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.
Anne Applebaum tells the stories of Wolfgang Leonhard and Markus Wolf. Both were sons of prominent German Communist families who were educated in the Soviet Union and were roommates in the same military camp. They had similar ideological educations and both came to understand that the communist system behind the Iron Curtain was failing to deliver on its utopian promise. But then their paths diverged.
Many have been waiting and wondering when, and if, leaders would emerge from the conservative strongholds like the military and the Republican Party to call out the childishness, narcissism, and boorishness that makes Donald Trump such a singularly disastrous President. It seems that the President’s decision to use the U.S. military to clear away protesters so he could have a photo op at St. John’s Episcopal Church...
Thirty-one years ago today the Chinese People’s Liberation Army forcibly cleared democracy protesters from Tiananmen Square. Marking that anniversary has been banned in China (something I found out the hard way when I foolishly wore an Amnesty International t-shirt onto Tiananmen Square on June 4th, 1991 and nearly got arrested).
Masha Gessen’s newest book argues that Donald Trump is paving the way for the end of American democracy and the rise of autocracy. Whether Gessen is right, their argument about how President Trump attacks language attacks a shared world of meaning necessary for democracy is right. Gessen founds their argument on insights from Hannah Arendt...
I’ve written about the controversy over the prosecution of Michael Flynn. On the one hand, the effort by the Trump administration to drop charges against Flynn smacks of an authoritarian interference with the independent judiciary and the rule of law. On the other hand, there are questions about the original prosecution itself as an overreach by security agencies.
With the shift to virtual classrooms during the pandemic many are questioning the necessity of physical campuses, and speculating about the future of online learning. But these speculations are shortsighted. They overlook the importance of physical space for learning, and they move from an understanding that education is something to be bought and sold. In reality, online learning fuels inequality, and is exacerbated by economic disparity...
In a tribute to her mentor Karl Jaspers, Hannah Arendt once said: “Humanity is never acquired in solitude, and never by giving one’s work to the public. It can be achieved only by one who has thrown his life and his person into the ‘venture into the public realm.’”
Whether George Floyd died from asphyxiation or some combination of “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression,” as the official Hennepin County autopsy has it, anyone can see that former police officer Derek Chauvin sat firmly on Mr. Floyd’s neck, left hand casually in his pocket as if bored, for over 8 minutes while three other officers calmly looked on.
Melvin Rogers argues that the protests and riots convulsing Minneapolis and the United States are about more than the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman. “The anger and rage on display in Minneapolis is not only about police violence, however. It is taking place against a broad horizon of state violence, which among other things takes the form of utter disregard for the pain of black Americans.”