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It has been a beautiful summer in Tel Aviv. As opposed to much of the world, the weather here remained moderate for most of the summer (with typical highs around 85 and lows around 75). With almost the entire city a maximum 30-minute walk from a beach, it's been a fine summer, despite the threat of a war with Gaza. As of the writing of this article, that threat my be receded, thanks to an announced agreement between Israel and Hamas initiating a one-year ceasefire, which might be the beginning of a longer-term agreement. Meanwhile, the economy continues to grow, even if it shows some signs of slowing. So why do so many of my fellow Tel Aviv residents seems so pessimistic?
For most of the largely secular, center-left residents of Tel Aviv, these past few weeks have been full of worrisome signs — starting with passage of the Nation-State Law three weeks ago, right through to a very disturbing announcement made on Wednesday night by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the country’s Defense Budget would be increased over the next 12 years, from $600 million to $1.2 Billion a year. That would represent not only an absolute increase, but a rise of .2—.3% as a percent of Israel GNP, reversing a multi-decade trend where Israel’s growing economy has lowered the relative defense burden.
Netanyahu’s declaration caught most people by surprise. Why now? What does it mean? One explanation suggests Netanyahu concluded Iran will obtain nuclear weapons and Israel must prepare for a Nuclear Middle East, with all that implies. Others think the planned increases in military allocations are just part of Netanyahu’s bunker mentality, i.e., “The whole world is against us, so we must be ready.”
The most benign explanation I heard asserts the announcement is only another election ploy. I was confused. “Wouldn’t a plan to end crowding in Israeli hospitals (during the winter months patients are often cared for in the halls) be a more effective election ploy?” I asked. “No,” my friend said, almost exasperated. “Don’t you get it? It’s almost pavlovian. You say, ‘Security’ and voters think — Bibi. So, whenever Netanyahu talks about increasing security, even if it means deficient health care, voter support will increase.”
Two seemingly unrelated, but, in fact very related, events took place earlier in the week that disturbed many. First, was a very public campaign by right-wing organizations (led by “Im Tirtzu,” which is said to have direct ties to the Prime Minister) against General Yair Golan, one of four candidates to become the next IDF Chief of Staff. Why? Golan’s sin was two-fold. During a speech he gave last year on Holocaust Memorial Day, after returning from Poland, Golan warned of signs within the Israeli society which “reminded him of Europe 50, 60, 70 years ago.” — i.e. how dare Golan says there might be any sign of fascism in Israel? Golan’s other comment, regarding which critics took offense was made years ago — when Golan affirmed it was an important value for the Israeli army to take risks, so as not to harm civilians. His opponents claimed that constituted a sign he did not care about the lives of his soldiers, and thus could not be Chief of Staff.
Second, was the detention of well-known journalist Peter Beinart for questioning by the Security Services, when he tried to enter the country last Sunday. Beinart who never made his views, as both a Zionist and fierce critic of the current government secret, was released after calling a lawyer. Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Security Services were quick to apologize. However, Beinart’s detention was only one in a series of similar recent incidents, where American Jewish critics of the current Israeli government’s policies have been questioned about their political views.
So what connects all of these events? Prime Minister Netanyahu. By announcing both an absolute and relative increase in the defense budget over the next 12 years, Netanyahu is declaring we are embattled, and will continue to be so. The Security Services that report directly to him understand the spirit of the moment. If we are embattled, obviously we cannot allow too much dissent. In war, liberties often take a back seat. And of course, under such circumstances, we cannot possibly have an army commander, who despite giving 38 years of his life in service of his country, might have the audacity to question — not his orders, but the direction the society.
Since its independence, 70 years ago, Israel has always strived to be a liberal democracy. That has not always been easy in a nation at war for all these years. It has constantly required a careful balance between liberty and true security fears. The fear today, is that burden of too many years of war, and politicians who exploit that fear, is slowly chipping away at the very foundations of the liberal society, whose liberties so many cherish.
Fumbleball: Gone from Canton, some fear for its future
Fumbleball is dead in Canton — not played in the city this spring and summer for the first season in almost 80 years. One league in North Canton has returned to the field after a year's absence with eight fumbleball teams that play two nights a week at Price Park.
Fumbleball. Outseam softball. Playground ball.
The game goes by many names, but no matter what you call the slow-pitch recreational sport, it seems in danger of dying.
Fumbleball is dead in Canton &mdash not played in the city this spring and summer for the first season in almost 80 years. One league in North Canton has returned to the field after a year&rsquos absence with eight fumbleball teams that play two nights a week at Price Park.
&ldquoLast year we had seven teams playing in the Central Cosmopolitan League,&rdquo said Tim Trbovich, interim director of Canton Joint Recreation District. &ldquoThree of those teams went to North Canton. One is playing slow-pitch. We only had two teams sign up. I&rsquom not sure where the others are. They may have just folded.&rdquo
The only other place in the country where fumbleball &mdash players there call it outseam softball &mdash appears to be played is in the area surrounding Milwaukee. The community of South Milwaukee, for example, has two leagues, &ldquoA&rdquo and &ldquoB.&rdquo The former consists of six teams and the latter five.
&ldquoI came to South Milwaukee in 1969 and they were playing outseam softball long before my arrival,&rdquo said Stan Dorff, South Milwaukee recreation director. &ldquoIt&rsquos still popular and people ask for it, but I remember when we were playing five nights a week.&rdquo
What once was called &ldquoplayground ball&rdquo &mdash it was even printed on the ball that had its seams stitched outward instead of inward &mdash was brought to Stark County in 1935. Clifford Schnake, Canton recreation director, and Myron &ldquoMynie&rdquo Robinson, the department&rsquos athletic director, had heard of it being played near Dearborn, Michigan.
By 1937, six leagues of six teams each were operating in Canton. Initially, by rule, participants had to be 35 years or older to play fumbleball.
&ldquoIt was originally designed for older players because the outer-seam softball doesn&rsquot travel as far as the slow-pitch softball,&rdquo said Trbovich. &ldquoBut within the last 10 years, deBeer, the manufacturer of the outseam ball, which we call the fumbleball, has changed the specifications for the ball, so it travels as far as a softball. It has become a power game, like slow pitch.&rdquo
When Schnake and Robinson originally brought the idea of playing fumbleball to The Repository, the newspaper publicized their effort and told readers what they might gain from playing the new sport. Canton Junior Chamber of Commerce helped organize sponsors for the first six-team league, which included squads from the city&rsquos police and fire departments.
Eventually, youngsters from sandlots and Class A baseball players became interested in the sport, so around 1970, Canton&rsquos recreation department lowered the minimum age for participating to 21.
&ldquoYounger Men Dominate Fast-Moving Fumbleball,&rdquo a headline in The Repository said over a June 14, 1970, story written by Greg Sbaraglia. &ldquoDesigned 35 years ago as a sport for sandlot players over 35, fumbleball has grown from a six-team league to a fast-paced game which is played by 55 Canton teams dominated by younger players.&rdquo
The golden era for fumbleball in Canton was the 1980s, said Ken Groves, District 10 American Softball Association events coordinator, who was introduced to the sport early in the 1970s and &ldquostayed with it for 20 years.&rdquo
&ldquoIn the heyday, we&rsquod play during the week and we had tournaments every weekend.&rdquo
The Repository reported in 1977 that Canton&rsquos recreation department offered 11 fumbleball leagues totaling 94 teams.
The interest in the sport remained strong for more than a decade after that article. According to a 1995 story in The Repository by sportswriter Steve Doerschuk, the powerhouse league in the 1970s and 1980s was the National Fumbleball League, followed in the 1990s by the Businessman&rsquos Fumbleball league.
Teams of legend from those periods are Walthers, Sports Page, Dr. Ungar, and Varsity Tavern.
&ldquoA lot of it was baby boomers &mdash an influx of players in both softball and fumbleball,&rdquo said Trbovich, who noted that this increased number of players three and four decades ago also is one of the factors leading to a relatively fewer number of players on the city&rsquos fumbleball and softball fields in more recent years.
&ldquoAs we all got older, we quit playing,&rdquo said Trbovich, who noted that the number of softball teams in Canton is down to 72 this season from a peak of more than 250.
Dorff said he is seeing a similar declining interest in softball in general on his fields in Wisconsin. The diminished numbers makes the continued existence of outseam softball even more important. It keeps players around longer.
&ldquoInstead of retiring at 30,&rdquo he said, &ldquoguys can play until they&rsquore 40 or 50 in fumbleball.&rdquo
But are they? Not in Canton, said Trbovich.
&ldquoThe last 10 years we&rsquove struggled to increase the number of teams and to maintain the old teams,&rdquo he said. &ldquoTen years ago, we had two leagues with a total of 10 to 12 teams. We&rsquove gone through years that we only had four or five teams. We just wanted to keep it going to see if we could build it up, but to no avail.&rdquo
Several reasons contribute to the declining interest, he said. There are more than distractions and obligations in people&rsquos lives. And too many leagues traditionally were ruled by teams that enlisted most of the good local players.
But the primary reason for the demise of fumbleball was the change in the ball, Trbovich reasoned.
&ldquoIt&rsquos the core. It&rsquos a cork center now, where before it was a wound center,&rdquo he said. &ldquoIt used to get out of round. Now it stays firm throughout the game.
The harder ball has fostered more home runs and increased scoring.
&ldquoIt changed the game,&rdquo said Trbovich. &ldquoTeams have practically outgrown the field at Stadium Park. It used to be that if you had a good defense you could stay in games that were 3-2 and 2-1. Then when it got to be a power game, some teams dropped out. The purists don&rsquot like scoring 10, 12, 15 runs a game.&rdquo
Jason Norch, who has played fumbleball for two decades and now is director of the new eight-team North Canton fumbleball league, acknowledges that more home runs are being hit.
&ldquoBack in the day when I started if there was a home run a year in a league that was something,&rdquo he said. &ldquoNow we have a four home run rule for a game.&rdquo
Norch still calls fumbleball a &ldquobetter game&rdquo than softball &mdash &ldquomore like baseball.&rdquo
Stealing bases is allowed in fumbleball, he noted. More strategy is involved in placing hits so they find their way through an infield often bolstered by a player brought in from the outfield.
Pitches come over home plate on a shallower arc than in softball, noted Tim Kidder, president of Eastern Stark County Umpires Association, who himself played fumbleball for 20 years before 2003.
&ldquoI did the usual progression of an aging player,&rdquo he joked. &ldquoI started in left field, came in to second base, moved to pitcher and ended up as a catcher.&rdquo
Two umpires are employed to call fumbleball games, and on the field with Kidder one recent contest was Angelo Mercorelli, the vice president of the umpires association and also a fumbleball player from 1979 to 2003.
&ldquoIt&rsquos a great game. You can steal bases and hit behind runners to advance the runner. It&rsquos a more pure game.&rdquo
Such strategy was exhibited in the game Mercorelli had just finished working. Aaron Howell, a 34-year-old player for the Buffalo Wild Wings team singled, stole second base, and scored on a subsequent hit.
&ldquoIt&rsquos a really attractive game if you&rsquove played baseball, said Howell. &ldquoI&rsquoll keep playing as long as I hold together.&rdquo
Still, no softball was played last summer at Price Park. This year, with reins turned over by North Canton&rsquos recreation department to an independent fumbleball organization led by Norch, league rules have shortened games from nine to seven innings. Rosters were expanded to 20 players to accommodate players&rsquo busy lives. Base paths were lengthened. And the number of dreaded home runs was limited.
