Author Archives: Mike Moats

America This is Quite Serious: The Sunday Book Review

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Our goal with this series is to find books, articles and more that clarify the prevailing forces of this election season, or at least mollify how it feels to bear witness to them. This is roughly the same thing that the New York Times Book Review is doing this Sunday. With a cover illustration of burning letters asking “WHY POPULISM NOW?” the issue offers up a long list of books hoping to ensure that all this fire sheds a little bit of light.

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The central essay asks “What Do This Season’s Political Books Tell Us About the Election?”  Continue reading

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America This is Quite Serious: Andrew Sullivan on Tyranny in America

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I know I’m not the only one who had been wishing Andrew Sullivan would say something about this insane election. I will remember to be careful what I wish for.

I wanted to hear from Sullivan because I knew he would be devastating on the rise of Donald Trump. Personally, I suspected I would enjoy what he has to say about Bernie Sanders. And the real treat — the opportunity to actually learn something — would be to watch him square his historical distaste for the Clintons with his support for what she know stands for, which is essentially a third Obama term. That is why I was JON-SNOW-IS-ALIVE! excited when Sullivan re-emerged earlier this year in New York Magazine. And while some of my expectations were met, his real point was much deeper, and more terrifying: “Democracies end when they are too democratic.”

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The title alone is bracing, given our fealty to full representation in our democra– er, republic. But like most things with Sullivan, the argument is more complicated than its clickbait headline. Continue reading

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America This is Quite Serious: “Fear” by Marilynne Robinson

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The massacre of 49 people in Orlando this weekend has, once again, raised enormous questions about the current state of American life.

Photograph by Paolo Pellegrin.

This incident, more than most others perhaps, stirs discussion. Not just because it is an election year, but also because of the many existing debates into which it painfully intrudes. Rather than the usual exasperations about the great need or the totaly futility of gun control, we are also debating the shooter’s supposed faith and affiliations with ISIS; his attack on the LGBT community when he himself might have also been gay; and how we should react in our politics, our policy, or for our own protection.

Almost all of these come back to one thing: Fear. The shooter’s, and our own.

In 2015, Marilynne Robinson wrote about this fear. As usual, she speaks from the perspective of a Christian. But — also as usual — you don’t need to share her faith to make sense of what she believes. She also speaks as an American, someone who loves her country and is a student of our long and complex history.

I have read this article at least five times since it was first published. Sadly, I often have reason to pull it up after hearing about another senseless mass murder with a firearm. I am sorry to say that I found it useful again this week.

America, this is quite serious, which is why “Fear” by Marilynne Robinson is worth a read.

Read more from our election year series “America This is Quite Serious.”

-Michael Moats

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Did You Hear? Under Pressure

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New music! Sometimes old music. Music that we love!

As part of our series “America This is Quite Serious,” a song with some good things to remember in days like these:

…Why can’t we give love that one more chance?
Why can’t we give love give love give love give love
Give love give love give love give love give love
‘Cause love’s such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the (People on streets) edge of the night
And loves (People on streets) dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves…

Plus, just a really goddam great song.

-Michael Moats

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America This is Quite Serious

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Politics sucks.

This is the most casually stated and deeply tragic declaration of our time. It is, ironically, the one thing we all agree on, aside from the charms of Chewbacca Mom.

I realize that “politics sucks” is a strange thing to say less than 48 hours after politics brought us our first female candidate for the presidency. Regardless of your thoughts about who should win this thing, that’s history and it’s inspiring. But by now it’s a dying ember in the cold and dark. Look at how quickly politics started to suck again: Donald Trump apparently made a pee-pee joke the night Clinton declared victory. Thomas Frank is already snarling about the cynicism of anyone who’s happy Hillary won. Bernie’s deeply passionate supporters barely had time — seriously, like half an hour — to deal with the finality of a heartbreaking loss before Politico started rubbing salt in the wounds. The Facebook flame wars are all back up and running on my timeline. How about yours?  Continue reading

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Did You Hear? Summer Friends

Chance the Rapper jumped onto the scene earlier this year by dropping the best verse on the best song of Kanye West’s latest release The Life of Pablo. That performance was the intro, as Chance says on the opening track of his new album (or mixtape… I think I’m too old to know the difference) Coloring Book.

The best track on Coloring Book might be “Summer Friends,” a soft-and-sweet trap beat (I think) that Chance bounces along on accompanied by someone who sounds exactly like Justin Vernon but apparently isn’t. At first listen, “Summer Friends” feels like a nostalgic look back at early days — “79th street was America then / Ice cream truck and the beauty supply / Blockbuster movies and Harold’s again” — and something good to have with you now that the weather is finally hot. But it’s all a set up for this: Continue reading

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