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.

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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QCP: Can We Put American Democracy Back Together Again?

QCP: Can We Put American Democracy Back Together Again?

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?

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QCP: Have You Seen the Good Hues?

QCP: Have You Seen the Good Hues?

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.

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

Questions of Civic Proportions: What are we learning about American democracy?

“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.

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Questions of Civic Proportions: How Long Will We Wait?

Questions of Civic Proportions: How Long Will We Wait?

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.

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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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