June 18, 2015 |
Before laying my head to rest the other night, Black Twitter blessed me with something magical. Scrolling through my feed, I noticed #unconventionalblackbeauty, a hashtag featuring photos of beautiful black faces. Not much different from #blackoutday, an online movement that celebrated black beauty, right? Wrong. The difference: This was an honest discourse about how we define beauty within the black community. In less than 24 hours, feeds exploded with photos of women and men with full lips, broad noses, and kinky hair.
September 8, 2014 |
Jeffrey Rosen, author, constitutional law professor, and president and chief executive officer of the National Constitution Center, may have hit upon a novel idea. At a time when public debate over the central constitutional and political issues of the day has devolved into a dispiriting swamp of ad hominem attacks, misleading ad campaigns, and television shouting matches, Rosen says there is a public hunger for civilized, respectful conversation. Since taking over at the center last year, he has organized a series of public forums featuring prominent guests from the political right and left to unravel weighty and emotional issues, from gun control to the use of drone strikes, within the context of constitutional law. Give Rosen half a chance and he waxes rhapsodic about the nation's founding documents.
May 1, 2013 |
On the airwaves, in the streets, and on social media sites, the world is filled with the noise of nasty discourse. We are assaulted by bitter diatribes that rarely prompt anyone to consider content, much less change opinions. Our country stands to lose the ability to civilly exchange divergent opinions. I have recently returned to Philadelphia as president and CEO of the World Affairs Council, where I started my first job out of college 30 years ago. Now, as then, the mission of the council is strictly nonpartisan.
May 25, 2012 |
CAIRO - On the first day of the first free presidential election in Egyptian history, 10 young men sat in a circle in a rundown cafe in the working-class quarter of Saida Zainab. They were supposed to be holding a sales meeting for a food products company, but instead they were arguing over which presidential candidate to vote for. Three had picked the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, three were opting for a moderate Islamist independent, and three backed a socialist who patterns himself on Gamal Abdel Nasser.
November 20, 2011
A Gov. Christie interview, simulcast online last week from Facebook headquarters in California, afforded the opportunity to take a glance at the Republican superstar's Facebook wall. Oh, my. If your Facebook wall looked like Christie's, you would have shut down the account and sued Mark Zuckerberg. And you might have cried. A post last week detailing the governor's education agenda brought this response: "Give it a rest, fat boy!" A Veterans Day message from the governor led to this comment: "Get in my belly!"
July 8, 2011
IPRETTY MUCH disagree with almost all of Christine Flowers' beliefs. That said, I found her July 1 column disheartening, not because of the ideas she expressed but because of the emails she says she regularly gets from readers calling her, in her words, a "rhymes-with-witch," "rhymes-with-punt" or "rhymes-with-trucker. " I've had numerous email exchanges with Ms. Flowers. She has always been polite in responding. In one of our first, she thanked me for expressing my views without resorting to name-calling.
May 17, 2011 |
A confession: When I was assigned to review Act II Playhouse's production of Art , Yasmina Reza's 1995 three-way dysfunctional bromance, I didn't want to. During a Chicago theater blitz a few years ago, I caught Steppenwolf Theatre's version and left thinking, "What an irritating two hours of mewling, self-serious self-abuse. " After watching director Bud Martin's take on the material, derived from the same translation by Christopher Hampton from the original French, I've concluded that: (1)
May 6, 2011 |
Bullying high schoolers, nasty tweets, reactionary parents, a pregnant kid in a rigid home, a community culture of guns to protect "us" against "them," a new black history teacher lambasted for handing out radical readings that happened to be from Thomas Jefferson - in heaven's name, what would Jesus do? Well, in Theresa Rebeck's engrossing, sharp new play O Beautiful, it's not quite clear. "I am whatever people want me to be," Jesus says at one point. In Rebeck's vision, that's a compassionate friend who tells the pregnant teen, "I never said anything about abortion," and then declares "Amen!"
April 13, 2011
By David Eisner As the country braced for a potential government shutdown last week, I couldn't help but wonder: Would we be a disappointment to our forefathers? Why haven't we inherited their legacy of compromise? More than two centuries ago, the nation's founders also faced deep ideological divides. Ultimately, though, their vast differences and bitter debates didn't prevent them from creating a new democracy. In perspective, their momentous task dwarfs our own struggles. At a recent conference on civility at the National Constitution Center, filmmaker Ken Burns, University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann, National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman Jim Leach, and other leaders and pundits from across the spectrum agreed that political dialogue today is more polarized, less civil, and less effective than at any time in American history, with the important exception of the run-up to the Civil War. Moreover, the deterioration of our political dialogue hasn't happened because of the tea-party movement, President Obama, or former President George W. Bush.
March 29, 2011
By Chris Kelly As a young beat reporter, I covered a Pennsylvania school board that included a member who was opposed to spending money on any educational advance newer than the blackboard. He was especially disdainful of computers, which he characterized as expensive toys that promoted laziness, liberalism, and pornography. "When I was in school, we didn't have no damned computers," he once said at a public meeting. "We had to use our noodle. " It wasn't clear if there was just the one noodle for the whole school, or if each kid got one. What was clear is that this dolt had no business visiting a school district, let alone running one. His statement is a classic example of the "straw man" fallacy, in which a debater creates a caricature of his opponent's argument and attacks it. This way, the dolt was able to sidestep the real problem, which was that the district had fallen behind its peers in acquiring computers.