Finding glimmers of hope in overwhelming times
A few months ago, many of the people that I interviewed would tell me that while they’d love to end our interview on a positive note, they couldn’t do it — because they simply weren’t feeling very hopeful.
They were instead feeling despair. And a deep sense of overwhelm.
That has changed, markedly, in recent weeks. Now people are telling me, all the time, that “it feels like the fever is breaking.”
I know this is an odd way to start a newsletter on the first weekend after Roe v. Wade has been overturned, when the culture war is beyond explosive.
But I believe it is important, in times like these, to reaffirm hope.
So let me say this: I am convinced — despite ample evidence to the contrary this week — that, off Twitter, where most people live their lives, the overall temperature is coming down. And that we can take some small measure of solace in that.
I am very concerned about the fate of women in this new post-Roe America, particularly working-class women. I also believe that there is at least some common ground to be found between the polarized sides — and that an overall, culture-wide cooling off could only help Americans find it.
In that spirit, I quote Bari Weiss and her piece “The Post-Roe Era Begins”:
One of the things we value most about this community is that we have different views about highly divisive subjects. What we share is a commitment to civility, respect and honest conversation. Even—especially—in deeply emotional moments like this one.
There are those who claim that the time for nonviolence has passed. That desperate times call for desperate measures. That we are in a war and in a war the normal rules of politics must be suspended. These are the same people who turn a blind eye to—or justify—those threatening the lives of Supreme Court justices with whom they disagree. The same people who, in another time, justified violence against abortion providers.
We could not disagree more strongly with this view.
We know that it’s chic these days to write off virtues like civility and decency and humility and grace. We believe those things are the only way forward. That the only alternative to violence is persuasion and argument.
I advocate, as always, for calm and empathetic discussion and debate.
On to a few of the glimmers of hope that I’m seeing — the complicating of dominant narratives, “the exhausted majority” asserting itself, the reemergence of viewpoint diversity, the pushback on extremes. The vibe shifts, if you will…
The reckoning on pandemic school closures continues, hitting mainstream outlets. This week, Meira Levinson and Daniel Markovits published a piece in the Atlantic, “The Biggest Disruption in the History of American Education.”
On the topic of social media mobbings, New York magazine ran a cover story on cancel culture and teens that gave many pause, “Canceled at 17” by Elizabeth Weil.
And on better understanding the phenomenon of polarization, pollster Daniel Cox has a fascinating post up at his Substack, “The Political Gender Gap is Exploding.”
Some news for listeners of the podcast: I am now expanding to two episodes a week.
In addition to interviewing an author a week for the 30-minute episode, I’ll also be interviewing a journalist a week, about an article that’s making waves, for a quick, 15-minute episode. (I’m tentatively calling this new feature Lean Out Shorts. Admittedly a boring name, so if you have any better ideas feel free to weigh in in the comments...)
Having more conversations with interesting people, more often, about more things is itself a glimmer of hope. And one that I will hold on to.