Best columns: The U.S.
A nation in the grip of extremism
David Von Drehle
The Washington Post
Political extremism threatens to tear our country apart, said David Von Drehle. The U.S. has always had radical elements on the Right and Left, “but converging forces—including niche media, social networks, and partisan gerrymandering—have tipped power from the center to the extremes.” Last year, these forces “gave us perhaps the most radical presidential election in American history.” Donald Trump hijacked the Republican Party despite his opposition to such core conservative values as “prudence, order, tradition, and free markets.” Though he’s not a Democrat, the socialist Bernie Sanders nearly won the party’s nomination by promising free college and health care to everyone. In the divisive Trump presidency, the “solid center” that once anchored our nation has eroded further: In Charlottesville, Va., “wanna-be Nazis” arrived to defend white supremacy with torches and weapons; in Berkeley, masked “antifa” anarchists attacked peaceful protesters and cops. Meanwhile, both parties “continue to demonize each other in hopes of winning the next election.” Most Americans are not radicals, but dangerous passions now define our politics and discourse. “Principled liberals and conservatives need to wake up to this peril” and stand united against extremism.
Muslims in the melting pot
The Boston Globe
Ever since 9/11, many Americans “have come to regard Muslims with fear or suspicion,” said Jeff Jacoby. As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump “fueled that animus,” calling for “a total and complete shutdown” of Muslim immigration, while alleging many U.S. Muslims harbor “great hatred toward Americans.” Nothing could be further from the truth. A new Pew Research Center poll reveals that Muslim immigrants “adopt American values, reject fundamentalism,” and assimilate well. A heartening 92 percent say they’re “proud to be an American,” and only 36 percent say all or most of their friends are fellow Muslims—“far less than the 95 percent” in Europe and other countries. In much of the world, there’s no doubt that Islamist fanaticism and terror are very serious problems. But 76 percent of U.S. Muslims say killing civilians for a political or religious cause “can never be justified”— compared with only 59 percent of Americans overall. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. Muslims say there is room for “multiple interpretations” of their religion. The good news here is that our tradition of freedom, religious tolerance, and pluralism continues to have great power. “Immigrants of every faith still come to America, and still turn into Americans.”
In praise of cultural appropriation
The “increasingly strident Left” has some strange notions, said Bari Weiss, but perhaps the silliest is its obsession with stamping out “cultural appropriation.” In Portland, Ore., activists have created a blacklist of “white-owned appropriative restaurants” to boycott, because Caucasians shouldn’t make tacos or dosas. The University of Michigan is hiring a “bias response” worker to “enact cultural appropriation–prevention initiatives.” Is there a more un-American idea than this? Our “mongrel culture” is so wondrously complex because it blends food, music, art, languages, clothing, and sensibilities from all over the world. This is not “stealing,” but “syncretism”—creating something new by mixing old ideas “in revelatory ways.” Ours is a nation where the Russian-born Jewish immigrant Irving Berlin wrote “White Christmas,” where black Southerner Jessye Norman became one of the greatest opera singers of all time, where even our national symbol, Lady Liberty, was made in France. Yet the dour enforcers of the cultural-appropriation ban would have us “remain in the ethnic and racial lanes assigned to us by accident of our birth.” No thank you. “Culture should be shared, not hoarded.” ■