Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Wrong Way to Argue Against the Death Penalty

History is not on the side of the death penalty-- that's obvious, right? Not only is public opinion gradually souring against it, but our country is also executing fewer people each year now than it has been for the last forty years. Meanwhile, the international consensus against the practice could scarcely be more overwhelming. The United States' policy of execution places it not in the ranks of democratic nations, but among such unsavory company as the governments of North Korea, China, and Iran. The European Union regards capital punishment as so egregious a violation of human rights as to bar from membership a nation that employs it. And so on.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

On Becoming Re-Radicalized

If there is one type of literary production I know well, it is the story of the naive idealist who joins and soon becomes disillusioned with some radical movement. I was reading that story about why not to be a radical almost as soon as I had become one. I'm very quick and self-punishing when it comes to allowing my most cherished idols to be defaced and overthrown. Radicalism never seems as deeply implausible to me as when I am a radical; it never manages to stare so accusingly and yet beckoningly at me as when I am not one.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Review of "Undocumented" by Aviva Chomsky, Part II

We don't like to admit that we learn things from books we disagree with. Or from books we agree with, for that matter. If you took people at their word, you'd wonder how anyone ever learned anything to start with, since by the time they become readers of books they are all omniscient beings. What stands in the way of our honest admissions on these points, I take it, is that so often the very idea that provoked us into disagreement in the first place is the same one we are later forced to incorporate into our response to it. Long before we have conceded the fact, therefore, the book has already altered our way of thinking.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Review of "Undocumented" by Aviva Chomsky, Part I

There is only one honest place from which to start a discussion of America's current immigration crisis, and that is with an acknowledgment that this crisis is not primarily a political problem -- it is a human rights problem of vast proportions. It is a humanitarian catastrophe that splits children from their parents, locks people away for months or years in detention facilities away from their loved ones, and allows for the maintenance of brutally exploitative labor practices and the denial of collective bargaining. This is where Aviva Chomsky's Undocumented begins, in medias res, and its decision to do so is one of the book's most redeeming features.