What a Week It Has Been

Most of the time changes happens slowly. It’s only by looking back at a long stretch of time and reflecting that we recognize substantial differences in our reality. However, there are some weeks, like these past two, when so much seems to happen all at once.

After an outrageous and distinctly American act of terrorism, huge momentum has emerged to remove symbols of treachery and hatred from prominent places in the South. The highest court in the land affirmed President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, ensuring millions continued access to affordable healthcare. And, as the best sequel since Godfather Part II, the same court legalized gay marriage nationwide.

Much of what this means for our country and the legacy of President Obama remains to be understood. But, if anything, it should put to rest forever any ideas that his presidency has been a minor one. Quite the opposite is the case. For too long, too many have been quick to think that the president has failed to deliver. He promised change they say, but too much remains the same. This, quite simply, ignores objective reality. It’s one thing to disagree with what he’s done; it’s lunacy to suggest that he hasn’t done much. That has never been more obvious in any week during his presidency as this one.

Yet for all his tangible actions while in office, his greatest achievement is and always will be the fact of his election. He is, and always will be, the first black president this nation has ever known. That fact is inescapable and never more apparent than it was on Friday when he delivered the eulogy for the slain Reverend Clementa Pinckney. He spoke as only he could. In his oration, he articulated the astonishing and gut-wrenching flaws of our country, baked into it from the founding. But his words did far more than that. They went above and beyond the filler text politicians and leaders too often mumble to pay lip-service to the “conversation about race.” They were real. They were personal. They spoke to his own experience, to the experience of his audience. They lamented the dead. He made us remember what we too often forget and ignore or never even learned. He helped us decipher a small section of the American story, with tales of the past and present. As one of our greatest once wrote, “For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.”

Our president has failed in countless ways, but Friday he was there for all of us, carrying the light onward. Leading us with grace and song.

More reactions from James FallowsDavid Remnick, and Greg Howard.

Gangs of New York, Mild Spoilers

Gangs_of_New_York_Poster

Gangs of New York is a 2002 action movie directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Cameron Diaz. The entire film is set in 19th-century New York’s infamous Five Points neighborhood. The story focuses on Amsterdam Vallon’s (DiCaprio) quest for revenge following the murder of his father (Liam Neeson[s]) at the hands of Bill “the Butcher” Cutter (Day-Lewis).

Continue reading

Yes, This One Matters

Pope

Ever since his election in March of 2013, Pope Francis has made big headlines all over the world. In both substance and form, he has demonstrated a marked shift from the personalities and policies of the past two popes – John Paul II and Benedict XVI. For conservatives this has been concerning, for liberals, thrilling.

Regardless of one’s political, religious, and general cultural opinions, it is essential to acknowledge that the Holy Catholic Church is an ingenious institution. The most important criterium for judging the effectiveness of an institution are 1) how long it has lasted, and 2) the loudness of its voice in the present. On both fronts, the Church gets an A-plus.

Continue reading

American History

It has been a long time since the last post. Life is busy and routine-oriented. If you’re in you’re in, and if you’re out you’re out. College graduation and a big move have brought me back to a point where I want to be in. That and recent events.

On Wednesday night, nine of our fellow Americans were massacred in a church. A man walked into the church and sat in on a Bible study for about an hour, and then opened fire. He left one woman alive to testify to what he had done. There was also a five-year-old who survived by playing dead. The words he spoke to the woman have been ringing in my eyes ever since I first read them. I will not repeat them here.

There are almost an infinite number of reactions to this horror. Many of them have been acted and spoken and written through a variety of mediums and platforms – vigils to protests to quiet prayer and tears – in the past few days from politician and citizen alike. One thing that is often said in times like these (and there have been far too many times like these, unfortunately there will be more) is that there are no words. On its face, this is in some ways a true and reasonable response. Words can do incredibly many things, but they do not have the power to contain the awfulness of such a thing as this. They only contain what the mind can hold. Unfortunately, this is not enough. It is not enough to be speechless in such times. Especially when there are so many words that must be said to rebut the words of the murderer and the murderer himself: racist, appalling, disgusting, repellent, criminal, abominable, killer, murderer, evil, liar, pathetic, narcissist, paranoid, cynical,…, American. The last one may be the most important of all. This was a crime committed against Americans, by an American. The crime took place in the state where the American grew up, a state with the Confederate flag flying over its capital building.

More words: Charles P, Pierce; Ta-Nehisi Coates; and a Vox collection. Last, but not least, Jon Stewart’s brilliant response here.