Week in Review: Small Town America, Political Exhaustion, #Metoo, & How We Think
This is the first installment of Vista’s “Week in Review,” a weekly column sharing and commenting on some of the weeks most interesting reads. Feel free to check out the articles mentioned!
This post was written by Ricardo Huerta. Read his bio.
1. Over at The Atlantic contributor Brian Alexander has penned a fantastic summary on the current state of small town America. Drawing on the work of Arthur Morgan, a post-WWII civil-engineer who settles on community organizing, Alexander explores why small towns still matter for the fate of the country. He writes:
“The social good of such places, Morgan insisted, was being 'dissolved, diluted, and submerged by modern technology, commercialism, mass production, propaganda, and centralized government.' While many big-city residents might not worry about the fate of small towns, Morgan believed they should because the 'controlling factors of civilization are not art, business, science, government. These are its fruits. The roots of civilization are elemental traits—good will, neighborliness, fair play, courage, tolerance, open-minded inquiry, patience.' These traits are best transmitted from one generation to the next in small communities, he argued, from where they are then spread throughout entire societies. To erode small-town culture was to erode the culture of the nation.”
2. We’re not done with The Atlantic quite yet… Like many Americans, I’ve been exhausted by politics. In fact, a primary impetus behind starting Vista was a yearning to create a space where politics and social issues could be discussed devoid of hostility. So reading The Atlantic’s interview with Alan Jacobs was refreshing in many ways. Jacobs doesn’t pretend to have the solution to our growing political hostility, but he is apt in diagnosing the problem and offering some modest suggestions. Check it out here.
3. Stephanie Phillips over at the Mockingbird blog hits it out of the park with her grace-riddled post on actor Alyssa Milano’s “#MeToo” Twitter campaign. Weaving her personal experience and life in with the realities of grace, she admits just how hopeless yet victorious she feels. She writes:
"Back when I was still a student of the law and into pithy wall-hanging proverbs, I bought the “Keep Calm and Carry On” WWII propaganda hanging that was all the rage… Talk about denial. Since then I’ve fallen apart way too many times to even pretend I can either keep calm or carry on… And all of this is because of what has happened. To post or not to post is no longer an ultimate question; indeed, what is ultimate is not a question but a statement: I am. I am then, and I am now, and I am in the future. I am, because I was and have been and will be—through everything, because of another statement, uttered in weariness and victory: It is finished. Which, were it assigned a hashtag, might look something like me too.”
4. David Brooks at the New York Times has a great article on the art of thinking. Reviewing Alan Jacobs most recent book, How To Think: A Survival Guide for A World at Odds, Brooks pinpoints our tendencies as a society to use emotion and group think in our reasoning processes, driving home Jacobs thesis that “the relational nature of thinking is essential for understanding why there is so much bad thinking in political life right now.” This article is both challenging and convicting. I don’t want to believe that my thinking is susceptible to the influence of emotions and social relations, but, as is often the case, a thorough self-examination will expose just how faulty my thought processes can be. This article is a must read.
5. Back to politics: Slate columnist Reihan Salam’s post on George W. Bush and Donald Trump. I thought we were done with the Bush’s after Jeb’s failed run at the presidency!? Salam doesn’t seem to think so and in part blames Bush for the rise of Trump by reviewing some of the former presidents policy failures that Trump was able to capitalize on, Iraq being the obvious one. I mention this article not because I found it particularly interesting, but because it’s a textbook example of the kind of blame game and finger pointing that so often takes place in our political discourse. That’s not to say that people aren’t at fault for egregious policy decisions (they most certainly are), but rather a frustration with what philosopher Renè Girard calls a “scapegoat mechanism,” the tendency in society to find a culprit to lay all our communal sins on. I think Salam is a brilliant commentator and I recommend reading his column, but this article left me frustrated.
6. In other news, the dream of consecutive World Series championships for the Chicago Cubs came to an end last night. The Dodgers were unstoppable and my hunch is that they will roll over whatever team they face starting Tuesday night. Keep your head up, Chicago.