Friday, June 02, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Cosmopolitan Edition

So, we're leaving the Paris agreement. I am not surprised. I don't even think we can really blame this one entirely on Trump: a large group of Republicans have been opposed to doing anything to address climate change for a long time.

I am sad about the decision, though. I don't know that it will have much impact on what the US actually does about climate change: states and cities are already leading efforts to decrease our carbon footprint, and so are a lot of American companies. Most of the impact of the Trump administration on the environment will be due to less flashy decisions: regulations gutted, public lands put up for sale.

But the decision will still have some impact, and I think that impact will reach beyond climate. It contributes to a lessening of America's standing in the world. I know some might think I am exaggerating, but....

From my conversations with my friends around the world, I'd say that is a fairly accurate representation of how we are viewed right now.

I think Jeet Heer has this right:

And William Gibson made a similar observation:

Now, I don't think it is necessarily a bad thing in the long run if we end up in a more multi-polar world, where the US doesn't have such outsize influence. But one of the things I find most darkly amusing about this entire mess is that there is a huge overlap between people who were most worried about the standing of the US and tended to fret about "the rise of China" and things like that and people whose vote in the last election most hastened the decline of the US.

I don't care about the decline in US power, but I do care about the decline in the ideals we once championed, however imperfectly. David Roberts had a good piece on that in response to Trump's decision. He discusses a debate between tribalism and something he calls cosmopolitanism. I don't think cosmopolitanism is really the best word for it, but it is also the word that Gianpiero Petriglieri used in a piece last December that I also really liked. So I guess that's the word to use.

Whatever word, I'm on that side. I want a world that is less tribal. I want a world where the random luck of where you were born has less influence on the outcome of your life. I want a world where people from all parts work together to make things better for everyone. Our global institutions are clunky and imperfect, but instead of tearing them down and retreating into our tribes, I wish we'd try to improve them and work through the difficult problems and our inevitable disagreements with words, not weapons.

I think the feeling that my country is pulling away from that vision might be what is alienating me from it the most in the aftermath of Trump's election. I want to be part of the global community, and I am increasingly unsure of whether I will be living here. I hadn't realized that this was part of the unease I'm feeling until I read Roberts' piece. I haven't worked through the questions it raised for me, but it is something to ponder.

Moving on to other topics....

If you only read one thing in my links list this week, make it Jamelle Bouie's article about the wave of racist violence we're living through. He puts it in its historical context, and explains how the rise of intolerance in politics is historically linked to a rise in racist violence.

Rebecca Solnit's piece about Trump is really good.

I think Josh Marshall is right: there really is not innocent explanation for Jared Kushner's attempt to set up secret communications with Moscow. I still think that the fire in the midst of all this smoke is more likely to be tied up with debt and shady real estate deals than with anything ideological, but I keep coming back to the quote from former CIA director Brennan: "Frequently, individuals on a treasonous path do not even realize they're on that path until it gets to be too late." 

If you live in California, you might be interested in this article about teaching the truth about California's missions. I had a fourth grader this year, so just finished navigating this history with her. I hope I did a fair job. I feel like her school did a pretty good job: one of their field trips was to get a presentation from a local tribe member about what Kumeyaay life was like before the Spanish came, and how the missions changed that. I am sure there is still room for improvement, but the report she produced felt like a better way to learn about the subject than the traditional "build a mission" approach.

This series of tweets was a definite lolsob moment:

And that's all I have today.

Except, I meant to say that I am still looking for advance readers for Hemmed In. Sign up if you're interested!

And a bunny. Obviously, you need a bunny:

Happy weekend, everyone


  1. I've known that the rest of the world's opinion of the US has been declining but there's not a doubt in my mind that this recent election has done irreparable harm to the ideals that we thought we were about. It has definitely told me something about the country that I was born and raised in, and believed in, and it's so disheartening.

    I have to save the CA mission information - we were certainly not taught even a fraction of the real unsanitized history there.

  2. I like the word civilization, but that possibility has too many colonial connotations. Maybe rational. Or we could pull out Freud and go less id, more super ego.

  3. I just went to the Sacramento County Fair and saw a bunch of model missions. I didn't realise that was a substitute for engagement about life there. I need to do some more reading myself, now that I live here.

    You might enjoy some photos of the baby bunnies we just fostered for a weekend.


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