The important aspects of the sport remain true to its original design, said Norch.
&ldquoI plan to keep it going for awhile. I think we&rsquove got a good combination of old teams we&rsquove had for awhile and new teams from Canton. I&rsquom pretty confident that as long as we want to play we&rsquoll be able to play.&rdquo
How much the influx in teams from Canton has helped strengthen the health of North Canton&rsquos league is perhaps best illustrated by Danny Boys, which last year, as Falcone&rsquos, finished last in the now-defunct Canton fumbleball league. This year, with the addition of several players, Danny Boys was undefeated as of the middle of last week and was standing atop the early-in-the-season standings.
Manager Joe Moauro, who remains passionate about the game regardless of the scoring, perhaps serves as a model of future players. But he has a link to the sport&rsquos past.
Moauro got started in fumbleball several years ago because his father, also Joe Moauro, played the sport. The younger Moauro helped talk his dad out of retirement.
&ldquoHe&rsquod been playing since the &rsquo70s,&rdquo said Moauro. &ldquoWe got him to come back and he was with us for seven or eight years. He finally hung it up two years ago. He was 51 when he last played.&rdquo
Exclusive: Half of counties fear they will not all be playing first-class cricket in 10 years
Fears for the future of English first-class cricket have been laid bare after a Telegraph Sport survey revealed half of the 18 counties do not believe they will all be playing the red-ball game in 10 years' time.
The confidential survey - which was completed by every county chief executive ahead of the start of the new Championship season on Thursday - also exposed the deep divisions within the game over the new Hundred competition, which launches in July. Responses revealed that:
- Only nine counties believe the Hundred will have a positive impact on domestic cricket
- The overwhelming majority are critical of the process by which the ECB launched their new flagship competition
- The majority believe that the current domestic schedule marginalises the Championship
The survey comes on the eve of a summer which will be pivotal for the domestic game in England. County cricket is emerging from a pandemic with losses of more than £100 million across the 18 clubs, with final financial results expected to paint a gloomy picture of the game's economic health when they are released at the end of this month. The 2020 season was played behind closed doors and the County Championship was cancelled for the first time outside war years.
The Hundred will be launched on July 21, taking over the school holiday period when counties will lose their best players to the new tournament and be left competing in the Royal London Cup, the least important of the domestic trophies. While the majority of counties believe the Hundred will be in existence in 2031, there was heavy criticism over how the ECB communicated with them as they developed the competition.
The survey was 100 per cent confidential, allowing county chief executives to answer anonymously and honestly about the issues facing the game. They describe a county circuit in shock after the pandemic but closer to its members, many of whom donated their subscriptions last year helping some clubs to survive.
Unprecedented cash injections from the ECB sustained the game, but hundreds of jobs have been lost with many of the bigger clubs left with empty, unused conference facilities they were encouraged to build to diversify their businesses away from cricket.
Producing England players remains the top priority of a third of counties, with the Championship still the most important competition to win. Surprisingly, only two counties put the Blast Twenty20 competition as their main priority.
There is an overwhelming belief the County Championship adequately prepares players for Test cricket but divisions over its future structure. The championship will be played again using a three conference format this season with a decision over its future expected later this year. In total 44 per cent answered they prefer a conference format, 33 per cent promotion and relegation and 22 per cent were unsure.
There was unanimous support for the ECB’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and the help the board has given the counties. All respondents ranked the ECB’s handling of the pandemic as good or very good.
But despite the handouts to the counties, a bleak picture is painted of how the pandemic has affected livelihoods and led to redundancies, mental health problems and put expansion plans on hold indefinitely.
One chief executive wrote the impact of the pandemic had produced "lots more work for the club psychologist across playing and non-playing staff".
Another said it had been "a very difficult time for staff with pay cuts and a number of redundancies across the business due to the significant reduction in revenue and profit caused by the pandemic, which we are expecting to last through 2021. A number of projects to improve stadium facilities have unfortunately been shelved as we have looked to protect cash and there is uncertainty around when and if these projects can go ahead."
Analysis: Divisions run deep ahead of English cricket's seismic summer
Telegraph Sport's survey of all 18 county chief executives covered the four key issues facing the domestic game ahead of the new season. Here, we analyse the responses we received.
There was widespread praise for the board’s handling of the Covid pandemic, in part because the entire England 2020 season was played. That ensured there was not a £300million loss in broadcast revenue, while the ECB also propped up county and grassroots cricket with £96.7million funding.
The board also paid the £1.3million Hundred dividend despite the tournament’s postponement. The handling of the Covid crisis restored some relationships fractured by the Hundred concept, a point underlined by the fact that every response to the question asking counties to rate the ECB's performance were positive.
However, county chief executives painted a grim picture of job losses, mental health issues among staff members and fears for this summer if there is another spike in infection rates. The mood was summed up by one response which read: "It has been an extraordinarily difficult period across the game and probably the most challenging in our history."
Others offered a more detailed analysis of the toll taken by the pandemic. "Devastating," wrote one executive. "£4m revenue losses, 20 per cent staff redundancies, no Members and supporters in the ground for more than 12 months but [there is] a determination to bounce back strongly."
Another said the effects of the shutdown would be felt for years to come. "A near 20 per cent reduction to our headcount of permanent staff was the result of an immensely difficult but sadly necessary programme of redundancies, and this is something that will make us a different organisation as we rebuild and restructure," they wrote.
A big majority of counties believe the Hundred is here to stay. The rights deal, and the ECB’s determination to make it a success by pumping more marketing money into the competition than any other in English cricket’s history has increased confidence.
Indian players would make a huge difference and talks are underway to make that happen. Do not rule out foreign investment in the Hundred franchises or, as Telegraph Sport revealed, IPL franchises taking a chunk of Hundred teams. The Hundred will look very different in the future.
There was criticism from counties over the ECB's communications with them in the development of the competition. The ECB’s secrecy, forcing counties to sign NDAs, and changing the new tournament from Twenty20 to the Hundred caused widespread dismay at the time.
Only six thought the ECB's handling of the process was either “good” or “very good”. Introducing a new competition was always going to be divisive and ugly but a lack of openness at the time did not help.
When asked what the impact of the Hundred will be on county cricket, there was a mixed response. Only nine counties believe it will be positive, while seven thought it would be negative - presumably because it would sideline the Blast on which most counties rely for income - and two did not offer a response.
Counties will lose their best players to the Hundred and the smaller counties fear the competition will increase the divide between Test grounds and the rest.
The County Championship
The Championship and producing England players are the most important goals for counties. When asked to rank their priorities at the start of the season, only two put the Blast as their main priority and not one county ticked winning the Royal London Cup as a priority - further proof that the 50-over format, in which England are world champions, has been usurped at domestic level by Twenty20.
There is overwhelming pride in the standard of the Championship. In total 83.3 percent (15 out of 18) believe it prepares players adequately for Test cricket, which is in contrast to some who work at international level.
Joe Root last year told Telegraph Sport he would prefer to see flatter pitches so batsmen learn to build an innings and bowlers how to perform on surfaces more akin to those at international level but counties believe they are doing a good job in producing players ready for Test cricket.
While winning the title remains a priority for many, in total 11 of 18 agreed they adhere to a schedule that marginalises the tournament.
There will be nine rounds of the championship this summer before the first week of June, two in July and the rest once white ball cricket has finished at the end of August. There is no question the schedule hinders first-class cricket but the counties are just as much to blame because they want to squeeze as much Twenty20 cricket into the calendar as possible. The poor old championship pays the price.
There were also divisions around what format is best for the Championship. This year there will be a conference system with counties split into three seeded groups of six. Each county will play the other counties in their group both home and away - a total of 10 matches.
At the end of the group stage, the top two counties in each group will progress to Division One. The other 12 will move into Divisions Two and Three. The Championship title will be decided by the team that finishes top of Division One. The top two teams in Division One will play for the Bob Willis Trophy in a five-day final at Lord’s.
Simple? No. Some counties want to retain the promotion-relegation two division structure that has been in place for 20 years. Others are unsure. A lot will depend on how the championship goes this summer.
When asked by Telegraph Sport in 2019 whether all 18 counties would be playing first-class cricket in a decade, there was a more positive response, with a 10-7 majority saying all the counties would be (one county declined to take part).
A combination of the Hundred and the pandemic has left the game divided, with a 50-50 response this time.
It is still hard to see how a county can survive while not playing Championship cricket, or stay relevant, but the ECB will not be the lender of last resort for much longer and a game that carried huge debt before the pandemic is facing tougher times now.
Our readers' views
Only one in four county cricket fans surveyed by the Telegraph want to attend the Hundred this season and an overwhelming majority believe it will damage the domestic game.
A survey of almost 800 Telegraph Sport readers has revealed dissatisfaction over how the traditional forms of the game have been damaged by the advent of new formats. The growth of franchise tournaments such as the IPL and Big Bash have left only 13 per cent believing that the game’s leading players see Test cricket as their priority.
This follows a winter when England players missed Test matches in India but will play a full IPL season, even potentially missing a series at home against New Zealand.
The survey was formed of 18 questions about the state of the game from international level down to grassroots. When asked whether they agreed with the notion that England have Test cricket as their priority this year, with the Ashes looming this winter, 584 respondents, 74 per cent, either "disagreed" or "strongly disagreed".
But there is also exasperation with the big three of England, Australia and India dominating the game financially, with 309 readers believing a better distribution of the game’s wealth would preserve the future of Test cricket.
The Test World Championship has not caught on despite the final taking place in England between India and New Zealand in June, with only 11.4 per cent believing that committing to the competition would help protect Test cricket’s future.
With that in mind, 515 said they fear for the future of Test cricket with many (401) believing tickets are too expensive, although the majority rated the experience of attending a match as good or very good.
It is the Hundred that is viewed with the greatest scepticism. The ECB has launched the tournament to reach a new audience, rather than existing cricket fans, and with 10 matches shown by the BBC it will arguably be given a higher profile than England’s international summer.
But only 183 respondents said they intend to attend a Hundred fixture in its first year and the majority do not believe the ECB have introduced it to reach a new audience. Instead, 67 per cent believe it has been devised to make money for the ECB, although the board will argue that is a positive because they reinvest back into the game.
The Championship remains the main goal of readers (41 per cent said they are county members) with 665 putting it down as the tournament they want to see their team win. However a majority (403) believe county cricket has not improved over the past decade.
3. The fear of failure
This fear marks another reason why some fail to succeed. "My life didn't go exactly as planned and I'm sure yours hasn't either," explains Smith. "Even if you have already built a plan for your life, you can't see the future. You can try to predict it all you want, but there are just some things outside of your control."
He adds, "That said, it's a great practice to identify the things you can control in your bravery journey and to focus on them. This will allow you to stop focusing on the life happenings you have no control over."
Address in Philadelphia at the Dedication of the Chapel of the Four Chaplains
Dr. Poling, associate chaplains, and ladies and gentlemen:
This chapel commemorates something more than an act of bravery or courage. It commemorates a great act of faith in God.
The four chaplains whose memory this shrine was built to commemorate were not required to give their lives as they did. They gave their lives without being asked. When their ship was sinking, they handed out all the life preservers that were available and then took off their own and gave them away in order that four other men might be saved.
Those four chaplains actually carried out the moral code which we are all supposed to live by. They obeyed the divine commandment that men should love one another. They really lived up to the moral standard that declares: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
They were not afraid of death because they knew that the word of God is stronger than death. Their belief, their faith, in His word enabled them to conquer death.
This is an old faith in our country. It is shared by all our churches and all our denominations. These four men represented the Protestant, the Catholic, and the Jewish beliefs. Each of these beliefs teaches that obedience to God and love for one’s fellow man are the greatest and strongest things in the world.
We must never forget that this country was founded by men who came to these shores to worship God as they pleased. Catholics, Jews, and Protestants, all came here for this great purpose.
They did not come here to do as they pleased–but to worship God as they pleased, and that is a most important distinction.
The unity of our country comes from this fact. The unity of our country is a unity under God. It is a unity in freedom, for the service of God is perfect freedom.
If we remember our faith in God, if we live by it as our forefathers did, we need have no fear for the future.
Today, many people have become full of fear. If we reaffirm our common faith we can overcome these fears.
This does not mean that we can always be sure what the future will bring. We cannot always know what the outcome of events will be. President Lincoln once said, “The Almighty has His own purposes.”
But we need not be afraid of the outcome if we go on trying to do the right thing as God gives us to see the right.
That is what we are trying to do in the world today. We are trying to establish world peace, so that all men can live together in brotherhood and in freedom. And to do that, we are working with other nations to create the rule of law in the world.
And what does this rule of law mean? Let me give you an example. In the early days of our western frontier, law and order were not yet established. Disputes were settled in favor of the man who was quickest on the draw. Outlaws terrorized whole communities.
Men who wanted to see law and order prevail had to combine against the outlaws. They had to arm themselves. At times they had to fight. And after they had put down lawless violence, the courts took over and justice was established. And then it was possible for all citizens to get on with the important work of building up their own communities, paving the streets and building schools, and giving all the people a chance at the right kind of life.
That is just what we are trying to do today in the international field. If we can put a stop to international aggression, order can be established and the people of the world can go ahead full speed with the constructive tasks of peace.
We are not trying to do this job by ourselves. We could not do it by ourselves if we tried. We are acting as one member of a whole community of nations dedicated to the concept of the rule of law in the world. As in all other communities, the members of this community of nations have many different ideas and interests and do not all speak with one voice. Some are cautious and some are impatient.
We cannot always have our own way in this community. But we have a tremendous responsibility to lead and not to hang back.
Fate has made this country a leader in the world. We shirked our responsibility in the 1920’s. We cannot shirk it now. We must assume that responsibility now, and it will take everything we have–all the brains and all the resources that we can mobilize.
Leadership carries with it heavy responsibilities. Good leaders do not threaten to quit if things go wrong. They expect cooperation, of course, and they expect everyone to do his share, but they do not stop to measure sacrifices with a teaspoon while the fight is on.
We cannot lead the forces of freedom from behind.
The job we face is a hard one. Perhaps it will be harder in the few years immediately ahead than it will be in the years thereafter. If we can get over the present crisis successfully–if we can restrain aggression before it bursts into another world war, then things will be easier in the future. And I think we can do this. We can’t be sure, of course, but there is good reason to hope for success.
In recent months the United Nations has been faced with a serious challenge. But it is meeting that challenge courageously, and it is still man’s best hope of establishing the rule of law in the world.
General Eisenhower has brought home the report that the people of Europe, in spite of their difficulties and their many problems, want to preserve their freedom. He has told us of the effort they are making. They are working very hard, and if we all work together, we can be successful.
When things look difficult, there are always a lot of people who want to quit. We had people like that in the Revolutionary War, and we have had them in every war and every crisis of our history. Thomas Paine called them summer soldiers and sunshine patriots. If we had listened to them, we would never have been a free and independent nation. We would never have had a strong and prosperous country. We would not be strong enough now to stand up against Communist aggression and tyranny.
The sacrifices that are being made today by the men and women of this country are not being made in vain. Our men are in Korea because we are trying to prevent a worldwide war. The men who have died in Korea have died to save us from the terrible slaughter and destruction which another world war would surely bring.
Their sacrifices are being made in the spirit of the four chaplains in whose memory this chapel is dedicated. They are being made in defense of the great religious faiths which make this chapel a place of worship. These sacrifices are being made for the greatest things in this life, and for the things beyond this life.
I have faith that the great principles for which our men are fighting will prevail.
George Kirk in Star Trek (2009)
Captain Kirk’s dad makes the list without having spent a single moment with his kid—at least in the alternate timeline of the J. J. Abrams-produced Star Trek movies. When a Romulan vessel from the future threatens the Federation starship Kelvin, first officer George Kirk does the only thing he can: he personally smashes the Kelvin into the invading ship in order to buy time for his crew to flee in escape shuttles (the autopilot tragically, but unsurprisingly, disabled). Among that crew is his wife, Winona, now prematurely in labor. Not only does dad (played by none other than Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth) sacrifice his life for his newborn son, but he passes on some truly impressive genes to a kid who ultimately grows into Chris Pine.
Where to stream: Digital rental
Are We Moving Towards a Better Society—or Regressing?
A s someone who was born in Prague in 1937, I can assure you that the human race has confronted, and endured, darker times. But today it often feels as though the world is getting better and worse at the same time.
Compared to a generation ago, we have made gains in reducing extreme poverty, increasing access to education and curbing hunger. But sadly, democratic progress has stalled, and hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people are at risk from conflict, climate change and pandemic disease. The most serious challenges are interrelated. A deteriorating climate will aggravate economic problems that will, in turn, generate new threats to security. Technology, if used wisely, can improve the lives of billions of people if misused, it has the potential to destroy us all. That is why good governance is so important and why the antidemocratic trends we are witnessing are so disturbing.
I am often asked whether I am an optimist or a pessimist. I am an optimist who worries a lot. I am an optimist because I believe people have shown the capacity to accomplish great things when they are willing to work together regardless of differences. I worry because I see so many politicians trying to augment their power by exploiting fears and driving people apart.
Democracy can be fragile and is far from perfect, but it is also resilient. Most of us desire what only democracy can deliver, including the right to participate in choosing our leaders and in shaping the laws by which we are governed. When people are dissatisfied, it is usually because they want their democracies to be more effective and responsive, not because they wish to live under a dictator. That gives me hope.
Madeleine Albright, the United States Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001, is the author of the forthcoming Hell and Other Destinations.
R ight now, we are asking ourselves: Who&rsquos an American, and what should America look like? Over time, white nationalists have murdered and injured more Americans than any other political or ideological extremist group. When you look at the rise of hate and violence, it&rsquos easy to believe that we are regressing. But I&rsquom going to paint another picture: What we are seeing is a backlash against the gains for racial justice and gender equity and against the attempts to address the income inequality that has worsened over the last seven decades. This backlash is intense. It must be taken seriously, but it&rsquos not a regression yet. It becomes a regression only if the majority of Americans who believe in inclusive democracy, the idea of a people-centered, accountable and transparent government, remain silent or immobilized.
This is a story with a very long arc. We can&rsquot let our fear immobilize us from doing what we owe those who came before us, and those who will come after us.
Those who are victims of hate violence have done nothing more than dream of better futures for their children, and for their communities. They are innocents, and it is always heartbreaking to see life so cheaply dismissed. That has been part of the history of the United States, but it doesn&rsquot have to be part of our future. This is a story with a very long arc. We can&rsquot let our fear immobilize us from doing what we owe those who came before us, and those who will come after us. Now it&rsquos up to our generation to move from backlash to opportunity in America.
I think of the young daughter of George Floyd, the unarmed African American man whose murder by police in Minneapolis launched the largest civil rights movement that we&rsquove ever experienced in this country. You see her on video, sitting on the shoulders of a family friend, saying, &ldquoDaddy changed the world.&rdquo When I heard that, I thought to myself, yeah, your dad did change the world. He didn&rsquot deserve to be killed to change the world, but it is what happened. And we can&rsquot change that. But the one promise we can keep to her is that we owe her that better world.
As a non-Jewish person speaking to the Jewish community, I would say: We have a long and heavy road to undo systemic anti-Semitism and the unconscious bias that comes from it. Anti-Semitism is deeply rooted in the world, and it is deeply rooted here in the United States. One of its purposes is to scapegoat and exploit the Jewish community by positioning it as a buffer between the haves and the have-nots. When the have-nots get frustrated, rather than seeking grievance and redress from those who actually have the power to change systems, some of them direct that frustration toward the Jewish community, typically in very physically violent ways. Anti-Semitism also hurts and kills non-Jews&mdashand undermines the idea of and the belief in democracy.
And now we have COVID-19 on top of this wave of white nationalist vigilante violence, and no response from the federal government. Add to that economic depression and staggering unemployment numbers. This type of chaos and lack of leadership prompts people to ask questions to which we know the easiest answer has always been anti-Semitism. That&rsquos why we see anti-Semitic attacks that accuse Jews of spreading COVID-19 and then tell people that the vaccine for COVID-19, when it comes out, could be dangerous because it is part of a Jewish conspiracy.
So, are we moving forward or moving back? When I look at younger generations, I don&rsquot see anything that should suggest to the Jewish community that a long-term regression is likely. What I witness as an outsider is a modern Jewish renaissance through writers, thought leaders, artists and new faith voices. It is inspiring, and it is quite visible. When I hear these voices and see these faces across society, I can&rsquot help but think we will bring ourselves into the promised land.
Eric Ward, a civil rights activist, is the executive director of the Western States Center and a senior fellow at Race Forward.
F rom the long view, it&rsquos pretty clear that as a society and as a species, humans are moving forward, becoming more kind and less violent. We&rsquore more likely to treat our pets kindly. We identify with them more we behave as if they have emotions that need to be respected. The Judeo-Christian God has gotten distinctly kinder and less violent since he kicked his humans out of the Garden of Eden. Per capita, people are less likely to die violently than they were 500 years ago. Not that there aren&rsquot horrible events. We&rsquore more capable of committing genocide efficiently, and climate change may kill us all, but as a species, we are bending slowly toward more empathy.
That said, one thing I think we are losing is the power of living and working within small face-to-face communities like the ones in which humans evolved. These communities were often quite violent in defending themselves against apparent threats from other groups like them. But the small community also can provide a moral structure for the group, a shared understanding of how one should act and a sense that the people within the group really matter. Clearly, this cuts in two directions&mdashfor example, the group&rsquos set of beliefs about sexuality can have clear negative consequences for people who are different from those norms. Yet it&rsquos also something that everybody understands, whereas a universal morality can unsettle people who feel that they&rsquore not sure what proper behavior is. Unsettled people can become angry people. Rules can help a group to function and help its members identify with one another, and I think we have lost some of that.
What it means to be a member of a community has radically changed with the internet, freedom to travel and open borders. On one hand, this has produced this wonderful sense of inclusion, in which all people have equal rights and equal status. On the other hand, that&rsquos not something humans do well, so we&rsquore working against the odds. It&rsquos a wonderful vision of how the world should be, and so much not the way our species has evolved. So we&rsquoll see.
T. M. Luhrmann is a professor of anthropology at Stanford. Her books include When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God and the forthcoming How God Becomes Real: Kindling the Presence of Invisible Others.
P rogress always happens in fits and starts, not a straight line. We hope that it&rsquos two steps forward, rather than the reverse. Right now as far as public health is concerned, we are at an inflection point. After World War II, humanity in general, and the global health and development community in particular, saw the skeletons coming out of concentration camps, the firebombing in Dresden and the mushroom clouds in Japan, and collectively shuddered. Without a big meeting, each country and each person agreed to give up a little sovereignty in order to make the world a better place so we could live together and say &ldquoNever again.&rdquo
From this arose an alphabet soup&mdashthe UN, UNICEF, FAO, NATO, WHO, the EU, international societies of scientists, a proliferation of alliances and treaties&mdashwhich kept the world from a war for the next 70 years and were the glue that bonded us together. We helped set the table for increasing democracy. Alliances of democracies fought off fascism and totalitarianism, foreign aid helped developing countries, and the field of global health burgeoned. It was the Golden Age of international cooperation.
That&rsquos changed. From the social cohesion that arose from centripetal forces bringing us together, there&rsquos arisen a centrifugal force splitting us apart into nationalism, provincialism, neofascism, hegemony, oligarchy. The world today is less safe, less fair. The global health compact is frayed. The pandemic should be uniting us, but it is exacerbating divisions. It&rsquos patently self-defeating to not work with everyone else during a pandemic. Albert Einstein said, &ldquoNo problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.&rdquo That&rsquos certainly true in global health. You can&rsquot solve a pandemic at the local level.
I think this pandemic is a test of whether the centripetal forces or the centrifugal forces are stronger. It&rsquos a test to see whether we care enough about people who are a different color, religion, race or economic status. Do we care enough about them to invest in public health? We will see if we pass this test, because it&rsquos not going to be the last. We now live in the age of pandemics, and there will be more.
The next several months are going to be very, very difficult. Worldwide we will pass a million deaths by the end of the year in the United States 300,000 of our brothers and sisters, parents and children will have died from this virus. We will be facing winter: the cooling of the weather, being indoors where the virus propagates more easily. When we enter flu season it will be difficult for physicians to differentiate early stages of flu from COVID. Then we have Halloween, the election, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year&rsquos Day. Every one of these events bring us together out of our isolation. Will we be wearing face masks, hand-washing and social distancing?
But I&rsquom very optimistic about what will happen about six months later when we&rsquoll likely get a vaccine, even though we&rsquore going to mess up the launch. We&rsquoll have more tools to deal with this pandemic. We&rsquoll have a whole batch of point-of-care diagnostics that are very rapid, very inexpensive, very accurate. We will have more treatments: steroids, some antivirals and advanced forms of convalescent plasma&mdashalthough not the way Trump described it. And we will soon have enough different kinds of vaccines that we&rsquoll be able to do something like what we did with polio and smallpox. Not eradication, probably, but global vaccination programs that will bring us toward herd immunity and a measure of control. I think we will start living more normal lives by summer or fall. That&rsquos when it becomes imperative for us to rejoin the world.
But the United States with &ldquoAmerica First&rdquo has made us alone America has removed itself from the world, withdrawn from the World Health Organization and from many of the treaties that we had entered into. This is a very important election. It&rsquos important for America and the world that America rejoin it as a reliable, trustworthy partner with integrity. After battling each other in two World Wars, looking over the brink of the abyss time and time again, and pulling apart, we found something that brought us together. We need to do that again. We need America to rejoin the community of nations.
Larry Brilliant is an epidemiologist, technologist, philanthropist and author, known for his work with the World Health Organization helping to successfully eradicate smallpox.
T he question can&rsquot be answered because there are many dimensions of well-being, and they don&rsquot always move in the same direction. Advances in science and technology are unstoppable, and so there will be continued headway in longevity, including beating back the COVID-19 pandemic. The human species has always been vulnerable to pandemics, but this one is likely to be defeated more rapidly and with fewer deaths than earlier pandemics such as the Spanish flu and smallpox.
In the political realm, we are seeing the reversion to authoritarianism, nationalism and tribalism in the authoritarian populist movement of Donald Trump. That is likely to recede because of the demographics. Support for populism declines with generational cohorts: the younger the cohort, the less support. As older generations die off and are replaced by younger ones, it&rsquos likely that nationalism will decline as well.
And with it, the revival of the racism and nativism that Trump has taken out from under the long-standing taboo will decline. The data suggest that overt racism&mdashthat is, people who actually endorse segregation or oppose interracial marriage, or who hold derogatory views of African Americans&mdashhas been in decline for many decades, and that has continued through the Trump years. Measures of implicit bias have also been in decline for as long as they&rsquove been measured. That will probably accelerate now that millennial and Gen Z cohorts&rsquo antiracism has become our new religion, as Columbia University professor John McWhorter has put it.
Some might object that demographics may not foretell trends because people get more conservative, and perhaps more racist, as they age. But the data suggest that that&rsquos not the case: People, by and large, carry their political values with them as they age. A complementary fear is that the antiracist religion, if it takes over a generation and becomes the status quo, could impede the classic liberal search for progress via policy improvements. If the underlying ideology is that there is a zero-sum conflict between races and genders and that the only path to progress is by wresting power from the dominant white male heterosexual faction and handing it over to females and minorities, as opposed to promoting values of equal rights and policy reform, that may not be a recipe for societal improvement. That could generate unproductive conflict and leave many of the root causes unaddressed, such as inequities in education.
No one knows what the best policy solutions are a priori. Opinions must be shaped by analysis, criticism, debate and empirical data.
More generally, this ideology is an alternative to the enlightenment-inspired driver of progress, which is to treat society as a set of phenomena, including problems, which we don&rsquot understand and must struggle to explain. To reach those explanations one must have open debate and the freedom to propose hypotheses and have them publicly evaluated. None of us knows what the best policy solutions are a priori. Our opinions must be shaped by analysis, criticism, debate and empirical data. That entire mindset is threatened by a woke ideology that is certain of the truth, intolerant of disagreement and that uses moral condemnation rather than policy improvement as a vehicle to progress. On the other hand, even though we associate woke ideology with the millennials and Gen Z, no generation is monolithic. If there is a renewed commitment to liberalism and enlightenment ideals, then it&rsquos possible that the beneficial trends that we have observed&mdashthe decline of racism and sexism, the decline of war and violence, the increase in longevity and health and education&mdashcould continue.
I suspect the white nationalist movement and its eruptions of hostility toward Jews will decline, again because of the demographics. Society is becoming more diverse, more urban, better educated and younger, and among those demographics, bigotry is deeply uncool. White nationalism is not absent in younger generations, but it&rsquos not a phenomenon of the young. And despite the publicity that has grown around anti-Semitic hate crimes, the FBI data suggest that overall trends for hate crimes are down. There was an uptick starting in 2017, but anti-Jewish hate crimes are still lower than they were in the 1990s and early 2000s. I always advise not drawing conclusions about trends from highly publicized incidents such as rampage shootings. Just because they get saturation coverage at the time does not mean that they are trends. We can ascertain trends only from year-to-year data, particularly data from disinterested organizations rather than advocacy groups.
Steven Pinker is a professor of psychology at Harvard University whose books include The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined and The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature.
J udaism believes that we are ultimately moving toward a messianic age and that, in fact, things will get much worse before we reach that point. We believe we are somewhere in the chain of moving toward that perfected world, which gives us hope for the future and also allows us to situate ourselves in a chain that includes our great-great-great-grandparents and our great-great-great-grandchildren. Jewish history has had some really terrible points and a few better moments. And through all of it, we as a Jewish people keep the long view.
There is a Jewish concept called Yerida letzorech aliya: &ldquoWe have to go down in order to go up.&rdquo Right now we&rsquore at an extremely low point, with a government that violates all norms of society and is regularly acting to destroy democracy. We&rsquore living under what I would call an aspirational autocracy. We have a government that doesn&rsquot seem to care if Americans die and is doing absolutely everything wrong in dealing with the current pandemic. And, of course, this government attacks people of color and immigrants and makes anti-Semitism and misogyny okay. So we&rsquore at a very low point.
But at this low point, we start to feel the birth pains of redemption. Millions of people are on the street standing up for Black lives. People are politically involved as never before. Ideas are gaining acceptance that once were considered radical. For example, creating a society in which our safety is not entirely entrusted to a police force, and rethinking what safety actually means in society, whether that&rsquos about increasing mental health resources or universal healthcare. These are openings to create a society that actually values the health, safety and dignity of every single person in it. The challenge for all of us is whether we are going to move toward that society or get stuck in the depths. It&rsquos not a steady forward move. It&rsquos a little bit forward, a little bit back, sometimes a lot back.
But we as Jews believe that even if it&rsquos going to take generations to get there, ultimately we&rsquore moving toward a better society. We have a lot in our tradition about how to build a just society. There&rsquos a broader picture that we can rely on to ultimately bring about that messianic age.
Jill Jacobs is a Conservative rabbi and executive director of T&rsquoruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, and author of among other books, There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice Through Jewish Law and Tradition.
F or a religious individual, your question is equivalent to asking whether, as a society, we are coming closer to or further from the service of God. The answer depends less on empirical data than on our differing, probably incommensurable, ideas of God and what He requires of us. In most areas, my thoughts are no doubt consistent with those of Orthodox believers.
However, two observations may resonate with those who do not subscribe to my religious commitments. First, middle-class Americans and Westerners have grounded their sense of security in their trust in democracy and in material progress. We could look with relative equanimity at the decay of many personal virtues, confident that democratic procedures and values would prevent political and social chaos. And we could expect technical innovations to improve our standard of living steadily, keeping us satisfied and the lower classes content and guardedly optimistic about their prospects.
Right now, faith in the inevitability and benefits of democracy is shaky. Caveats about the democratic ideal raised by thinkers from Plato and Aristotle to The Federalist Papers and Alexis de Tocqueville, and after, were never put to rest. These include the potential sway of demagoguery and celebrity and the tyranny of ignorance, herd mentality and irresponsible partisanship. These are not transient dangers, but rather, the potential for disaster inherent to the system. That we have done this well so far is a fortunate contingency. In a deeply divided society, we cannot take for granted that the institutions we value will continue to protect us from ourselves.
Second, in our prosperity and comfort, we detected no downside to progress that could not be overcome by more advanced and more prudent scientific application. We should have recognized, for example, that global mobility plus our methods of animal farming would make new, rapidly spreading diseases common and that sooner or later we would be visited by plagues that outstrip our short-range defenses. On so many fronts, the effects of environmental change threaten to undermine our expectation of materialistic triumphalism and thus exacerbate the anxiety of the well-to-do and the resentment of those who are not.
All this means that the future will pose a genuine test of our social virtue. We will be forced to cooperate, to compromise, even to sacrifice, without the confidence that a political or technological deus ex machina will save us if we fail.
For a religious Jew, stepping into this future engenders additional thoughts. The partial moratorium on Jew hatred in the West after the Holocaust has expired. The phenomena I describe are likely to intensify the scapegoating of my people. I fear for our physical safety and I also fear that what we have done to rescue and rehabilitate Jewish religious life in the past 75 years will be swept away. I am uncertain and afraid, but my task remains to build up religious individuals and the communities in which they can survive and, I hope, thrive.
Shalom Carmy, an Orthodox rabbi, teaches Bible and Jewish philosophy at Yeshiva University and is a scholar at Cardozo Law School. He is the editor emeritus of Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought.
E verything happens in the present, including the future. The future has no existence in itself. It&rsquos a mental construct that we&rsquove all become used to. Mental constructs are what the poet William Blake called &ldquomind-forg&rsquod manacles.&rdquo
Our cells live in the present moment, coordinating literally hundreds of thousands of chemical reactions per second. Our brains live only in the present, so when we remember the past or look ahead to the future, we are abandoning the here and now. Memories are powerful and give the impression that we have gone back in the past. The future is an imaginary vehicle for looking ahead either pessimistically or optimistically. Both moods are transient and depend on collective sentiments.
The value of dropping the conventional concept of the future is that we are freed from worry and uncertainty, two of the most crippling conditions in modern life. In reality, the world has always been a place of dramatic extremes encompassing bliss and suffering. I&rsquom not saying that we shouldn&rsquot do everything we can to relieve pain, suffering, racism, prejudice and injustice. One might say that the strong Jewish strain of philanthropy and progressivism in social affairs is rooted, first, in the memory of enormous Jewish suffering and persecution, and second, in the absence of a future afterlife (there are variants of this belief in different traditions of Judaism, I know, but most Jews don&rsquot have an expectation of salvation in Heaven).
This focus on leading a morally upright life here and now has the potential to motivate us to live in the present. In the Indian tradition, the present is the eternal now. It is therefore timeless, stripped of any illusions about past and present. It is timeless and right in front of our noses, both at once.
In a word, what matters isn&rsquot our opinion about society advancing or sliding backward. What matters is our state of awareness. As consciousness expands, the possibilities for improving everyone&rsquos life expand. If consciousness contracts out of fear, confusion, uncertainty and pessimism, the possibilities for improving your life also contract. This will lead to very different tomorrows, but the seed of tomorrow is planted by our state of awareness today.
Deepak Chopra is a clinical professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego, and the author of more than 90 books, most recently Total Meditation: Practices in Living the Awakened Life.
I n my field, economic history, I&rsquove noticed something curious: When I talk to my students about technological progress and institutional change, the assumption is that technology is getting better and better over time because it&rsquos cumulative, but that institutions can get better or worse with equal probability. Over history, that&rsquos exactly what has happened. Technology is getting better, and institutions are getting worse.
Nobody in his right mind would argue that technology today isn&rsquot better than it was at the time of Shakespeare. But are worldwide institutions better? Well, in some places they are in some places, they&rsquore not. If you look, say, just at the Western world over the last hundred years, have institutions been getting better? In some ways they have: We thought democracy was spreading, more freedom of the press, more freedom of expression, women&rsquos rights, things like that. And then you look around and all of a sudden you see that many of these things are dissipating and disappearing, and democracy retreating in the last 20 years in a whole host of countries. We thought nationalism had basically disappeared after its disastrous costs in World War I and World War II. And so for a generation after World War II, nationalism, tribalism, populism, anti-Semitism, all of these things were barely visible in the Western world, and now they seem to be appearing everywhere.
It&rsquos not Germany in the 1930s, but if you look at the world&mdashTurkey, Hungary, Poland, Brazil&mdashthere seems to be an inclination to go back to autocracies that suppress opposition, that arrest opponents and that become self-perpetuating. Four years ago, I would have said, well, that might happen in a bunch of countries it would never happen in the United States. Now, nobody is sure.
Another example: Corruption is one of the most striking symptoms of nations that have bad institutions. Every country has a little bit of corruption, but degree is everything. When you measure the corruption around the world going back 20 years, it&rsquos not getting any better. In some places, corruption is going down a little bit and in some places, corruption is going up, but worldwide, I would have a very hard time saying the world is getting less corrupt. That&rsquos scary.
The concern is even bigger because while technology keeps getting better and institutions don&rsquot, the gap between them is growing. So ever more powerful societies are managed and led by people who are not trustworthy and may be criminal&mdashthat&rsquos also scary. There&rsquos a famous quote by Sigmund Freud: &ldquoWhile mankind has made continual advances in its control over nature and may expect to make still greater ones, it is not possible to establish with certainty that a similar advance has been made in the management of human affairs.&rdquo Once society knows something, it&rsquos hard to take that knowledge away. But the development of institutions can be reversed, and when that happens democracy can disappear.
Joel Mokyr is a professor of economics and history at Northwestern University. His most recent book is A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy.
I am an incorrigible optimist. That said, I think this moment is a great example of radical progress, where urgent circumstances have led to decades of virology progress in a year and a generation of workplace reform in six months. The enemy of progress is not regress, but rather stasis. Change is good.
That doesn&rsquot mean that all change is good, but it is necessary. There is a tendency for societies to get &ldquostuck&rdquo as political and economic forces build to defend the status quo. In mathematics, that&rsquos called a &ldquolocal maxima.&rdquo The only way to get out of it is to shake the system, rolling through some valleys to find an even higher hill nearby in the quest for &ldquoglobal maxima&rdquo&mdashsome optimal state.
In short, if the arc of history bends toward progress, the faster you can move along it, the better. So, if you think the best thing humanity can do is to try new things, change, rethink assumptions, break patterns of behavior in favor of new ones, then what is happening now is the biggest example of that in my lifetime.
Current circumstances forcing many people to work from home, thus destigmatizing the notion of work from home, compelled those of us who were skeptical to try it, rather than think of how we felt about it. Here in Silicon Valley, most companies have decided to make it permanent or semi-permanent, which allows people to try it on for size, develop new work methods and maybe move outside of the cities (try Montana, for instance). This has been a huge driver for innovation in communication. And think about the impact on traffic congestion, pollution, commuting time, housing prices. It&rsquos definitely forced us all to adapt our ways of work to make us more efficient.
In terms of remote conferencing and collaboration, it&rsquos kind of Zoom-on-steroids. So many events and conferences have had to go virtual, and you can&rsquot just Zoom that. You have to set up equivalents of hallway conversations, breakout and poster sessions, etc. Everyone said, &ldquoWe thought it wasn&rsquot going to work, but it actually does. And furthermore, we&rsquore not sure we&rsquore going to go back to the way we used to do things.&rdquo The big win is having more participation from a wider variety of participants. Even Burning Man went virtual this year and the response was surprisingly positive.
In just ten months, we&rsquove had 100 percent progress in the rhythms and technologies of remote collaboration and learning. We&rsquove done a lot of evolution in a short amount of time.
So technology has gotten better, and in just ten months, we&rsquove basically gotten 100 percent progress in the rhythms and technologies of remote collaboration and remote learning. Just from a kind of Cambrian explosion of perspective, we&rsquove done a lot of evolution in a short amount of time. And in general, if you believe that humanity&mdasheither biology, or humanity, or just nature itself&mdashtends to evolve toward a better way, then the faster evolution goes, the better.
It&rsquos definitely a kind of &ldquonever let a good crisis go to waste&rdquo perspective. There&rsquos obviously a lot of pain in the short term as we deal with all of this. But if you have confidence in humanity&rsquos ability to take a crisis and turn it into learning, then there&rsquos been a lot of learning.
Chris Anderson is the cofounder and current CEO of 3D Robotics, a drone manufacturing company. He was the editor of WIRED magazine from 2001 to 2012.
T he way the world is functioning right now feels like we&rsquore in the midst of the birth of some kind of new Jim Crow in this country. After the Civil War, there was Reconstruction, a sort of strange postpartum glow before the demise of this new freedom baby during Jim Crow. It feels like we&rsquore repeating that: We had the civil rights movement, followed by a period of&mdashat least in pop culture&mdashan acceptance of integration and a certain kind of Blackness as mainstream that was not there before. We had this moment of false comfort and progress, and we&rsquore now evolving into this moment of really profound polarity that is all the more unsettling&mdashand it&rsquos a regression.
I speak to my grandmother, to older Black people in my community, and I think there&rsquos a real sense of heartbreak because to them, this looks like what it looked like before. And there&rsquos certainly been a radical regression of rhetoric, which revealed that the infrastructure was not just to begin with. I think the things that we&rsquore seeing have been systemic and enduring. They&rsquore not a regression, they just were never fixed, and that&rsquos why I say we&rsquore at a critical juncture. The question is: Now that we&rsquove identified the fact that these things just were never fixed and need to be, what are we going to do about it? And that will determine whether as a society we&rsquore actively regressing or moving forward.
I have a really big fear that we won&rsquot do anything, or we won&rsquot do enough in time. Part of that is the sense that people without obvious vested interest in some of these sociopolitical concerns want to think the best of people. I have good friends who are happy to announce they&rsquore anti-racist, for example, and they&rsquore obviously pro the Democratic nominees. But when I tell them that I&rsquom not sure that their aunt or uncle or insert-voter-here actually wants me to have my full American freedom&mdashthat I&rsquom not sure those people really do want me to feel free in America more than they want their political goals met&mdashit&rsquos hard for some of my well-meaning white friends to really onboard that. That kind of naiveté is really dangerous right now, and it could cost us our actual freedoms. I think it could cost us democracy.
Because I think that we&rsquove been naive about what American democracy actually is and was built on. It wasn&rsquot built for us to be able to vote, as women. It wasn&rsquot built for me to be an American citizen, as a Black person. The systems in place were not built for an equitable American experience. And so the question becomes, now that we know that and have acknowledged it, does America turn into the country that Thomas Jefferson and George Washington imagined? That would be a regression, because that country was a country where only white men could vote, and Black people were owned.
Should we fight to get that country back? I don&rsquot know what the answer is going to be. And I don&rsquot know where people get this idea that people won&rsquot turn on their neighbor, or become dangerous and silent in their own communities when faced with really divisive rhetoric. That&rsquos something that surely we have to have learned from the Holocaust. We know that people can turn on their neighbors. We know that you can send your child to school with someone one week, one month, one year, and then look away while your friends and neighbors are taken and put in terrible danger.
And I fear that we think we&rsquore impervious to that in this country. I don&rsquot know why people think that all Americans want all other Americans to have all of their American liberties. Because that&rsquos never been true.
Caroline Randall Williams is a poet, activist, academic and the author of three books, including Soul Food Love. She is currently a writer-in-residence in medicine, health and society at Vanderbilt University.
W e&rsquore regressing, because a principal index of social health&mdasharguably the index, because so many others depend upon it&mdashis the ability to talk reasonably and calmly about real problems. And there&rsquos less and less of that going on in America today, and indeed the cancel culture fueled by a kind of nonstop hysteria about life in our remarkably prosperous and free society makes discussion virtually impossible. Those who should be immune to hysteria and fads, those who fancy themselves an intellectual elite, turn out to be their own kind of mob.
If you can&rsquot frame questions and pose problems accurately, how do you get to a sensible solution? We talk about African American problems, but no one talks about the elephant in the room, which Daniel Patrick Moynihan drew attention to in 1965 when he said the family is always the primary transmitter of social capital&mdashmeaning the habits, mores, customs, dispositions necessary to take advantage of freedom and opportunity. And the decline in the stability of the African American family is a problem no one wants to talk about that. Obviously we need police reform and criminal justice reform. But reform it all you will, America is still going to look very much the way it does today, and the difficulties in the African American community will be very much as they are today.
We&rsquore going through a society-wide fever that inflames rhetoric and inflames positions taken and results in violence and looting and all the rest, to the point at which we have people defending looting, never mind that it destroys the lives of people who pour their entire worth into small businesses. Now, fevers tend to burn themselves out, and this too will burn itself out, at which point we&rsquore going to find out whether or not we can still talk about things in a calm way. Ten years from now, I hope that people will look back in stunned amazement at the fact that mobs tore down a statue of Ulysses S. Grant. Why? What were they thinking? How did they think this was going to make America a better place? The answer is they didn&rsquot think that, because they weren&rsquot thinking. They weren&rsquot thinking because a lot of them don&rsquot know how to think. And they don&rsquot because no one ever taught them how in school. American education has strayed far from education toward indoctrination, toward inculcating political attitudes and political agendas. The problem isn&rsquot just that the agendas are mistaken, although I think they are the problem is that people who absorb these agendas are not given the critical thinking skills to examine them critically.
The tone, the volume of assertions about America as a fundamentally racist society, a badly founded society, a story of white supremacy&mdashwhen you cast the discussion in those terms, the discussion ends, because anyone who disagrees is then branded as a defender of slavery and racism and all the rest. And it&rsquos just a cacophony of accusations.
Martin Luther King Jr.&rsquos genius as a social reformer was that he rightly cast the civil rights movement as an attempt to redeem a check written by the American founders with the first two paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence. He cast the civil rights movement as another step toward making America a success. He cast it in the vocabulary of the American founding. Compare that to today, when a lot of people say the American founding is indefensible, rooted in evil and darkness. So of course they have no vocabulary within the American tradition to advocate for improvement in the way King brilliantly did.
I think that political leadership at the highest levels has a tone-setting function, and we can certainly have a better tone of public discourse in the United States. I expect we will in 2021. That&rsquos a start, but only a start. You can&rsquot unring a bell, you can&rsquot unsay the things Trump has said, the name-calling and the rest. He has validated a kind of coarseness that is new to American politics. The national problem is hysteria, and it spans the political spectrum, from far left to far right.
George F. Will is a Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist at The Washington Post. He is the author of numerous books, most recently The Conservative Sensibility.
G enerally, we are moving in a more humane and compassionate direction. It wasn&rsquot until the late 1700s that we had the first broad protest movement on behalf of people other than the protesters themselves: the British anti-slavery movement. In the mid-19th century came one of the first international relief efforts, for Irish famine victims. But now, on any university bulletin board, you see students talking about protecting people&rsquos rights and providing relief for people in distress&mdashadvocating for others, not themselves. By historical standards, that is a really new phenomenon. One of our moral failings is toward farm animals, but there, too, there is progress. There is more concern for calves now than, for much of history, there was for humans who were not of our own clan.
I&rsquove seen this in my reporting. Compared to when I first began traveling around the world in the 1980s, the number of kids dying before the age of five has plunged, and the number of girls going to school has soared. That&rsquos partly because wealthier people around the world simply care more about kids in Niger or Bangladesh than they used to. I&rsquod say the exception is, paradoxically, within the United States. Since 1980, there&rsquos been a hardening of attitudes toward those who don&rsquot make it and an emphasis on a personal responsibility narrative that blames people for their struggles and sees compassion as a sign of weakness. That&rsquos been a catastrophe. In my book Tightrope, I talk about how a quarter of the kids on my old high school bus are now dead from drugs, alcohol and suicide. That wasn&rsquot a failure of personal responsibility&mdashit was a failure of our collective responsibility. But I also think it is part of a 50-year cycle that I hope is now unwinding. We have a fighting chance of changing that narrative and of embracing a more humanitarian approach both at home and abroad.
I hope we in the United States will look back on this period with a certain amount of shame and rejoin upward trends in the rest of the world.
Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times op-ed columnist, has won two Pulitzer Prizes for international reporting. With his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, he is the author most recently of Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope.
I have two minority identities in which there&rsquos been a real shift in recent years. I suffer from depression, and one reason that I&rsquom able to function reasonably well and have a good and happy life is that there&rsquos been an enormous acceptance of the idea that someone can have a mental illness. I&rsquom also gay. And you can&rsquot really be a gay person and look at the world and not say the progress has been astonishing. My whole life was unimaginable when I was a kid. Now I have a husband and we have children, and we&rsquore accepted as a couple in pretty much any context that we choose to go into. I know that there&rsquos still a lot of homophobia, and I know that my experience is an experience of privilege and that there are transgender women of color living in Louisiana who are having a really horrible time, and I don&rsquot trivialize how much work there is still to be done.
But there is also a pull, especially from the right, but also from the left, toward lack of freedom and closed-ness that I think is very frightening. I&rsquom troubled by the incursions into free speech on the left. When we close down arenas of discussion, the anger and hatred don&rsquot go away, even if we curtail their expression. They become harder to deal with and harder to control because there&rsquos no open public expression of them. We&rsquore in a period that&rsquos parallel to the late days of the Roman Empire, where everything became decadent, everything began to fall apart, and ultimately, we were plunged into the Dark Ages. I feel like there could be dark ages right ahead. But there is also a pull toward an ever more embracing society. And as a beneficiary of that greater openness, I feel it would be churlish for me to say that everything is just going wrong.
There&rsquos also been an intensifying polarization in the larger society. People for whom it&rsquos better have it much, much better. People who are left at the bottom of society are having a really tough time.
Privileged Americans have achieved greater acceptance for a range of identities, from deafness to autism to transgender, but there&rsquos a large underclass. And the idea that somehow justice will trickle down is naive. We have to really work for the privileges we have to trickle down. The moral impetus now is to fight to ensure not only that there are new rights, but also that the rights we have reach down to the people who don&rsquot have access to them.
Andrew Solomon is a professor of medical clinical psychology at Columbia University. His books include Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity.
U pon the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, women gained the right to vote. Generous interpretation of the suffrage amendment might have opened doors to equal rights and opportunities in other respects. But that did not happen. Instead, federal and state legislatures and courts read the amendment restrictively to extend the franchise to women, and nothing more. So, among other differentials that persisted, women could be left off jury rolls, prohibited from engaging in certain occupations&mdashbartending, policing, firefighting, for example. But in the 1970s, the U.S. Supreme Court turned in a new direction. It commenced to hold unconstitutional laws that treated women as separate from, and subordinate to, men&mdashoccupants of a confined place in the larger world reserved for men.
In truth, the court was catching up to changes in the way people conducted their lives. Changes in the composition of the legal profession are illustrative.
When I entered law school in 1956, women were only 3 percent of the lawyers in the United States. No women were on the faculty of the law schools I attended only one woman had ever served on a U.S. federal appellate court. Today, about half the nation&rsquos law students are women, one-quarter of our federal judges are women, including three of the nine justices composing the U.S. Supreme Court bench. Women fill some 20 percent of U.S. law school deanships and serve as general counsel to more than 20 percent of Fortune 500 companies.
My dear colleague, the first woman on the Supreme Court of the United States, Sandra Day O&rsquoConnor, explained the significance of the newly opened doors this way:
&ldquoFor both men and women, the first step in getting power is to become visible to others, and then to put on an impressive show&hellipAs women achieve power, the barriers will fall. As society sees what women can do, as women see what women can do, there will be more women out there doing things, and we&rsquoll all be better off for it.&rdquo
Despite the considerable progress, a daunting distance remains to be traveled.
Yet, despite the considerable progress, a daunting distance remains to be traveled. Most people in poverty in the U.S. are women and children, women&rsquos earnings are still notably less than the earnings of men with comparable education and experience, our workplaces do not adequately accommodate the demands of childbearing and childrearing, and we have yet to devise effective ways to ward off sexual harassment at work and domestic violence in our homes.
While I am mindful of current realities, the opening of doors long closed makes me optimistic about a future in which daughters and sons alike will be free from artificial barriers, free to aspire and achieve in full accord with their God-given talents and their willingness to do the hard work needed to make dreams come true.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
I n the Cold War struggle with the Soviet Union, the Iron Curtain was very clear. All the world could see it, so it was easy to unite against it. Now, 30 years later, nothing is clear, and the world is falling apart, so it seems. But I am optimistic.
Ironically, the problematic situation we are in started with the great victory of the forces of good to end World War II. There was a desire to find a single simple solution. After hundreds of years of religious and national wars, people said, &ldquoLet&rsquos imagine the world without nations, without religions, without governments, without anything to die for.&rdquo Even today, there are many people who believe that this imagined world of John Lennon is the real paradise. But under the pretext of such great slogans, the right to identity has been suppressed. Relativism has triumphed over values. The nation-state is losing its unique value. Critics of it say, &ldquoAll regimes are relative.&rdquo
I call the universalists who deny the value of identity the illiberal liberals. They don&rsquot need any borders, any restrictions. They say, &ldquoWho says that the democratic regime of Israel is better than the non-democratic regime of the Palestinians?&rdquo They are coming back to old Marxist slogans. It is impossible to engage in discussion with them.
In response, a new nationalism is also rising. These people say, &ldquoLet&rsquos close the borders. Who needs those people who are different from us? Only our country is right.&rdquo Both sides are involved in what is called &ldquocancel culture.&rdquo Instead of being the basis of cooperation, the two basic desires of people, to be free and to belong, are confronting one other.
The lessons of the victory of the Western democracies over the Soviet Union have not been learned. Totalitarian regimes imprison the minds of their citizens and are doomed. Given a choice, people will always choose freedom. As a result of moral relativism, the linkage between human rights and foreign policy has practically disappeared. People like to say it is all because of Trump. But under the two previous American presidents, international relations became human rights-free. Engagement to achieve peace is an important value. But engagement to achieve peace without individual freedom is wrong.
In domestic politics, people are afraid to express their opinions because they fear they will lose their careers and their friends. This is true in academia, the workplace and the media. The main alarm in the free world today should be that people are afraid to express their opinions in the public square. A &ldquofear society&rdquo is replacing the &ldquofree society.&rdquo Similarly, while today&rsquos protests against racism are legitimate advocacy for human rights, it is very alarming to hear people say that the ideals of American history and the American Revolution have no value because they were the work of white males and slave owners. A huge intellectual brainwashing is taking place.
We all want to be free and we all want to belong. We cannot cancel one another. We can only succeed together. Jews in America and Jews in Israel have to talk to and understand each other. The same is true with Americans on the left and the right. We have to talk to each other.
Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident and Israeli government minister, was the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel until 2018. His latest book is Never Alone: Prison, Politics, and My People, written with Gil Troy.
I n the Middle East, there are signs of disorder everywhere. Syria and Yemen are in a state of civil war. Lebanon is on the edge of breakdown. Iraq is still struggling for order. And authoritarianism rather than democracy governs. But on the other hand, I would argue that for women in the region (or at least in some of the stable countries in the region), the future looks hopeful. Because all along, it has been women who have continued to push for rights, equality and a larger role in society.
It was women who in Iran bravely resisted the imposition of serious social restrictions. They have succeeded in winning for themselves quite a substantial amount of freedom. And this is for women from all strata of society&mdashbecause with the restrictive laws that were passed in the Islamic Republic, it didn&rsquot make a difference whether you were a secular or a religious woman, whether you were upper or working class. When the right to seek a divorce was taken away from women, or when polygamy was reinstituted, it didn&rsquot make a difference what kind of background you had.
We have seen Arab women participate in large numbers in the Arab Spring, demanding dignity, freedom and accountable government. And at least in some countries, they succeeded. A lot has changed. Women no longer simply frame their diplomas as part of their dowries to hang in their husband&rsquos homes, but instead use them to gain employment. This is the result of widespread educational opportunity across the Middle East&mdashthe stable Middle East. There is a deep urge for improvement, for a better life and better society, freedom and democracy. You see the same thing in the Persian Gulf states. Women at every level are pushing for employment. Last year, the speaker of the house in the United Arab Emirates was a woman. I never thought in my lifetime I would see such a thing. And in almost all the cabinets across the region, there are women ministers or deputy ministers.
When I look at Iran, the majority of the younger generation&mdashnow more than 50 percent of the population is under the age of 30&mdashare educated. You have a new generation that will take the country completely away from what the Islamic Republic has installed and set up a more modern country. That&rsquos why I&rsquom hopeful.
Haleh Esfandiari is the founding director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. In 2007, she spent 105 days in solitary confinement in Tehran&rsquos Evin Prison, an experience that is the subject of her memoir, My Prison, My Home.
W e&rsquore both progressing and regressing, but I would describe myself as &ldquonet worried.&rdquo I&rsquove never been more worried in my life than I am today about my own country. I&rsquom seeing people abuse institutions and norms and break and bend rules at a scope and scale I&rsquove never seen before. I see a media landscape increasingly dominated by social networks designed to profit by enraging and titillating their users, not informing them.
I am terrified by the fact that we no longer share, even remotely, a common body of facts. Democracy cannot function without a shared sense of what is true and what is not.
What do I fear most? The abuse of our institutions&mdashboth the Constitution and democratic norms that we have long taken for granted. You lose them and they are hard to get back. In addition, I am terrified by the fact that we no longer share, even remotely, a common body of facts. That&rsquos a prescription for disaster. Democracy cannot function without a shared sense of what is true and what is not. I am a glass-is-always-half-full guy. But my own hometown, Minneapolis, the place where I was born and raised, is in turmoil right now. Downtown Minneapolis&mdashit was my Jerusalem growing up, the beating heart of my community&mdashis in a state of dystopian disintegration. That really colors my outlook these days. For most of my career, the Middle East was this tribalized region, with rule-or-die politics, and Minnesota was this warm community I could return to. I knew it was not perfect, as I wrote in my latest book, Thank You for Being Late. It had its racist downsides, but it always seemed to me to be a place where a lot of people wanted to get caught trying to improve it. I think that is still true to some extent. It is also true that today a lot of people are just not talking to each other. It feels like Beirut has followed me home.
What&rsquos causing this in part at least is an age where technology, globalization and climate and environmental degradation&mdashwhat I call &ldquothe market, Mother Nature and Moore&rsquos Law&rsquo&rsquo&mdashare basically all accelerating at the same time. And it&rsquos simply too fast for some people. Some people are looking for a strong man or strong woman to stop the wind. People of different races, creeds and colors are being thrown together, new social norms are being introduced, and new demands for education and adaptation to the workplace are proliferating too fast for some people to adapt and adjust. Add political parties that can&rsquot really navigate this moment, and social networks that amplify all of the stresses and strains and show us each other at our worst, and you have a really dark time. Sorry to be so grim, but there&rsquos a lot of bad stuff going down.
I was just talking to a friend of mine from Minneapolis about when and where we grew up. It was not an easy time if you were Black, or if you were gay or trans or a woman, particularly a woman of talent, back in the 1950s or 1960s. Many of those people had to either be in the closet or were simply blocked from realizing their full potential. Those are the things I do not miss. But I do miss the fact that I grew up in this neighborhood where nobody seemed any richer than anybody else. I didn&rsquot know how much anybody&rsquos parents made. We all lived in the same basic post-war ramblers. And I had the happiest childhood possible, friends from one end of the block to the other. I went to grade school, junior high and senior high with all the same kids. And my dad never made more than $20,000 a year, but I went to Israel all three summers of high school. I actually paid for it myself by working at my aunt and uncle&rsquos delicatessen. There were things about that period, a powerful sense of community and a real sense of equality, economic equality, not racial or gender equality, that I really miss. More people have a chance to realize their full potential today, but you have to do it in a context of enormous income gaps and where you&rsquore required to be running, running, running all the time&mdashwork, learn, work, learn&mdashto keep up.
Sorry, but I can ruin any dinner party these days if you get me going&mdashand I do weddings and bar mitzvahs.
Thomas L. Friedman is a columnist for The New York Times. He is the recipient of three Pulitzer Prizes and the author of six books, most recently Thank You for Being Late.
D emocracy is regressing. We have quite a few governments in Europe that could be called &ldquoauthoritarian democracies.&rdquo To my regret, this is also happening in Israel. I&rsquom concerned because after 2,000 years we created a country that was the only democracy in the Middle East, and we are witnessing a gradual erosion of that democracy. There is an organized attack by the prime minister and his party against the judiciary, the High Court of Justice&mdashan institution that doesn&rsquot exist in many countries&mdashthe attorney general, the police and the media. They are not only attacking, they are trying to change the rules of the game&mdashthe laws.
We tried to shape a country and a people out of very different communities. We were almost there. We have second-, third-, fourth-generation Israelis whose grandparents and parents came from places as varied as Iraq, Romania and Morocco. You can&rsquot tell anymore if they are Ashkenazi or Sephardic. But now there&rsquos a clear attempt to break the society, to make groups fight against one another. You now have half of the society believing that people who are left-wing are traitors. People say to us, &ldquoWe will either kill you or put you in jail.&rdquo It&rsquos very far from the dream of creating one people, one society.
I&rsquom not saying that we should all believe the same thing. There has to be diversity. There has to be pluralism. I have to be able to respect people who believe other things than I do. I have to have an equal right to say why I&rsquom against something and not to be treated like a traitor to my country. There can be a unity of purpose and diversity of beliefs. This is what democracy&rsquos all about.
I don&rsquot think that my society, at the moment, is at its best. I would like to see that change. The sooner, the better, because the deeper the incitement goes, the more divided we become. This has to come to an end before it&rsquos too late and we really split.
Memory is a must in our value system. As a Holocaust survivor, I have to remember and I have to say, &ldquoI&rsquom here because we overcame and because, in fact, we are a people that knows how to come out of the ashes and to create.&rdquo I have to remember that we have a moral commitment to create a better world.
I remember what happened to us in Europe and why. The Holocaust didn&rsquot just happen because we were not organized or we were weak. It happened because of the incitement and the brainwashing that proliferated at that time. Without the brainwashing, people would not have become accomplices of the Nazis, and the Nazis would not have been able to achieve what they did.
It is very important for young people to know what happened and not to fall into the trap of Holocaust denial. We cannot completely avoid violence it seems to be part of human nature, but people can be educated. The younger generations need to do everything they can to get educated and to educate against violence, against racism, against all those theories and practices that made the Holocaust and other mass killings since then possible. Otherwise, where exactly is this going to lead us?
Colette Avital was born in Romania and was ten when she and her family fled the Nazis for Israel. She served as Israel&rsquos ambassador to Portugal, consul-general in New York City and as a member of Knesset. In 2007 she was the first female candidate for the Israeli presidency.
S ociety is a subset of the physical world, and there&rsquos no way to have a working society on a broken planet. And at the moment, we&rsquore definitely headed in the direction of a broken and degraded earth. The temperature has already gone up 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, enough to have melted most of the ice in the Arctic. The ocean is far more acidic than it used to be, the patterns of drought and rainfall have shifted decisively, so we see huge outbreaks of forest fires and floods. But the scary news is that the trajectory we&rsquore on right now takes us to an increased temperature of 7 or 8 degrees Fahrenheit. If we allow that to happen over this century, we will not have a civilization that resembles anything we&rsquore used to. That&rsquos simply way, way, way too much stress. The saddest part is that those who did the least to cause this crisis are affected first, worst and hardest, and the relentless rise in temperature is already putting millions of people on the move to escape impossible conditions where they live.
The scary news is that the trajectory we&rsquore on right now takes us to an increased temperature of 7 or 8 degrees Fahrenheit. If we allow that to happen, we will not have a civilization that resembles anything we&rsquore used to.
So that&rsquos the terrible backdrop. If you want to feel hopeful right now, there are two reasons to do so. One is that finally there&rsquos a massive movement around the world to take this on, with the global environmental movement Extinction Rebellion and other youth campaigns across the globe, and the largest divestment campaign in the planet&rsquos history, $14 trillion worth of investments and portfolios that have already divested from fossil fuels. The other promising and hopeful thing is that our brothers and sisters in the engineering labs have done their jobs. The cost of solar power fell 90 percent in the last decade, and that and wind are now the cheapest way to generate power.
So if we wanted to change, we could. It involves removing the political power of the fossil fuel industry that has kept us locked in place for decades, and unlike other problems we&rsquove faced, this one comes with a time limit. The fight, in the end, is not between Democrats and Republicans but between human beings and physics, and physics sets absolute limits. Once you melt the Arctic, there&rsquos no way to freeze it up again. The thing that scares me most is the speed with which we have to move, because our systems are not geared for change at that pace.
Bill McKibben is the founder of climate change campaign 350.org and a scholar in residence at Middlebury College. His most recent book is Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?
T his is almost an impossible question to answer. I fear that we are on parallel but divergent paths in our society. There are people who still have an investment in the hierarchies as they have been in our past, because they have known no other way to be and because they have been part of a group that has benefited from the hierarchies. At the same time, many people have been awakened. I believe that we&rsquore on the cusp of awakening a lot of people who have responded with human outrage over many of the things that we have been seeing in recent months. That is why I do have hope.
I think one of our great challenges as a country is that many of us don&rsquot know our own history. We do not know America. We don&rsquot know the full, complex, multilayered history that got us to where we are right now. If a person doesn&rsquot know history, it&rsquos hard to respond in a way that reflects what actually got us to where we are. In my book Caste, I describe our country as being like an old house. We&rsquove inherited this old house, none of us alive built this old house, yet here we are the current owners of this very old house and after it rains, we may not want to go into the basement. We just may not want to see what&rsquos going on in the basement.
We may not want to see what the rain brought, but if we don&rsquot go into that basement, we are going to have to deal with the consequences, whether we are aware of them or not. The equivalent would be knowing our country&rsquos history, knowing how we got to where we are. It is now our responsibility to find a way to repair our old house, our country, our legacy, and to strengthen it so that we can move forward with a sense of purpose and meaning. Hopefully we can transcend these divisions that were created long ago and that we are living with to this day.
Isabel Wilkerson is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America&rsquos Great Migration and the recent Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.
I t was a loss of innocence to grow up in the age of mass shootings. Sandy Hook happened when I was in fifth grade. That was the first news story that really stuck with me. Afterward, I went into my mom&rsquos bathroom and cried. I just remember thinking that this could never happen again, but it continued to happen as I grew older. Mass shootings became a normal thing to see on the news: a concert in Las Vegas, a gay nightclub in Orlando. And then eventually at Parkland, my own high school. It is a reckoning with reality when national news comes to your doorstep in so horrific a way. I genuinely believe that if we really wanted mass shootings to end, and we took all the necessary steps, they would be a thing of the past ten years from now.
But instead we are learning to live with a disease, and we&rsquore treating it as something that is going to be perpetual. When we build schools, we now build them like prisons. The very architecture of the places we learn in is being shaped to deal with gun violence instead of actually dealing with gun violence itself. It feels counterintuitive to me.
We tend to view history as a linear progression of things, getting better and better and better. I think it would be more accurate to say that we&rsquore moving in cycles. The things in contention change, but the ideals behind them track throughout the years. You can see what&rsquos happening right now in how our country is grappling with race. We grappled with race in the 1960s and 1920s, and in the Civil War, which tore our country in half over slavery. You can see what happened in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where a 17-year-old white shooter killed two people. From what happened there and what happened with the mass shooting at my school, you can see that police in those cases peacefully apprehended shooters, whereas Black people with traffic violations or who have infringed on the law in a minor way are murdered, their breath stolen from them as they lie on the street. You see undocumented immigrants have their families ripped apart, the generational trauma we have yet to even fathom. With all that goes on, one is almost forced to be either horrified or numb. Maybe that&rsquos the way it&rsquos always been and maybe we&rsquove become so shocked by it now because we can see it. It&rsquos right in front of us, since we live in an era of globalization and information on demand. Nothing is more than a quick Google search away.
