January 27, 2017 / From the Editor
Every Friday, we will publish a short list of a few articles that have caught …
November 4, 2016
Every Friday, we will publish a short list of a few articles that have caught our attention. This is what we’re reading this week:
Trump’s Confessions? A comparison of Saint Augustine and Donald Trump as prompted by Rudy Giuliani:
Now, this is where I have an issue with comparing this text to Donald Trump. Yes, Trump has apologized. He said, “I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong and I apologize.” The problem is, this expression of regret is subsumed under a defense of what he described as “locker-room” talk, implying that there is nothing wrong with his recounting of his ability to use women, without their consent, for his own sexual gratification. Not once in the Confessions did Augustine defend his past in terms of “locker-room” talk or the idea that “boys will be boys.” Rather, He described his childhood as full of sins, including lying to his teachers and the vanity that led him to succeed in his studies. He explained, “These same sins grow worse as we grow older: first it is offenses against pedagogues and teachers, or cheating over nuts and balls and sparrows; then later it is crimes against prefects and kings, and fraud in gold and estates and slaves” (I.19.30). For Augustine, there could be no defense for what he did—rather, the whole story of his life before his conversion was represented in his past sins.
Ultimately, Giuliani’s comparison between Augustine and Trump fails. People may be able to change, but there is no reason whatsoever to believe that Trump, unlike Augustine, has done so.
A refutation of Eric Metaxas’ political claims as based in the history of Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
As an alternative, he not only proposes Trump, but indeed argues that Bonhoeffer would support Trump. And Bonhoeffer, he argues, would support Trump because Bonhoeffer knew that we all ultimately are answerable to God. Never mind that Bonhoeffer spoke out against the Nazis early precisely because of the kind of racist rhetoric that Trump uses toward Mexicans and Muslims. Never mind that Trump’s authoritarianism and disdain for democratic processes, even to the point of threatening to jail his political opponents, would have reminded Bonhoeffer chillingly of Germany in the 1930s. Never mind that Trump’s desire to control and punish the press would look a lot, if he got away with it, like similar events with which Bonhoeffer was directly familiar. Never mind Trump’s connections to the alt-right movement which explicitly connects itself to Nazism. Never mind that Donald Trump embodies quite literally the opposite of everything Dietrich Bonhoeffer stood for. Leave all of that aside. Metaxas is appropriating Bonhoeffer in order to further argue that God wants us to vote for Donald Trump!
Elizabeth Warren may have overstepped her legislative bounds:
Ms. Warren, painting bankers with as broad a brush as Donald J. Trump uses to demean Muslims, protested that the president should “loosen the hold that Wall Street banks have over economic policy making.” That demand ignores the obvious fact that bankers know something about economic policy, and that many of the best financial regulators, from Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. in the 1930s through Arthur Levitt Jr. and Henry M. Paulson Jr. in more recent decades, have come from Wall Street.
Trends in Literature: The ‘Girl’ Phenomenon:
Who are these girls? Why are there so many of them? Books with “girl” in the titles make up a tiny fraction of all the books published in a given year, but they appear again and again on the bestseller lists. Other people have written about this trend, often with great eloquence, but none of them were backed by a data set. Using the database at Goodreads, the popular social networking website for readers, we set out to change that. A number of patterns emerged in our analysis: The “girl” in the title is much more likely to be a woman than an actual girl, and the author of the book is more likely to be a woman. But if a book with “girl” in the title was written by a man, the girl is significantly more likely to end up dead.
A historical analysis of Sid Meier’s Civilization:
The game unfolds in a manner that echoes the Enlightenment-era belief in progress as a universal rule, as well as the Darwinian notion that societies, like species, evolved from states of simplicity to greater levels of complexity and sophistication. But the idea that history is the story of progress is not the only or even the most natural way of conceiving time. That optimistic view is on the wane now, with climate change increasingly changing the way we think about our present and future. Elsewhere and in other periods, people have understood time as a descent (a decline from a prior period of grandeur), a wave (the rise and fall of dynasties), as cyclical (a sequence of ages), and as a spiral (Hegelian dialectics). Civilization assumes that time is simply an arrow, pushing ever onwards.
Alcoholism and the death of a young writer:
Mike Wise used his last audience to remind Frey of that time after a party in her Brooklyn apartment when they were looking out the window at the Statue of Liberty, when she told him life was good and he agreed. Things couldn’t be more different now. When he was alone in the hospital room with Frey, Wise says, she looked at him and said, “This is surreal, isn’t it?” He agreed one last time.