambles at Thanksgiving dinner about threats to his freedoms and political correctness run amok. You understand why he feels the way he does. You sympathize with him on many points. But when he starts in with racial slurs and sexist jokes and complaints about “illegals,” at some point you have to get up and leave the table.
So, I think I’ve fully come to grips with the fact that Bernie won’t be elected President today, even though I did my part and voted for him as a write-in candidate. You can do that in a few select states, like California.
A wasted vote, you say? Perhaps, although Clinton has a lock on California.
A risky vote, you say? Again, you may have a point, but show me a vote that is not risky.
And furthermore, which vote doesn’t feel wasted?
Right now, on the morning of the election, I am uninterested in judging anyone’s vote. I’m not so much concerned with who you vote for as much as I am concerned that you recognize the possible consequences of your vote. In other words, let’s keep it real today. Read more
An article, Loaded Words, from a writer and activist who has been very influential to me, Derrick Jensen. One of Derrick’s most quoted and most controversial lines: “Every morning when I wake up I ask myself whether I should write, or blow up a dam.” (see Actions Speak Lounder than Words, 1998, and/or Derrick’s book, A Language Older than Words, a book very influential to me, personally) Read more
A classic novel, an important novel, and a novel historically set just before the implementation of Apartheid, Cry, The Beloved Country illuminates a nation on the fragile edge of possibility, a nation whose white power structure would soon choose to plunge the nation deeper into darkness and chaos, and yet in this novel, Alan Paton does what great novelists do: he illuminates the people living the reality presenting both a panoramic of perspectives along side a nuanced and detailed examination of the subtle textures of diverse peoples, cultures, and points of view in collision, all struggling among and against each other, grappling with their fears and seeking a way forward in a time where wisdom and compassion were so desperately needed.
All violence is not created equal. One day we hear of yet another black person killed by a cop and the next we read of a black man ambushing police officers. Many of us feel comfortable denouncing both as equally tragic: at the end of the day innocent people died and we mourn all loss of life. It’s a travesty that a black man was killed and an equally terrible thing that officers were killed. To me, though, this can’t be the final word. It’s not an apples to apples comparison. Read more
A series of events brought me back to Indiana for a short two days, and I found myself (quite unexpectedly) walking the streets of downtown Fort Wayne, looking for a coffee shop to do some work on my novel, but before you could say “Hoosier,” I was marching with a group about a hundred strong, all of us caught up in that Bernie fever.
A big reason that politics interests me is because it reflects cultural trends, and the bonkers way that this election is going suggests that America is changing. The Atlantic has a short article, Sanders, Trump, and the War Over American Exceptionalism. Excerpt:
While grassroots Democrats and Republicans remain divided over the size of government, increasingly, what divides them even more is American exceptionalism. In ways that would have been unthinkable in the mid-20th century, the boundaries between American and non-American identity are breaking down. Powered by America’s secular, class-conscious, transnational young people, Democrats are embracing an Americanism that is less distinct than ever before from the rest of the world. And the more Democrats do, the more likely it is that future Trumps will rise. Read more
Bernie was on Saturday Night Live recently, and there’s a skit I love, featuring Larry David (of Seinfeld fame and Curb Your Enthusiasm). The scene is of a sinking ship. “Women and children first!” yells the captain. “Really?” Larry David says, incredulous. There’s a good bit of back-and-forth between Larry and the Captain, as women and children are loaded onto the life raft. Larry can’t seem to convince them to take him on the raft before the women and children, and he worries that he’ll not make it on the raft, so he finally plays his trump card: I’m really wealthy, he says. “I’m worth more than all the rest of you put together.” That’s when Bernie steps in, dressed as a commoner. Read more
As a kid I remember singing a song about being in the Lord’s army. It was a fun song, probably one of my favorites. It was an action song, I think that was the appeal when I was such a young kid. There were these dynamic movements that had all of us Sunday School kids marching like we were in an infantry, spying on the enemy, and taking aim and firing a gun. That was a long time ago. Tomorrow I go on a meditation retreat. It’s a far cry from the Lord’s army or Donald Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric that flirts so coyly with the idea of a holy war against Islam. I am, quite literally, going to sit on my ass for ten days. Read more