Archive for the ‘The Big Picture’ Category

Living With What Lies Between Us

The assurance we should each have by now that we are not going to convert each other should also be key to our coexistence. If only because of our shared past, I do not want to lose our connection to each other, and I sense that you do not want to lose it either, no matter how angry we make each other.

Recalled for the Right Reasons

Are we really at a point where a judge operating within the proper bounds of his discretion is to be removed for doing so? I would argue that it is precisely the fact that the judge was operating within his discretion that made this particular recall appropriate. It is often within the margins of discretion that the most important decisions of a judge fall. And there exist few mechanisms to correct such decisions when they are wrong.

The Catonsville Nine: Deserved Honor

A U.S. Attorney entertaining self-doubt might have considered legal philosopher Ronald Dworkin’s thoughts on civil disobedience published in June 1968, prompted precisely by draft protests: “A prosecutor may properly decide not to press charges … for dozens of … reasons…. One is the obvious reason that [draft protestors] act out of better motives than those who break the law out of greed or a desire to subvert government. Another is the practical reason that our society suffers a loss if it punishes a group that includes—as the group of draft dissenters does—some of its most thoughtful and loyal citizens.”
The Nine were thoughtful and loyal citizens (two were veterans, four were present or former clergy). Knowing that they would probably land in federal prison, they took concrete steps to halt a war machine that needed halting, and to enlist juries in the effort. For this, they deserve our respect.

A Different Sort of Heroics

So there was a clear division of labor; the clients alone would take the risks, exposing themselves to the possible consequences, and Roe, win or lose, would try to protect the clients from those consequences if he could. Many of the clients were passionate about their causes, temperamental and irritable. Yet none of the clients objected that Roe should have flown closer to the flames himself.

There Are Tides

So the American reality my family lived out was that money is transmutable into education, and education into money, and that in the normal course of events the locus of that privilege may move back and forth between the one and the other as the times require. Families with education could (and mine did) ride waves and then wait between them. But moving back and forth is tougher for families that can’t obtain good educations. And up to my generation, the family history discussed last time suggests the best educations, the ones available where I and my forbears studied, were, practically speaking, reserved for people with European ancestors. Blacks were thus largely denied whatever advantages such educations might have afforded them in catching either of the big waves that had benefitted my own family.

When The Other Folks Give Up Theirs

I was raised to despise racial prejudice, and have taught my children the same. But have I enjoyed a racially-exclusive education? It seems I have. Have I passed this racially-exclusive educational privilege along to my children? Why, yes. The kids are all products of elite private universities, with almost no public schooling among them in their earlier years.

Not Joyful, Not Triumphant, But Determined

We all want most at Christmas to be cared for and reassured like the children we were when we first came to love the feast. But as grownups we shoulder the task of being Santa Claus, the nurturer rather than the nurtured, a task passed on from generation to generation. And this dark year we need to be Santa in a much larger sense,

Revive the Draft? Bite Your Tongue!

So what, then, is your argument? It seems to be that bringing compulsory service back would assure that the middle and upper classes have some skin in the game. You suggest we might not have had those endless wars we’ve had in the all-volunteer era, had the likes of you and me had to send their sons and daughters off to play in that lottery we call war. Well, again, remember Vietnam, Mr. Haberman. There were better-off folks who did not serve, like Donald Trump and (full disclosure) me. But though some deny it, the statistics bear out that the service and the dying did, if somewhat unevenly, involve all classes, and – do you remember this part? – the War still went on and on and on. Nobody could stop it, regardless of the class distribution amongst the warriors, and regardless of the fact that halfway through, the War lost popular support, especially among the better-off classes.

Summer Is Coming

What needs to be done is obvious in outline. It must be governmental and it must be large, and it must do many things that will fetter and direct the so-called free market (heretical to some though the notion may be that the survival of the species should ever trump economic freedom). The necessary actions may threaten certain rich people’s wealth and certain unwealthy people’s livelihoods. The tyranny of the consumer will need to be overthrown.

Relearning Detroit

When so many people choose to engage after hours drinking, gambling and prostitution, the laws forbidding them lose the perception of legitimacy, and police interference with just certain of the communities in which they occur is less law enforcement and more ritual dominance and stigmatization. And, as we’ve recently seen in Baltimore, in Ferguson, and in Baton Rouge, these rituals always eventually provoke counter-rituals of community outrage.