Hannah Arendt has become the thinker of the present moment, cited in hundreds of essays and think pieces seeking to explain our current predicament. There are some good reasons for her newfound relevance. Arendt’s fearless thinking insisted on confronting reality. She understood the uniqueness of totalitarianism, but also its origins in imperialism, bureaucracy, racism, loneliness, and the decline of the nation state.
In thinking about totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt came to see it is a form of government founded upon a mass loneliness. Samantha Hill writes about the way that loneliness emerged as a mass phenomenon in the 20th century.
We in the United States are preparing to vote—some have already voted—in what many call the most important Presidential election of our lifetimes. Voting in a democracy is a sacred right. It is through voting that we elect representatives. And it is by elections we can hold those representatives responsible. Perhaps most importantly, it is in voting that we signal our involvement and engagement in the act of self-government, thus announcing that in the end it is us, and not our elected representatives, who are answerable to ourselves.
As the lies pile up, people ask why the President’s lies don’t seem to hurt his standing. Roger Berkowitz argues that lies barely register today because lying has become, simply, a way of life. And he asks, “How Do We Rebuild a Shared American Reality on a Foundation of Lies?”
At the beginning of a conversation with Bill T. Jones this week as part of the Hannah Arendt Center’s “Race and Revolution” lecture series, Bill T. Jones read an excerpt from Hari Kunzru’s essay “Wages of Whiteness.” Kunzru’s essay is a magisterial retelling of the rise of current focus on whiteness, identity politics, and white privilege, one that raises as many questions as it answers.
William Foege, one of the leading epidemiologists in the world, sent a private letter to Robert Redfield of the Center for Disease Control urging him to create a written record acknowledging that the CDC had responded poorly to Covid-19. Foege writes: “I start each day thinking about the terrible burden you bear. I don’t know what I would actually do, if in your position, but I do know what I wish I would do. The first thing would be to face the truth.
Hannah Arendt never tired of reminding us that politics is about power. The only way to prevent a tyranny of the majority, she argued, is by dispersing power through institutions and across the population. She valued greatly the American Constitutional tradition because it sought to create multiple and competing power centers. In part this happened through the embrace of federalism, which pitted the states against the Federal government.
Emily Langer tells the story of Ruth Gruber, “an American journalist who stumbled into one of the great rescue stories of the Holocaust when the U.S. government appointed her to escort nearly 1,000 Jews across U-boat infested waters to the shores of the United States, [who] died Nov. 17 at her home in Manhattan. She was 105.” The story is well worth your time.
In 2016, after the death of Antonin Scalia, and during the Republican decision to block a vote on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, Senator Lindsey Graham made what appeared to be a principled statement. "I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever...