After a terrible week in America, here are three good things
Plus a note on why almost all of my posts are now free
The horrendous massacre in Lewiston, Maine and the election of right-wing extremist Mike Johnson as House of Representatives speaker were just two of the low points of a grim week. I criticized Johnson’s ascendancy in my weekly Guardian column, noting some of the troubling reaction. An excerpt:
Shortly after Johnson’s election, a reporter asked President Biden if he is worried about whether, if he wins re-election next year, Johnson might try to overturn the election. “No, because he can’t,” Biden responded. “Just like I was not worried that the last guy would be able to overturn the election.” He added: “They had about 60 lawsuits … and every time they lost.”
But American democracy has edged ever closer to the brink since then. There’s no guarantee that the guardrails that held fast in 2020 would do so again four years later. And, let’s face it, if Trump is re-elected, they never will again.
As for Johnson himself, he wouldn’t address his shameful history of trying to overturn the election, according to the Hill newspaper. “Next question,” he insisted. His Republican colleagues booed the reporter who asked the very question that most needed asking, and told her to shut up.
However, since I promised something good in the headline here, I must deliver.
First, I was heartened to see that Scholastic Books wisely decided to do an about-face on its earlier appalling decision to separate “diverse” book titles from its regular offerings at school book fairs. Good move, even if it was forced by all the bad publicity about the so-called “bigot button” offered to school librarians and teachers. It was encouraging to see a company statement that acknowledged that lost trust now needs to be regained.
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Second, here’s something to counter all the misinformation, faked videos and propaganda that’s circulating, especially on Twitter (I will always call it Twitter, just as I will always say Sixth Avenue, not Avenue of the Americas). The Amsterdam-based nonprofit Bellingcat offers eight ways to sort through the mess — especially in a time of war — in this helpful piece.
Third, it was moving to hear former Trump aide Cassidy Hutchinson give credit to former Nixon aide Alexander Butterfield on a recent iGen Politics podcast. She was inspired by his role, during the Watergate hearings, in giving history-changing testimony about the recordings Nixon kept of his Oval Office conversations. “It was a really profound moment for me,” she said, about learning what Butterfield did. She also talked about her own soul-searching and “the most severe moral crossroads I ever encountered in my life.” All of this eventually caused her to testify against Trump during the second impeachment hearings. You can start at about the 35-minute mark.
Finally, a note to all subscribers (there now are more than 6,000): I am grateful for all of you, and recently have been making almost all of my posts free. I dislike paywalls, though I certainly understand why news organizations and individual writers need to have them. And I prefer to not try to trick people into paying for a subscription by truncating a post just when it is about to get interesting.
If you’d like to participate in the comments section, I welcome you as a paid subscriber. Please know that I read all the comments and respond to many of them. As a paid subscriber, you’ll also help to support this pro-democracy project. Thank you for caring about these issues.
Let me know in the comments what’s keeping you sane and lifting your spirits. As for me, I took a walk in Central Park where I read the poetry of Wisława Szymborska, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996. Highly recommended; choose your own park, of course.