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 […]

Elegy in Black and White (Part 1)

“I’m Ty,” he said as he launched himself from the top of the steps, a tiny human missile heading straight at me, standing on the floor below. It wasn’t the last time I would be startled by Ty’s combination of complete recklessness and complete trust. He was six. He had come, with his shy and […]

And so it begins

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?” (“Who will guard the guards themselves?”) Juvenal. It was a holiday, the first one of the year, and who knew these guys would be at work, or even in town? But there they were in a presumably smokeless room deep in the caverns of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. filleting […]

Out Among the Stars (Johnny Cash)

Ninety-two years ago yesterday, Edwin Hubble announced the discovery of V1, the first star anyone had ever seen in a galaxy beyond the Milky Way. Called “the most important star in the history of cosmology,” it turned our world upside down. Piers Sellers died on Dec. 23rd at the age of 61. Vera Rubin died […]

What Would Jesus Say?

This is the time of year when I always used to say, “Merry Christmas.” I never thought of those as fighting words, but as part of my heritage, even though I am a lapsed Christian. It is my family’s way of greeting the season that celebrates the renewal of life and, yes, peace on earth – […]

“We Have No Words”

Tom Northrop’s family has lived in Washington County, Pennsylvania, for more than 200 years, and it has owned and published the local newspaper, The Washington Observer-Reporter, since his great-grandfather, Jack Stewart, bought it in 1902. The paper itself was founded in 1808. So they – the family and the newspaper – have been around for a while. […]

Hometown News

And he said to them, “No doubt you will quote to me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal thyself! The [miracles] we heard were happening in Capernaum, do here in your home town.’” And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his home town.” (Luke 4:23-4) Whatever the reasons for its current condition, any institution […]

The Fourth Estate

In 1976 the Gallup Poll reported that 72% of Americans trusted the press. It hasn’t come close to that level since, and its approval ratings now stand at 32%, and 14% among Republicans, the lowest ever. It’s worth noting that its highest ratings came in the wake of tough reporting on Vietnam and Watergate, which […]

Failure to Communicate

“What we’ve got here,” said the Captain as he looked down at a bloodied and manacled Cool Hand Luke, whom he’d just beaten to the ground, “is failure to communicate.” While it’s one of the great lines in movie history, there was no failure to communicate – both the warden and the prisoner got the message, loud […]