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Weekly Reader: The war for government

Upon passage of the American Rescue Plan, President Joe Biden asked us to remember that “the government isn’t some foreign force in a distant capital. No, it’s us, all of us, we the people.” Since 1981 and the Reagan revolution to undermine democracy for the benefit of the oligarchs in the private sector, “we the people” as the basis for our government has been a radical concept. It is time to end that long discredited campaign.

As always, this Weekly Reader features links to recent articles that grabbed my interest or tickled my fancy. I hope you find something that makes you laugh, think, or cry.

Anand Giridharadas, writing at The Ink, takes on the task President Biden outlined with a thoughtful and timely piece: The war for government.

“Forty Januaries ago, Ronald Reagan, upon assuming the most powerful governmental office in the history of civilization, declared in his inaugural address that “in this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” 

There was faulty reasoning with Reagan’s pronouncement then, and — after 40 years — we’ve seen all too well the harmful impact of work to undermine our democracy for personal gain. Giridharadas makes the case that Biden is just the right person to begin to unwind that selfish and destructive belief system.

We don’t yet know if Biden has the stomach to make as strident a case for government-as-solution as Reagan made against the state. But it would be foolish not to observe that, thanks in part to the agitations of those who have shown the war on government to be an epic disaster (and who have fought Biden oftentimes), something new is happening. The proof that it is happening is that a moderate like Biden is on board.

At this point, Giridharadas includes the best short description of the intersecting crises of the past year — tied to their long-term impacts — that has come across my computer screen this year.

I don’t think Biden had a religious awakening. I think the five intersecting crises of the past year made it impossible for anyone in his position to attempt to be anything but transformational and go down in history as a serious person. There was Covid, of course, and the more chronically unhealthy country it found. There was the economic crisis it unleashed, and, again, the more chronically precarious and hard-up economy that crisis exacerbated. There was the racial crisis put front and center by Black Lives Matter and, more generally, a growing recognition of the need to reckon with things long overdue and make the society safe and healthy and dignified for people of all marginalized backgrounds. There was the democratic crisis revealed by the fact that, for a while there, we weren’t sure about a peaceful transfer of power. And there was climate, the question that refuses to go away, even in plagues, with coronatime perhaps serving as a test drive for what it looks like for the world to rally together. 

There are no personal solutions to problems like these. There are no corporate solutions to them. There are no nonprofit solutions to them. As Carol Hanisch once taught us, there are only political solutions to shared political problems like these. The strange gift President Biden inherited was a network of problems so deep-rooted, so far-reaching, so long-in-the-making, so gnarled in their intersections, that they provide the best cover and ammunition in years to advocate for government (emphasis added).

This is an excellent article that I encourage you to read in full. We have to stop making war on ourselves.

One doesn’t expect to read about the need for intervention to deradicalize the Christian right in a magazine website devoted to foreign policy. But two assistant professors at The Citadel, Melissa Graves and Muhammad Fraser-Rahim, make the case for intervention at Foreign Policy magazine in their article Deradicalization Needed for Evangelical Christian QAnon Believers. They suggest we need programs in the U.S. similar to those designed to reform violent jihadis abroad. Such work could help tackle the spread of QAnon and other conspiracy theories in evangelical communities.

Religious people are particularly susceptible to conspiracy theories due to their belief in the supernatural and their endorsement of a good-versus-evil worldview.

Christian communities have suffered extreme damage from divisions among believers caused by QAnon theories. Online support groups have sprung up in recent months to offer support for family members of QAnon members. In a recent op-ed, New York Times columnist David Brooks aptly observed, “there is strife within every [Christian] family, within every congregation, and it may take generations to recover.” QAnon conspiracies are just the latest iteration of a long tradition of right-wing extremism, rooted in white supremacy and anti-Semitism.

Graves and Fraser-Rahim note that one recent event put this issue front and center.

Nothing, however, has shifted the narrative regarding evangelicals and QAnon as much as the Capitol insurrection. No longer is QAnon seen as a fringe belief among white evangelicals; rather, it is the basis for a newly emerging violent Christian extremism. Elizabeth Neumann, a former top official at the Department of Homeland Security, has acknowledged the national security threat posed by those who are violently motivated by QAnon conspiracy theories.

Once again, Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post hits the nail on the head with her option piece Biden excels at his first news conference. The media embarrass themselves.

Try as they might to seem “tough,” the media did not succeed in knocking Biden off message. Biden spoke in great detail and length to show not only his mastery of the issues but also to suck tension and conflict out of the room. He simply would not be lured into accepting a false premise devised by Republicans (i.e., that his nice demeanor prompts parents to send kids thousands of miles under deadly conditions). ‘I’m going to send him on a thousand-mile journey across a desert and up to the United States because I know Joe Biden is a nice guy and he’ll take care of him? What a desperate act to take,’ he said. ‘The circumstances must be horrible.’”

In his humor column for the Chicago Tribune, Rex Huppke also goes after the press (or one especially poor excuse for a news channel), in Biden refuses to play into the Fox News narrative, and it’s making me and Sean Hannity FURIOUS!

As a loyal Fox News viewer, I am disgusted by President Joe Biden’s stubborn and un-American refusal to behave in a way that matches the narrative I have been receiving.

Biden is, I’m told, a senile old man who barely knows he’s there, and also a radical leftist tyrant fiendishly scheming to turn America into a socialist hellscape that outlaws Dr. Seuss and the Bible and, if it exists, the Dr. Seuss version of the Bible.

We’ll end with one other post that should make you smile. Tennessee writer (and current LA resident) Tracy Moore writes of how she has rediscovered her roots in the Washington Post piece How covid-19 gave me back my Southern accent.

Everyone claims to like Southern accents these days, but what they mean is an anachronistic upper-class affectation, where people lose the letters “g” and “r” on the back side of words. What they don’t mean is an Appalachian dialect, where an “r” shows up in places it’s got no business being. I would learn that superfluous consonant in warsh is called the Intrusive R by linguists — even the operative word, intrusive, suggests an infection.

I spent a lifetime reshaping my speech. It took some doing — the flat “i,” as in “Ahm nihhhnteen,” took years to tamp down, and resurfaced whenever I had a couple of beers. I made sure warsh didn’t stick, but the shame did, and it got me both ways: ashamed I had ever sounded so country in the first place, and ashamed I’d lacked the courage to stay true to it. Still, I don’t believe for a second I’d have made it as a journalist any other way.

As a result of lockdown during the pandemic, Moore has learned to come to terms, and even embrace, her roots.

While never possessed of that East Tennessee Appalachian accent, I have been known to launch into some harsh — for many ears — Middle Tennessee country dialect. One colleague in particular used to poke fun at my accent and especially the use of the word “might” in strange places.

Oh, and yes, I have been known to say “that dog won’t hunt” in a professional meeting. Get over it.

Enjoy your week of reading.

More to come…


Image by Lynn Melchiori from Pixabay

This entry was posted in: Weekly Reader


I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.

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