“Wayfaring in America.” Brian Smith reviews The American Road Trip and American Political Thought, by Susan McWilliams Barndt—a book that reflects on what Americans’ fondness for travel narratives suggests about our political culture. He concludes with the “radical possibility that the reason we cannot fulfill our longings on the road may relate to our spiritual homelessness here on earth.”
“An Elegy for Place and Time.” Jacob Bruggeman reviews On Homesickness: A Plea, by Jesse Donaldson, for the University Bookman. Bruggeman calls the book ”an admirable attempt at articulating the ‘lump in the throat,’ the ‘wrong,’ and the ’sickness’ an individual experiences when away from home.”
“Amazon’s Next-Day Delivery System Has Brought Chaos And Carnage To America’s Streets — But The World’s Biggest Retailer Has A System To Escape The Blame.” Caroline O’Donovan and Ken Bensinger trace the disturbing ways in which Amazon externalizes the responsibilities and costs for its network of delivery drivers.
“The Homecomers.” Sarah Smarsh, author of Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, has a new podcast where she “brings you stories of folks who, as residents or advocates, remain committed to their complex, embattled homes.”
“The American Working Class Dilemma.” Joel Kotkin reflects on the voting pattern shifts among America’s working class and suggests that the growing “precariat” class—temporary workers in the gig economy—will have a big influence in upcoming elections.
“The Landscape Of Despair: How Our Cities And Towns Are Making Us Crazy.” James Howard Kunstler argues that “the public realm is the physical manifestation of the common good.” And given the state of our public realm, this isn’t good news: “Public space per se has been relegated insidiously to TV and the Internet, and neither of these are an adequate replacement for real-live social relations with other human beings in a real place worth caring about.”
“Mass Barbecue is the Invasive Species of Our Culinary Times.” John Shelton Reed defends local bbq from the homogenizing forces of commercialization. As he concludes: “Places that try to serve barbecue from everywhere are really serving barbecue from nowhere, for people from nowhere, and I say to hell with it.” (Recommended by Jeff Polet.)
“The Democratic World is Losing its Ability to Self-Govern.” Damon Linker sees troubling developments in the British parliament that have parallels across Europe and the US.
“On Whose Green Earth?” Stephanie Parker interviews Willis Jenkins about climate change and religion for Knowable Magazine. His concluding speculation is that “insofar as climate change makes secular people question the pursuits of their lives, the stories they live by, the purposes of capitalism, etc. — then climate change may be experienced by them as religious in depth.”
It sounds like the Ahmari-French debate was pretty banal. But this essay by Jake Meador is still worth reading. For example, “That the government could be something more than a mere arbiter who threatens to hit you in the head with a brick if you don’t play nicely with your neighbor seems to be unimaginable to both the Commonweal signatories and to French.” Matthew Walther’s response to the debate is instructive as well.