Look at gay marriage, legalized a little over five years ago. I remember I was in the car with my family when I saw the news alert pop up on my mom&rsquos phone. That&rsquos a moment that I lived through and that was a moment of things getting better. But at the same time, you see gay people can still be discriminated against for housing. Trans people face constant human rights abuses around the world, with the U.S. ramping up discriminatory policy of late. A few months ago, the Trump administration pushed for doctors to be able to deny us coverage more easily on religious grounds. And while that is obviously being challenged in court, the fact that it was pushed in the first place shows that progress isn&rsquot always a straight path. There&rsquos oftentimes a looping back and having to fight battles over and over again.
Dealing with the trauma of the mass shooting was so difficult for me in part because I tied a lot of my healing to political action, and politics is slow. Politics doesn&rsquot change with one march or one voter drive. It&rsquos something that can take years or decades. It was moving away from that focus on activism solely for political ends, as opposed to for community or self-healing, that really allowed me to grow in the aftermath of February 14, 2018.
I try not to believe that the world is getting better on its own, like it will just happen, nor do I believe that the world is getting worse. As someone who cares about social issues, who cares about activism, you can be neither a pessimist nor an optimist, because both of those assume that things will just happen on their own. You have to take actions in order to cause the change that you wish to see.
To make the world a better place, I teach poetry. I taught poetry at my high school and I&rsquom planning on starting another poetry club at my college since we don&rsquot have one. Art and poetry and music are really great ways to bring people together sometimes.
Obviously, there&rsquos protesting, and there&rsquos volunteering on a regular basis. Simple community outreach is more powerful than most people seem to realize. Most of the time people don&rsquot feel like their lives are under constant pressure if they don&rsquot have to worry about what they&rsquore going to eat that day or how they&rsquore going to pay for their medical bills or where they&rsquore going to live. If you can help people with those basic needs in whatever way that you personally can, if you can help your community, you can see that generally things will get better around you.
If you can&rsquot do any of that, you can always talk to the people in your life. It can be a very uncomfortable thing for a lot of people, but I think that it&rsquos critical that people talk about social issues with family members whom they care about, and if not reach an agreement, at least reach an understanding of one another&rsquos ideas. Just understanding issues, understanding how they affect you and how they affect people you care about, makes a difference.
In a word, care. I find that general apathy is what gets in the way for most people in taking actions to better themselves or their communities. So many people are just underinformed and undereducated on certain issues. When they become aware, they become another person who&rsquos willing to jump in, in whatever form, whether it&rsquos a protest, art, community outreach or an uncomfortable conversation with a relative who says something bigoted at the dinner table. I think that&rsquos how the world is going to get better. It may be small and incremental and painful at times. But still, we move forward.
Marisol Garrido-Martinez, 18, was 16 when she lived through the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. She is a poet, musician and activist, focusing on issues of gun control, transgender rights and mental health. She has just started her freshman year in college.
Firestone tires built Liberia’s economy. Now, painful layoffs are sowing fear for the future.
HARBEL, Liberia — The end came with a letter, but Moses Tokpah couldn’t read it. Twenty-two years of fumes at the rubber factory had damaged his vision, he said, so a friend delivered the news: Firestone was laying him off.
“Due to the redundancy of your position,” the text said.
Tokpah, 53, felt dizzy that July morning. When the international tire powerhouse — Liberia’s largest private employer — announced plans last spring to slash its workforce, he prayed to survive the cuts. No one he knew could find work anymore.
“I just lost everything,” he said, tears welling.
As the price of rubber slips on the global market, Firestone — a company founded in Ohio with nine decades in this West African country — is shedding large swaths of its staff to cope with what it calls “continued and unsustainable losses.”
The drawdown threatens to rip a seismic hole in Liberia’s floundering economy, analysts say, opening the latest chapter in the country’s long and complicated history with American-rooted power brokers.
“Firestone is the anchor,” said Gyude Moore, Liberia’s former public works minister. “Like the auto industry was for Detroit — except for an entire country.”
Firestone’s farm sprawls across 119,000 acres and is billed as the largest contiguous rubber plantation on Earth. Milky white latex from rows of Hevea brasiliensis trees drips into red buckets. Tens of thousands of people live on and around these grounds, including about 5,400 workers, down from approximately 8,500 five years ago.
The company has given 568 employees the pink slip since March, with hundreds more dismissals expected as it reduces staff. Firestone’s parent company blames a “severe business climate” in which the value of rubber — used to make tires, hoses, roofing, gloves and condoms — has plummeted 80 percent since its 2011 peak.
In a statement, Firestone said it aims “to restore profitability and help ensure long-term competitiveness as quickly as possible.”
Employees say they’re working longer hours without overtime pay, and the union accuses Firestone of looking for reasons to fire veteran staffers on top of the scheduled dismissals.
In some cases, security guards have evicted families from company housing and moved their belongings into the street, workers and their neighbors told The Washington Post. Several are now homeless. Firestone Liberia General Manager Don Darden confirmed the evictions in an interview and said employees who lose their jobs have 14 days to vacate company housing.
What does the Bible say about fear?
The Bible mentions two specific types of fear. The first type is beneficial and is to be encouraged. The second type is a detriment and is to be overcome. The first type of fear is fear of the Lord. This type of fear does not necessarily mean to be afraid of something. Rather, it is a reverential awe of God, a reverence for His power and glory. However, it is also a proper respect for His wrath and anger. In other words, the fear of the Lord is a total acknowledgement of all that God is, which comes through knowing Him and His attributes.
Fear of the Lord brings with it many blessings and benefits. It is the beginning of wisdom and leads to good understanding (Psalm 111:10). Only fools despise wisdom and discipline (Proverbs 1:7). Furthermore, fear of the Lord leads to life, rest, peace, and contentment (Proverbs 19:23). It is the fountain and life (Proverbs 14:27) and provides a security and a place of safety for us (Proverbs 14:26).
Thus, one can see how fearing God should be encouraged. However, the second type of fear mentioned in the Bible is not beneficial at all. This is the “spirit of fear” mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (NKJV). A spirit of fearfulness and timidity does not come from God.
However, sometimes we are afraid, sometimes this “spirit of fear” overcomes us, and to overcome it we need to trust in and love God completely. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). No one is perfect, and God knows this. That is why He has liberally sprinkled encouragement against fear throughout the Bible. Beginning in the book of Genesis and continuing throughout the book of Revelation, God reminds us to “Fear not.”
For example, Isaiah 41:10 encourages us, “Do not fear, for I am with you Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Often we fear the future and what will become of us. But Jesus reminds us that God cares for the birds of the air, so how much more will He provide for His children? “So don’t be afraid you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31). Just these few verses cover many different types of fear. God tells us not to be afraid of being alone, of being too weak, of not being heard, and of lacking physical necessities. These admonishments continue throughout the Bible, covering the many different aspects of the “spirit of fear.”
In Psalm 56:11 the psalmist writes, “In God I trust I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” This is an awesome testimony to the power of trusting in God. Regardless of what happens, the psalmist will trust in God because he knows and understands the power of God. The key to overcoming fear, then, is total and complete trust in God. Trusting God is a refusal to give in to fear. It is a turning to God even in the darkest times and trusting Him to make things right. This trust comes from knowing God and knowing that He is good. As Job said when he was experiencing some of the most difficult trials recorded in the Bible, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15 NKJV).
Once we have learned to put our trust in God, we will no longer be afraid of the things that come against us. We will be like the psalmist who said with confidence “…let all who take refuge in you be glad let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you” (Psalm 5:11).
What’s Next In Lodi?
Elected officials learned a lot in 2020- by way of technology that kept them connected to taxpayers, as well as the volatility that always exists in municipal budgeting.
Lodi Town Supervisor Kyle Barnhart says the last 16 months has been challenging for a number of reasons. Most of those challenges boil down to problem solving- and the need for adaptive thinking as uncertainty grew during 2020. It was clear that the pandemic would end at some point, but at what cost- and how long would that take?
“The pandemic slowed our world to a halt,” the Supervisor recalled. “I’ve been able to really dig into budgeting and finance at the town level, but most of the lessons I’ve learned have been in communicating with the public.” Even for effective communicators like Barnhart, keeping people informed during the pandemic was a real challenge. Even state and federal officials have struggled with it.
“When I came into office with an ambitious plan to address our town’s issues, I’d get some pushback along the way because I wasn’t able to properly get information to the residents,” he continued. “I’m getting better at that, but the pandemic has certainly made reaching people more difficult.”
As for the Town’s financial situation- it’s positive. Barnhart attributed that to the previous administration, which was led by former Town Supervisor Lee Davidson. At this point, strategic investment over the next decade is paramount to the Town’s short- and long-term planning.
“We’re building a new town hall and I’m excited to see how the conversations with the community go,” he said. “We have the opportunity to tackle a lot of community needs in one shot with this new facility, which will ensure the continued operation of our local food pantry, as well. We got a great deal on the site and saved the community hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction costs. That’s the big short term goal for the town right now, doing that right.”
As for that long-term vision, the biggest items on the to do list focus on economic development and the environment. “Ultimately, the environment is always top priority for me and we have first-hand experience with environmental disasters in Lodi, coming off of the 2018 flood. I’m fighting hard against the Greenidge Generation plant across the lake from us in Torrey and this is an issue on which I see no compromise. Seneca Lake must be protected at all costs,” Barnhart explained. “For economic development, we need the essentials. We still need water. We’re exploring all of our options, but the pandemic dried up grant funding and threw everything we were working on into uncertainty, which essentially drove public interest for the project into the tank.”
He says at this point, the Village is taking the lead on a water project, and that could be a great thing for the community. “It looks like they may find themselves in the best funding environment imaginable as the state gets back in gear and the Democrats in Congress hopefully pass a long-awaited infrastructure bill.”
Speaking to the long-debated North-South Seneca divide, there’s a diversity of voices coming forward to get involved and that’s a ‘win’ in the eyes of the supervisor from Lodi. “We see a Lodi business owner in Bruce Murray getting involved and becoming the chair of the Chamber of Commerce, or the handful of residents from the south end that have expressed interest in serving in the recent IDA vacancy,” Barnhart continued. But it’s not all positive news at this moment, and will require more effort “There has been a lot of investment in developing the north end, especially over the past decade, and it’s for good reason, but I’m watching our villages and hamlets down here literally fall to pieces. This is the primary impetus behind my push to share the sales tax with towns and villages–it is so desperately needed and would make a drastic, tangible difference,” he added. “We’re talking about public services like trash collection, clean water, and clearing dangerous and dilapidated properties. There’s so much to do.”
But what role did the pandemic have in hurting some of that progress being made in the south end of the county? Barnhart says it’s a two-fold problem: First, there are the pre-existing challenges that communities like Lodi were facing. Then second, new issues were exposed during the pandemic.
“My fear for all of these small towns across New York is that the pandemic has shaken what little life Main Streets were hanging on to,” he said. “We’ve shifted our buying habits online. The labor market is unrealistically difficult for local businesses. For many, the thought of going in public still carries that tinge of risk. So many businesses on Main Streets barely hang on as it is. In Lodi, right as we are looking to build ours back from scratch, the pandemic comes along and stops any momentum we had. I’m worried that we are losing our sense of community and our ability to come together. I’m worried that our residents are more alienated than ever and have lost the few social outlets we had in Lodi. We need to be able to re-engage with each other and town government has a responsibility to address those needs, so I’ll be considering that in our town’s efforts going forward.”
Barnhart says his outlook is realistic, but also incredibly optimistic.
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