In May 2019, a fire destroyed a significant part of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. In the two days that followed, individuals and corporations pledged just under a billion Euros toward its repair.This incident hearkened quite directly to Arendt’s invocation of cathedrals as the archetypical example of worldliness, of creating a lasting world that endures beyond the cycles of human need and consumption.
As the assistant director of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College, I read Batya Ungar-Sargon’s recent column with dismay. She wrote: “But not one of my fellow speakers said a word. Two days later, I have not received a single note acknowledging what happened, which leaves me thinking they condone it.”
Josh Rogin in the Washington Post asked readers to choose the public figures they would most like to hear comment on our present era. Tanner Greer published his answer: Hannah Arendt. What Greer welcomes above all in Arendt is her independence. That she approaches every issue fresh. And that before you read what she writes, you don’t know what she will be arguing or how she will get there.
You’ve seen clips of Greta Thunberg at the U.N. and the Climate Strikers on the streets; you remember how the March for Our Lives movement erupted after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. When Arendt asked in 1959 whether children were being tasked with changing the world, the Little Rock Nine were enacting the change decreed by Brown vs. the Board of Education. Now, high schoolers are the ones bringing lawsuits and demanding action to bring change.
Anya Schiffrin writes about how Varian Fry helped a number of German intellectuals, Jews, and leftists emigrate from Germany. Fry co-founded the Emergency Rescue Committee, which later became the International Rescue Committee. Among those Fry helped save include Hannah Arendt, Marc Chagall, and Victor Serge.
On the eve of the Hannah Arendt Center’s Conference Racism and Antisemitism, it is worth thinking about Malcolm Gladwell’s new book Talking To Strangers. Gladwell seeks to understand what happened to Sandra Bland that led to her hanging in a Texas prison. It is known that Bland was pulled over in the Prairie View, Texas by officer Brian Encinia.
Judith Butler reviewed Bari Weiss’s new book How to Fight Anti-Semitism for Jewish Currents. Butler’s book review is notable for a couple of reasons and worth reading whether one finds oneself politically closer to Butler or Weiss. The primary reason being: It’s rare to read a real book review these days that systematically works through the arguments in a text. Butler, a pro-BDS supporter, argues that Weiss lacks an historical understanding of antisemitism.
In the years leading up to the Civil War, there were more than seventy violent clashes between Representatives and Senators in Congress. In her book Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and Road to Civil War Joanna Freeman tells a story of a raucous antebellum Congress replete with bullying, dueling, and fistfights.1 Even amidst the bitter animosity that pervades Washington, D.C., in the era of President Donald Trump, it takes some effort to imagine our elected officials...