“The Forgotten Front Porch Is Making a Comeback.” Spike Carlsen notes a promising development: “Thanks to the pandemic, the front porch is enjoying a new golden age. Like their near cousins, stoops, steps, even fire escapes, porches offer a semipublic setting where we can meet friends and neighbors face-to-face—even if those faces are masked.”
“Let’s Talk about the Debate….” Kelly Evans recommends talking about the debate on the front porch, and points to FPR as a sign of hope in the midst of our national “doom and gloom.”
“Going Dark.” I wrote about the experience of losing my job, a Wendell Berry poem, and the challenges universities face.
“Between Pandemic and Protest: Exploring the Future of the Liberal Arts in Higher Education.” This Monday, I’ll be talking with some wise people about what role the liberal arts should play in higher education. This is the launch event for a ongoing series of conversations around this issue.
“How Meritocracy Failed Our Kids.” Clayton Trutor reviews Fredrik deBoer’s new book The Cult of Smart. Some of his proposals don’t sound very helpful, but his critique of our flawed, education-enabled meritocracy deserves a careful hearing.
“What To Know About Amy Coney Barrett.” Patrick Deneen narrates his neighbor’s background, which is very unusual among Supreme Court justices:
If confirmed, Amy Coney Barrett would be the first justice in decades not to have received either her law school degree or her undergraduate degree from Harvard, Yale, Columbia, or Stanford. She would be the only current sitting justice not to have graduated from Harvard or Yale Law Schools.
“The Idiosyncratic Originalism of Amy Coney Barrett.” Matthew Walther looks at Judge Barrett’s record and concludes:
While it would be absurd to suggest that she would be in any sense a “moderate” or “swing” vote who would prevent the balance of the high court from shifting in the direction of a clear conservative majority, it would also not be accurate to dismiss her as a clone of Justice Clarence Thomas or even of her late mentor Antonin Scalia, for whom she clerked in the late ’90s. Her vision of originalism is broader and more idiosyncratic. It is also more humane.
“Patrick Deneen and What’s Next for America.” Jeremy Beer and Patrick Deneen chat about Why Liberalism Failed and the book Patrick is working on now.
“Marilynne Robinson’s Essential American Stories.” In this long New Yorker essay, Casey Cep tries to come to term with Robinson’s life and work. “Robinson’s entire cosmology,” she concludes, centers on her conviction that “the world is self-evidently miraculous, but only rarely do we pay it the attention it deserves.”
“No One Gives them Orders: Watching The Persians with the Greeks.” A. E. Stallings reviews a performance of the earliest extant Greek drama, but this review also ponders how the ancient past still marks the present.
“‘Live Not By Lies’ On The Front Porch.” Rod Dreher responds to James Clark’s review of his book here at FPR with some further reflections about technology, voting, and hope: “The future of this country and its people, and of the churches, is being determined far more by the technology we accept, and how it shapes us individually and communally, than by those for whom we vote. This is a hard lesson for people to grasp, but it’s true.”
“Institutions Matter.” Mark T. Mitchell warns that American institutions are growing increasingly fragile: “Democracy cannot survive without trust, and this trust includes two aspects. First, citizens must trust their institutions… . Second, a healthy democracy requires that, by and large, citizens trust each other.
“What Do Human Beings Need?: Rethinking Technology and the Good Society.” L. M. Sacasas links Weil, Arendt, and Borgmann to consider what Weil might mean in claiming that humans have a need for roots. Further, “the degree that the need for rootedness—which is to say, a sense of belonging in relatively stable communities—goes unfulfilled, to that same degree human beings become vulnerable to destructive political regimes.”
“Granola.” Gracy Olmstead reflects on how to attend to the news during this unsettled time: “News consumption may start online, but it should end in physical proximity: in finding new ways to love our neighbors, to restore connections, and to improve tomorrow’s headlines through everyday actions.”
“Beyond Cancel Culture.” Michial Farmer considers stories by O’Connor and Updike as examples of the literature of self-recrimination, a genre which offers “a call for grace, the quality most obviously and tragically absent from cancel culture, where any wrong attitude of opinion is enough to get your name wiped out of the culture’s book of life.”
“Middle-Class America and the Spirit of Revolution.” Mark T. Mitchell also portrays recent protests as symptomatic of the failures of our political and economic system to sustain widespread property ownership: “Widely distributed property, according to Tocqueville, helps to cultivate a respect for the property of others—and this spills over into respect for the rights of others more broadly. A propertied citizenry is not given to rioting, revolution, or the wanton destruction of property.”
“Christian Witness Demands That We Defend Truth—and Reject Donald Trump.” Alan Noble argues that conservatives must not make truth a mere function of power.
“Not A Constitutional Crisis.” John Murdock draws on Marilyn Chandler McEntyre’s Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies to remind us that we all have a responsibility to speak truthfully and cultivate a healthy public discourse.
“The Catholic Case for Focusing on Local Issues.” Bill Kauffman reminds us, in this season where our nation spends massive amounts of money and attention to choose our “celebrity-in-chief,” to focus on the political choices where our decisions matter:
But faithful citizenship is so much more than checking a box on a ballot.
You don’t bolster citizenship by casting votes for people whom you do not know, people whose existences seem almost incorporeal, accessible only as pixelated (not to mention pixilated) images on a screen. Nor is it an act of citizenship to type nasty anonymous messages into internet comment boxes or to virtue-signal on Facebook. No, real citizenship is exercised, and our communities are strengthened by our cheerful, committed and loving involvement in our towns, on our streets, in our parishes and with our neighbors.
“The Woke and the Red-Pill, pt I: Conjoined Twins at War.” Joseph Minich argues the political left and right have more in common with each other than they might like to think: “for all the supposed difference between the right and the left, on some glances, they bear a suspicious amount of family resemblance to one another. Indeed, when one begins to look for it, the left and the right increasingly appear to be dialectical alter-egos who mirror each other in mutual reflection and projection.” (Recommended by Nick Smith.)
“Is A College Degree the Only Way to Succeed?” Amber Lapp writes about the toxic myth that a successful life is only possible if you attain the right credentials and land the right job.
“All Your Serfs Are Belong To Us.” Justin Lee reviews Kotkin’s The Coming of Neo-Feudalism and proposes some ways to work against our growing economic inequality.
“What’s In Your Fridge?” Brian Miller gives some good advice: look closely before you eat the leftovers in a farmer’s fridge.