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.
Political Thinking for Everyday Citizens
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.
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.
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.
The answer is equal parts art and democracy, but we have everything we need. The trending stories on social media continue to focus on broken norms and lost time, but there’s another story to talk about in this last month of 2020.
What if the year ahead is full of possibilities?
This is our remedy for the doom scrolling that accompanied the following of election results and court challenges. With that political moment behind us (mostly), it’s time to turn our attention to complex questions again.
“It feels like America is at a fault line. Like this is an end of an era,” a foreign journalist reflects on our recent election. If you have spent these last couple of weeks feeling like you’re managing an emergency situation, this fault line explains that too.
With election results decided (no concession required), academics have started debating the use of the word “coup” and whether or not the U.S. survived an autocratic attempt. Political observers insist that American institutions have proven themselves and will continue to hold. The wheels of American democracy continue to roll forward.
There’s a new trend on social media. Get in line to vote and start the stopwatch on your phone. Once you’ve cast your ballot, post a screenshot so we all know how long you were willing to wait.
We’re celebrating these stories as feats of persistence. The people will vote. Neither a pandemic nor shifting voting rules will turn them away.
This public mind is tired. When discussing the Supreme Court nomination on a recent podcast, Dahlia Lithwick said she felt like a “boxing kangaroo.” She has to keep punching without ever knowing if her punches are making a difference. Just keep punching.
I wondered if democracy has always made punching kangaroos of its people. That was almost the theme this week.