What's Tony Thinking

End of the First Full Week of December


I continue to be grateful for the work that Ezra Klein is doing at his podcast on the Israel – Hamas war as well as the larger issues at the root of the conflict. (Clicking on these links will give you the option of listening to the podcast or reading a transcript of it.)

Early in the week the theme was looking at this from the perspective of Hamas in a pod titled “This Is How Hamas Is Seeing This.” Ezra’s guest was a Palestinian journalist who knows Hamas and and its history very well.

Then on Friday a piece on “A Path Israel Could Have Taken, And Maybe Still Can.” That path, ultimately, is the two-state solution. Klein’s guest insists this is the other viable path toward resolution.

Much discussion in this one of how Netanyahu’s policies and the actions of Israel’s right-wing have contributed to what happened on October 7, as well as how Israel has systematically undermined the Palestinian Authority, leaving the Palestinian people with no viable representation. Plenty of blame to go around. Two very helpful podcasts.

Lots of commentary and kerfuffle this week about the congressional testimony by Ivy League College/ University Presidents re anti-semitic words and acts on their campuses. Maureen Dowd in a NYT piece headed “The Ivy League Flunks Out” summed it up as follows:

“When Stefanik (Congress member Elise Stefanik) asked Harvard’s president, Claudine Gay, whether calling for the genocide of Jews constituted bullying, Gay said ‘it could, depending on the context.’

“I (Dowd) felt the same disgust with the Catholic Church sex scandal, seeing church leaders who were charged with teaching us right from wrong not knowing right from wrong. University presidents should also know right from wrong. As left-wing virulence toward Jews collides with right-wing virulence, these academics not only didn’t show off their brains, they didn’t show their hearts.” ABR note: being coached by high-priced law firms tends to shrink the heart.

“’I think the inability of these individuals to articulate a simple, straightforward answer to what should have been the easiest question in the world was mind-boggling,'” (said) Jonathan Greenblatt, the director of the Anti-Defamation League, to Dowd in an interview.

Meanwhile at his Weekly Dish Andrew Sullivan dished on the same topic.

“Freedom of speech in the Ivy League extends exclusively to the voices of the oppressed; they are also permitted to disrupt classes, deplatform or shout down controversial speakers, hurl obscenities, force members of oppressor groups — i.e. Jewish students and teachers in the latest case — into locked libraries and offices during protests, and blocked from classrooms. Jewish students have even been assaulted — at Harvard, at Columbia, at UMass Amherst, at Tulane.”

As I have written here before, framing everything in terms of the oppressor/ oppressed binary is a dangerous game to play, now coming back to haunt progressives.

Two parents are a privilege, maybe “the” privilege. There’s a newish book out by Melissa Kearney titled The Two Parent Privilege. Here’s part of a brief introduction to the book from The Free Press.

“Melissa Kearney is an economist at the University of Maryland and her new book, The Two-Parent Privilege: How Americans Stopped Getting Married and Started Falling Behind, argues that declining marriage rates in America—and the corresponding rise in children being raised in single parent households—are driving many of the country’s biggest economic problems. In the 1950s, fewer than 5 percent of babies in this country were born to unmarried mothers. Today, nearly half of all babies in America are born to unmarried mothers.” Emphasis added.

I would also add this: “privilege” connotes something unearned and undeserved. Well, yes, babies haven’t exactly “earned” two parents. But parents I know who stick with marriage and prioritize their children, put in a lot of effort to make that work. At least most do. That said, I take Kearney’s point — every child needs the blessing and benefits of two parents, and whatever our society can do to make that a reality is a very good idea.

A lot of this erosion of marriage, as well as church-going, has taken place in the working class, also ground zero for what have been termed “deaths of despair.” There are societal factors at work as the working classes have long been buffeted by many malign forces.

Movie recommendation: “The Holdovers” (now in theaters). With Paul Giamatti and Da’Vine Joy Randolph. Kind of a Christmas story, or at least one that takes place at Christmas. Grace happens for and between an unlikely group of people. Which is pretty much where grace always happens.

Well, I hope your Advent season is bringing some grace, and that I might see some of on-line later today for our Advent Vespers at 4:00 p.m.

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