Questions of Civic Proportions Newsletter
October 4, 2020
My Fellow Citizens,
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.
I read about Marvin Gaye’s album, “What’s going on.” The people responsible for the album art kept putting a question mark at the end of that statement and Gaye kept removing it. Spike Lee shared this story of Gaye’s artistic persistence and said the song wasn’t a question. It was a plea for humanity.
That was the theme this week before the debate and before the President’s diagnosis. I’m going to hold onto it for another newsletter. I feel that plea but I haven’t been able to find the words.
Today I’m leaving most of the newsletter unwritten. I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to connect, mentally and virtually, at this moment. If you’re tired and not sure how to navigate the weeks ahead, you’re not alone.
That’s when John Dickerson, a correspondent for CBS News, showed up with the theme for the moment, “Spare a Moment for Sorrow.” He wrote the short post in March but it was on his mind this week too.
“But in this period, we should spare a moment for sorrow and grief. This is the human thing to do; it is what following through on the pledge to be in this together actually means.”
The sentiment resonates with what Matthew Dowd, a former Republican strategist, has suggested too. He has used his platform on Twitter and ABC’s “This Week” to say that Americans should be able to hold two simultaneous responses to the moment:
“I hope we can simultaneously do two things which is send compassion and concern for the First Lady and the President and be so angry about the cavalier attitude… and the irresponsibility of this President and the White House.”
This is the state of my mind today. This is why we are tired. We’re boxing. We’re managing two or more responses at the same time. We figure out what we want to do in response to one threat to our democratic principles only to be thrown off balance again by the next story.
If that’s how you’re feeling right now, you are not alone. That’s a theme from Dickerson’s piece on sparing a moment too. We’re in this together.
To sign off today, I’m going to borrow the concluding line from John Dickerson:
“The test of a time like this is that it either drives us toward our common humanity, or it drives us apart. Let it be the former.”
Let’s not forget that we’re in this together,
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Questions of Civic Proportions
“If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it.”
—Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the United States
Good Work: Digital Democracy is Within Reach
Listening to this interview with Audrey Tang, I marveled at the possibilities of democracy and technology. When the Internet was new, the democratic potential seemed limitless. Then it become a tool for corporate marketing. Tang is the digital minister of Taiwan. They have had a very different pandemic experience and technology has been part of the solution.
They track down and name the sources of misinformation. Correcting the record becomes a public campaign of its own and it’s all done with a healthy dose of humor. If you’re having trouble seeing the way forward, listen to this episode of Your Undivided Attention from July.
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