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

Why We Believe Reading is a Civic Duty

The trend is a downward slope no one expects to turn around. Every year, fewer and fewer people report having finished a book. Our lists of leisure time pursuits often do not include “reading a book.” Books have lost their audience.

Politicolor is an act of resistance in this regard. Few of us here chase the latest trend. Most of us always have a book we’re reading. We have a shared belief that reading is a critical civic habit.

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.

Questions of Civic Proportions: What is missing from our marketplace of ideas?

Questions of Civic Proportions: What is missing from our marketplace of ideas?

Our elected representatives called “Big Tech” to account last week. Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple all held down their corner of a Zoom meeting. Approaches varied, but most questions suggested that the primary concern was fair competition.

Is our marketplace of ideas missing more apps, more products, and more search results? That’s a fair question for an antitrust hearing.

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Questions of Civic Proportions: Is it different this time?

Questions of Civic Proportions: Is it different this time?

Spray cans left at the bottom of the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, Virginia invited everyone to leave their mark. People there transformed the space around the monument into a community space, some described the scene as a “focus of civic outpouring.”

The pictures posted online include basketball and ballerinas. Look at the t-shirts and you’ll find the claim, “I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams.”

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Questions of Civic Proportions: Is it different this time?

Questions of Civic Proportions: What Can We Make of a World on Fire?

There’s one phrase that keeps shouting at me over all the images of the protests. The phrase comes from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, Between the World and Me (2015).

Reflecting on his childhood, Coates describes what it was like growing up as a black boy in the United States. The phrase that haunts me today appears in that account. Coates says he learned to be “powerfully afraid.”

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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

We love smart quotes and quotes about being smart. Add something to think about to your daily scroll.