The Weeks That Were

June 11 - July 1, 2021

Every Friday I take to Steady to look back at the week that was, mostly as seen through my Twitter feed. I hope you enjoy, and as always I appreciate your feedback.

Perhaps some of you eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that we missed a few editions of “The Week That Was.” I had some responsibilities that took my time. But now that we’re back it seems a good opportunity to check in. What do you think of this feature? Do you enjoy reading “The Week That Was” or perhaps, like some fare on Twitter, you think it’s foolishness (see below)? Let us know in the comments section. Your honest feedback is much appreciated.

To make up for our absence, here are highlights from the past few weeks. (For those grading for grammar, we’ll call this “The Weeks That Were.”)

I would like to begin with an evergreen reminder to make use of your local library. I will use any platform I have to sing the praises of these civic institutions (and, while I’m at it, local bookstores). You’ll sooner see a centaur driving a hybrid than hear a negative word about libraries from my mouth. So when I came across a list highlighting useful (and largely unknown) library services, it was a no-brainer to share it. Check out the list and let us know about your own community libraries in the comments section. (If you don’t know your local library, please make it a point to visit at least once this year. I promise it will be time well spent.)

If you’re ever hesitant to speak up and share your thoughts, you can perhaps use the following example for some motivation. On Saturday, June 19th, ABC’s Rachel Scott gave a master class in speaking truth to power and how to question an autocrat. When addressing Putin, Scott was clear, concise, and most of all courageous. (Not to mention, an incredibly insightful question —one that the public should have answered by all those in positions of power.)

On Tuesday, June 22nd, the voting rights bill known as the For the People Act, could not break through the filibuster barrier and failed to advance after receiving a 50-50 vote (more about this in our Sunday essay, “Betting Against the Vote.”) The bill was designed to reduce barriers to voting and counter the recent wave of state-level ballot restrictions. Republicans have proven, time and again, that they feel threatened when voting is expanded to greater numbers of people. I wonder why. As Rachel Scott would ask, “what are you afraid of?”

Blocking voting rights is not the only product of Republican fear. The academic concept of “critical race theory” is the latest tool weaponized in the GOP arsenal. (In layman’s terms, it is an intellectual and legal analysis that examines how race is built as a concept and used against people.) Republicans would have you believe there is no place for such study, as evidenced by their efforts to remove mentions of race from school curricula. But if you would like to hear a counter-point there is none better than that of General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During a House committee hearing on Wednesday, June 23rd, Milley offered a clear-eyed justification for why such study is necessary in order to understand the world we live in today. Give it a listen, it is worth your time.

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On paper, understanding the world we live in, or accepting reality, sounds like an easy task. But time and again, proponents of the Big Lie show that it is too large a hurdle to cross, and Sunday, June 27th was no different. (For more on why this matters, read our Sunday essay The Big Lie Is A Big Deal). Let’s take a moment to recognize fact and truth: Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 Presidential election. Anyone who insists otherwise is promoting their own agenda. And for those like Bill Barr who would like to shirk their responsibility for sustaining such falsehoods (and rehabilitate their image after causing such damage), history will remember.

One of the pillars of support behind the Big Lie is (big) money. For those who are keeping score, on Monday, June 28th, Toyota was cited as the number one donor — by a substantial margin — to 2020 election objectors. Sure seems like the car maker is rallying behind a different T. Just make sure democracy doesn’t drive off the lot as well.

Besides the discord of our political system, a defining challenge of our time is climate change. The truth of the matter is, our climate crisis infuses all of our other challenges, and makes them worse. History will judge how well we adapt, take action, and rise to the occasion. The following New York Times article by Christopher Flavelle and Kalen Goodluck illustrates that while the effects of climate change are terrible for all people, it is especially and devastatingly wrought on underrepresented groups like Native people.

For people of color and those who do not identify in majority demographics, stories of injustice and discrimination are far too familiar and frequent. In an example of “moving the goalposts” (changing previously agreed-upon standards and criterion to disadvantage another person), the University of North Carolina had effectively denied tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones, despite the fact that previous professors in her position had been granted tenure. Hannah-Jones had become a lightning rod on the political right for her role as creator of the New York Times’ “1619 Project," which considered the role of race in American history. A MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant recipient and a Pulitzer-winning journalist, she had more than enough qualifications to deserve tenure. Finally, after facing swift backlash and protest, UNC’s board relented on Thursday, July 1st. You don’t need an advanced degree to know that this correction was the right move, but it was one that never should have been necessary in the first place.

In closing, I offer the following: a reminder of the beauty in the world —a wonderful palate cleanser to end the workweek and start the weekend. Panna Meena Ka Kund, a step well in Jaipur, India, is a sight to see. A structural combination of geometry, beauty, and utility. Take a look at the marvel in the video below.

Well that’s a walk through some highlights of the past few weeks as I saw it. Have a great weekend.

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