For People Who Believe in the Power of Thinking Together

Our Questions of Civic Proportions Newsletter features the questions, ideas, and good work that lend extra power to the civic-minded.

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Political Thinking for Everyday Citizens

Our First Color Salon: Recalling a Human Capacity for Goodness

Our digital lives make it so that information washes over us all day, every day. People announce when they decide to quit social media and disconnect for any period of time. We have to devise a plan not to watch all the stories develop in a never-ending scroll of updates. We need to protect time to think.

An evening of deliberate thinking proved to be more refreshing than the usual social media detox. We started the evening as skeptics. An evening of thoughtful conversation restored our faith in humanity.

Practicing a civic perspective

Since the beginning, thoughtful political observation has happened by way of big questions. What makes a question big? It’s something like the theory of relativity. From one angle, the question looks as simple as asking what time it is, but the answer requires looking at everything we thought we knew from a different perspective.

Repeat the Question: Is Disinformation a Required Part of Living in a Democracy?

Repeat the Question: Is Disinformation a Required Part of Living in a Democracy?

There’s a bad idea masquerading as a principled commitment to free speech. We know we have a disinformation problem, but we have yet to decide what we can do to fight against it.

In the days following the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Twitter took action against misinformation by banning President Trump. One study measured that misinformation declined by 73% on that platform as a result. This decision also spurred an effort to remove QAnon accounts promoting false claims of election fraud. Then came the complaints of censorship and that “big tech” had steamrolled the First Amendment.

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Questions of Civic Proportions: What will we do with our “Two Americas” story this time?

Questions of Civic Proportions: What will we do with our “Two Americas” story this time?

“Two Americas” has been a theme in our political discussion for decades. Headlines in January warned that a “clash of Two Americas” was real and could get worse.” That’s a tale of Republicans vs. Democrats. It reads like a rhetorical device, something that amps up the drama.

It has roots in our past. We can’t let it slip through our collective memory and become just another strategy to get more clicks.

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Our First Color Salon: Recalling a Human Capacity for Goodness

Our First Color Salon: Recalling a Human Capacity for Goodness

Our digital lives make it so that information washes over us all day, every day. People announce when they decide to quit social media and disconnect for any period of time. We have to devise a plan not to watch all the stories develop in a never-ending scroll of updates. We need to protect time to think.

An evening of deliberate thinking proved to be more refreshing than the usual social media detox. We started the evening as skeptics. An evening of thoughtful conversation restored our faith in humanity.

read more
January 6th: There’s No Writing it Off as “Un-American”

January 6th: There’s No Writing it Off as “Un-American”

This question leads us to talk about the Biden administration and what it will take to return to normal. It’s the wrong question.

Reporting on the mob in the U.S. Capitol, Al Jazeera published the headline, “America is Coming Undone.” Robin Wright included this perspective in her piece for The New Yorker, “What does America’s revolt mean for everybody else?” She lists reactions from authoritarian leaders (gleeful), America’s allies (appalled), and ambassadors from around the world (heartbroken). These perspectives all imply ideas about what happens next.

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Questions of Civic Proportions: How does history help us find ourselves in the space between the past and the future?

Questions of Civic Proportions: How does history help us find ourselves in the space between the past and the future?

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz provoked this feeling of coming unstuck or unmoored. He represents me in the Senate, and he insisted on demonstrating that he has a peculiar relationship with time.

By contemplating his actions, I realized that the way we orient ourselves to time makes all the difference in how we understand who we are. It changes how we understand our responsibility to others too.

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My 2020 Reading List: It’s Short and Has Issues

My 2020 Reading List: It’s Short and Has Issues

This is the season to post your 2020 reading list. If there’s one habit that was made for COVID-life, it’s reading. Socially distant by design and no mask required. Like so much else, reading was harder for me this last year too. I read, but not a lot, so I thought I would hang back and watch as everyone else celebrated crossing the finish line with impressive numbers of books read.

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QCP: When You Look Back at2020, What Do You See?

QCP: When You Look Back at2020, What Do You See?

For 2020, the end-of-year lists are holding space for the things that didn’t happen. That approach seems inevitable, of course, with vacations postponed, weddings rescheduled, and holidays downsized.

The lists focus on looking to the past, but this exercise of looking closely at what didn’t happen can also help us see our way forward.

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We can judge our progress by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers, our willingness to embrace what is true rather than what feels good.

—Carl Sagan

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