Outsourced Morality

True confession: I understand Trump voters. I come from that place. We’re the same people who voted for Andrew Jackson—duel-fighter, bigamist, slaveholder, and native-killer. As a matter of fact, when I was a kid, we would go to his plantation in Nashville, Tennessee on Sunday afternoons. The Hermitage. The story of Jackson told us that—no [Read More…]

The War of Positions and Communities of Resistance  

Antonio Gramsci was an early twentieth-century neo-Marxist who died in the 1930s as a result of imprisonment by the Italian Fascists. Gramsci described the inner-working of social systems as “the war of positions.” To simplify a bit, Gramsci thought that labels—cultural norms—create the positions oppressed groups must inhabit. These are the structures that keep certain [Read More…]

How Can You Say You Love Me?

The Rabbi Jeffrey Summit [of Tufts Hillel] tells a Hasidic story of the rabbi who watches two Russian peasants drinking together at an Inn. The first asks, “Boris, do you love me?” His friend replies, “Ivan, Do I love you, we’ve worked side by side on our farm for years. Of course I love you!” [Read More…]

Sharing in the Anthropocene 

My ethics in terms of economics comes from the first of the Humanist Manifestos: “Humanists demand a shared life in a shared world.” That’s foundational for me. I know that it’s idealistic, but that’s what ethical stances are for, idealism. This idealistic stance becomes more and more important to say out loud as we realize [Read More…]

When Hope Seems Silly

The life that no longer trusts another human being and no longer forms ties to the political community is not a human life any longer. ~Martha Nussbaum This summer of 2016 has been a summer of tragedy. Many are mentioning the summer of 1968 as the last time so much bad news crowded a season. [Read More…]

Aesop and the Story After Dallas

One of Aesop’s Fables goes like this: Lion once went once hunting with Fox, Jackal, and Wolf. They hunted and they hunted, and at last they surprised a stag, and soon took its life. Then came the question of how to divide the spoils of their hunt. “Rip the stag into four pieces!” roared Lion. [Read More…]

Black Lives Matter more than White Fear

Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. In Louisiana In Minnesota In Texas Black Lives Matter. When we commit to undoing the systemic racism that sets black people up for harassed and penalized existence, that sets police up for fearful lives, that sets us all up to be dehumanized – only then can the news change. [Read More…]

Beyond the Congeries of Banks: Finding a Moral Center

After the September 1938 Munich Pact with which the European democracies ceded territory to Nazi Germany in exchange for what turned out to be one more uneasy year of peace, poet T.S. Eliot wrote: We could not match conviction with conviction, we had no ideas with which we could either meet or oppose the ideas [Read More…]

You should start a meme, they said…

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Swing Vote in the Bitter Election: Reflections on Orlando

The recent massacre in the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida is unfortunately an example of why the oft-repeated phrase “the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice” is bad theology and dangerous magical thinking. While the phrase offers hope, it offers false hope, and President Obama, who loves the phrase coined by Theodore [Read More…]