Category Archives: Opinion

Building an American Myth

How do you make a mission statement for a country? has been the theme of my last few posts. How can we recreate a unifying national myth to which all of us can resonate? What follows is a list of eight possible components of an American identity. These are not simple things – they contain […]

Identity Politics

We hear a lot about “identity politics” these days, and most of it is bad. The basic image is of ever-more strident and intolerant groups who are interested only in airing their grievances, establishing their victimhood, furthering their agendas, and shouting down anyone who disagrees – all at the expense of the greater good. But […]

A Mission Statement for America, Part 2

Please join me in this ongoing effort to create a working mission statement for America that may help us to hang together lest, as Benjamin Franklin noted, “we shall all hang separately.” (Note to Oval Office: Franklin: a great American, invented electricity, currently dead.) At the end of yesterday’s post, I wrote of four times […]


OK, I admit it. I live in a bubble. And you live in a bubble. We all live in bubbles. Even those who criticize us for living in bubbles live in bubbles. And those who say that people who live in bubbles can’t understand the “real” America, they live in bubbles, too. So, let’s acknowledge […]

It’s always ourselves we find in the sea*

“What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue,” Ayn Rand (1964). This is the second in a series of responses to my recent post, Giving Very Small, reflections on hunger and homelessness in American cities not as detached statistics but as human encounters.  You now prompt me to […]

You Know You See Me

My last post hit a chord with many readers, whose responses were so varied and so thoughtful that I think they deserve a post of their own. In fact, two posts. I also urge you to read John Kirkpatrick’s comment, which is at once too long to excerpt here and too good to miss.  Here, excerpted and […]

Giving Very Small

It’s an old tale. One morning after a big storm, a wise man walks along a beach covered with starfish. He watches as a small boy bends to pick up a starfish and throw it into the ocean. “What are you doing,” he asks? “Throwing starfish into the ocean,” the boy replies. “If I don’t, […]

The Gift Outright

Fifty-six years ago, on a cold and windy day in Washington, eighty-six-year-old Robert Frost stood to read “Dedication,” a poem he had written for the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. Squinting into the bright sun, he found himself unable to read the faint type in front of him, and so instead he recited an earlier […]

Beyond Legitimacy

Few people have more justification to question the legitimacy – not merely of Donald Trump’s presidency, but of our entire political system – than John Lewis. Born to sharecroppers in the violent, apartheid world of rural Alabama, he later had his head split open on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, named for a former Grand Dragon of […]

Elegy in Black and White (Part 2)

My discovery 40 years ago (Part 1) that white people living in an urban ghetto exhibited many of the behaviors – addiction, crime, truancy, teenage pregnancy – associated with inner-city black life came as a revelation to me. I wasn’t alone in my ignorance. The Moynihan Report (1965) had declared, “the Negro family in the […]