National Conservatism: Retrofitting Trump’s GOP with a Veneer of Ideas

Jacob Heilbrunn

Fox News host Tucker Carlson discusses “Populism and the Right” at a National Review Institute conference, Washington, D.C., March 29, 2019

The Burke Institute’s conference on “National Conservatism” was a Trump-inspired counter-revolution, a conservative colloquy that aimed at creating a catechism purged of the verities of the Reagan era: a crusading foreign policy and an idolatry of free-market economics. Usually, intellectual movements precede the rise of political ones, but in this case, Trump’s camp followers are reverse-engineering an intellectual doctrine to match Trump’s basic instincts. The new national-conservatives want to form what Burke called “little platoons” to ground conservatism based on what they see as an Anglo-Saxon heritage.

The New Fugitive Slave Laws

Manisha Sinha

Jugs of water left along migrant trails by the humanitarian aid group No More Deaths, for which Scott Warren volunteers, near Ajo, Arizona, May 10, 2019

There are still individuals who, regardless of race and ethnicity, do not accept or support their government’s unjust and inhumane policies. If the history of slavery and the fight against it has taught us something, it is that racial proscriptions and divisions suit those who seek to dehumanize and exploit people they construe as the other. For this reason, the interracial nineteenth-century abolition movement can provide valuable inspiration to those involved in today’s efforts to provide humanitarian aid to migrants and refugees and to resist the threatened descent into authoritarianism, mass atrocity, and inhumanity.

A Historic Win for New York Tenants

Michael Greenberg

Activists with the Upstate Downstate Housing Alliance occupying the capitol to demand legislators pass a “universal rent control” bill to strengthen tenants’ rights, Albany, New York, June 4, 2019

On June 14, the State Legislature in Albany passed a bill that will profoundly change the tenor of life in New York City. The law—known officially as the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019, but dubbed by its advocates “universal rent control”—strengthens tenant protections for the city’s nearly one million privately owned, rent-stabilized apartments. The release from distress for thousands of people facing the prospect of displacement will ripple through the city. With the passage of this bill, the lament that has become a cliché—that New York has lost its soul, that it offers no space for the unconventional, that it is home only to the rich and ruthless—will be significantly less true.

The Magic of Iris Murdoch

Nathan Gelgud

It started about ten years ago when I was walking around in the west village with my girlfriend Jolie. In the Housing Works on West 10th I saw a copy of The Good Apprentice. I’d never heard of Iris Murdoch before but I liked the description on the back. I started reading it that night, and was hooked. It’s about search for meaning, has a big cast, it’s mysterious, and has a hint of weird magic. As I read more of her books, I’d see that that could describe almost all of them. So, what happens in an Iris Murdoch novel?

A Radical Realist View of Tibetan Buddhism at the Rubin

Ian Johnson

Kingdom of Shambhala and the Final Battle, Mongolia, nineteenth century

For many people in the West, Buddhism is completely divorced from its history. So many of the beliefs and rites have been stripped away that many Westerners regard it purely as a philosophy, rather than a religion. As well-intentioned as this version of Buddhism might be, it is also a fantasy that places its practice on a higher moral and spiritual plane and erects an unbridgeable distance between us and its real, historical significance in Tibet. This exhibition offers an unsentimental, non-Orientalist perspective on Tibet, in which violence is a normal part of the political and religious discourse, as elsewhere in the world.

The Incendiary Sexual Politics of ‘Burn This’

Miranda Popkey

Adam Driver in Lanford Wilson's Burn This, Hudson Theatre, New York City, 2019

In Burn This, currently in revival at the Hudson Theatre, male force is the prelude, perhaps even the key, to female seduction. Here’s how I explain it: to be socialized as female is to be told that a man knows your desire better than you do. If what a man wants to do is force you to kiss him, who are you to say you don’t want to be kissed? If what a man wants to do is hurt you, who are you to say you don’t want to be hurt? I do not mean to deny female agency; I mean to contextualize it. Can a woman willingly submit to a man? Yes, and in any number of ways. But she inevitably does so under the umbrella of patriarchy, her desires not defined, but in some way colored, by its shadow.

My Chernobyl Vacation Friend

Anastasia Edel

A Black Sea resort beach, 1982

They’d have looked like regular vacationers had it not been for a slightly startled expression they all shared. They followed the waiters obediently. Suddenly, a whisper ran through the dining hall: “Chernobylskye.” People from Chernobyl. In a moment, we got new neighbors: a woman in her early thirties and a girl of five. By the meal’s end, we’d learned that Varya and Katya were from Gomel, a Belarus city about seventy miles north of Chernobyl. At the beginning of June, the plant where Varya worked had started distributing free vouchers to Black Sea resorts. The sea air was healthful and healing, the plant’s management had told them, though nobody would say what they might need healing from.

‘Almost All of Us Here Are Widows’: Searching for Words in Mali

Anna Badkhen

Fanta’s stepson Ousman Diakayaté inspects his father's cows after watering them at day's close, Mali, 2013

I first met Fanta in the fens of the flooded Inner Niger Delta. I walked with her, taking the annular route her ancestors had established during the nineteenth-century Macina Empire, or possibly earlier. Last year, after the attacks in Koumaga and Somena, Fanta’s family abandoned their usual route and drove their cattle toward sunset. Now they are among the more than a quarter of a million Malians displaced by conflict. Their most recent camp is about a hundred miles away from their historic pastures, in a part of Mali where they had never walked before.

The American Dark Money Behind Europe’s Far Right

Mary Fitzgerald and Claire Provost

Leader of Italy’s Lega party Matteo Salvini kissing a rosary at a rally before the European elections, Milan, Italy, May 18, 2019

Along with Marine le Pen in France, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, Italy’s Matteo Salvini is leading a startling resurgence of Europe’s far right. Across the continent, the messaging of these right-wing populists is increasingly slick, their party machines are disciplined, and their policies have been carefully crafted to appeal to a wider range of voters. Part of the explanation for this surge, however, became clearer for us when we started tracking the international financial flows linked to many of America’s most powerful Christian conservative groups. Several of the American activists who twenty years ago signed the Manhattan Declaration, the religious right’s manifesto dedicated to promoting “life, family, and freedom,” have since made numerous trips across the Atlantic, along with a great deal of cash to support their efforts.

The Murderer, the Writer, the Reckoning

John J. Lennon

A view of the Hudson River through a window from the Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Ossining, New York, February 24, 2017

On February 10, 2002, in a New York State prison cell, the bestselling author and twice-convicted killer Jack Abbott hanged himself. That same day, the body of the man I murdered washed ashore on a Brooklyn beach. My reason for connecting these two events is to try to account for my crime, to understand better why I did it, and to describe what Abbott’s legacy, as a prison writer of an earlier generation, has meant for me as a prison writer in this generation. Although he and I never met, I can almost picture us in adjacent cells in Clinton, holding hand-mirrors through the bars of our cell doors so that we could see each other to talk. In my imagination, I’d suggest to Abbott that what he was writing wasn’t the right story—it showed no remorse. Most likely, he would have rejected my advice, and we’d have never spoken again. It’s like that in prison.