Discover more from Lean Out with Tara Henley
Weekend reads: Vibe shift
Take heart, the tide is turning.
By the time you read this newsletter, I’ll be on the open road, making my way to New England for a very special event. Think: Gloriously coloured leaves, crisp sweater weather, hot coffee at roadside diners, homemade ham sandwiches, and hour after hour of podcasts — followed by days of long and involved discussions at my destination, diving into taboo subjects with problematic women. Life doesn’t get much better than this.
The whole adventure has got me feeling decidedly optimistic.
I’ve been saying on the podcast, for some time, that it feels like the tide is turning.
And now I will say it here: A shift is underway. The fever is breaking. The exhausted majority is starting to reassert itself. Sanity is slowly returning …
Here’s nine reassuring signs from this past week:
Intellectuals are turning down the temperature on hot button issues. Podcaster Kmele Foster and writer Thomas Chatterton Williams — two of my favourite American thinkers — invited Adam Davidson on The Fifth Column this week. The episode was triggered by a Twitter spat that all three men managed to set aside in order to have an open, honest, and illuminating conversation on race. This is what calm, reasonable, good faith debate looks like. A master class in complicating the narrative.
Humour is everywhere — and the excesses of our time are more and more easily mocked. Here’s a hilarious piece on the Park Slope Panthers neighbourhood watch group, and the “social construct” of crime, from Suzy Weiss. It reads like pure satire:
The Venn diagram for Park Slopers and Democratic voters is pretty much a circle. No one wanted to be labeled Park Karens. This made the whole crime-fighting thing a bit awkward: “It’s about finding a way that’s non-biased to report these things and have people feel like it’s safe here,” said Emily, one of the Panthers.“You don’t want to fall into that stereotype of privilege.”
A group of four who looked to be in their early twenties—three women and one man—rolled up about 15 minutes into the meeting. “Are y’all the Park Slope Panthers?” The one who asked was dragging a speaker on wheels and playing electronic music, presumably to drown out the meeting. “We are super not into you guys having your meeting or doing anything in the park.”
The young activist—who was white, wore glasses, grew up in Park Slope, and had a medical-grade face mask on, like his three comrades—was also super not into the cops, or anything resembling the cops. When Nammack told him we were taking turns introducing ourselves, the activist informed Nammack that he wasn’t “super into abiding by the structure that you’re setting up.”
The Canadian government is in retreat, revoking some of its least popular pandemic policies. The vaccine border mandate and ArriveCan app are both on the chopping block.
Joe Biden has declared the pandemic over. (Even if blue checkmark Twitter is not ready...)
Facts are starting to matter again. This piece by Rahim Mohamed at The Line makes an excellent point: Those who would dismiss Canada’s new Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre as a far-right bigot are going to have an uphill battle, given the realities of Poilievre’s, ahem, lived experience:
All kidding aside, no major federal party leader has ever had a family that looks more like Canada. Members of Poilievre’s extended family span multiple nationalities and speak English, French and Spanish as first languages. He has a South American wife, an adoptive father who is in a relationship with another man, and a biological mother who’s young enough to be his sister — Pierre Poilievre is basically a character from the hit sitcom Modern Family. The governing Liberals, who have made identity politics central to their party brand and spent the past seven months trying to connect Poilievre to white supremacism, should be worried.
The rappers are coming for the scolds. Hip-hop was always in the free speech camp, as Ice-T can attest.
The focus is finally on the kids, and on ensuring that they have a normal school year. Here’s an opinion piece penned by a group of doctors, in yesterday’s National Post (which references Lean Out podcast guest Shamik Dasgupta’s recent paper on the moral catastrophe of extended school closures).
The stories of the politically homeless are now being told. You can read/listen to this powerful series over at Bridget Phetasy’s Substack. I recommend starting with this moving letter from Chris Boutte.
We are not as divided as we think. Lean Out podcast guest Batya Ungar-Sargon, writing in UnHerd, makes the case that “Americans are much more united than they are divided” and details the extensive areas of common ground that exist. Here’s the money quote:
Every week, I talk to working-class Americans across the country who work with people who disagree with them on politics. They tell me the same thing over and over: we don’t have the luxury of hating co-workers who vote for the other party. We rely on them too much. Party politics just doesn’t matter as much as having a good working relationship. It’s our elites who want us to believe that we are divided, simply because it benefits them.
It’s clear how this works in politics: if you can convince your constituents that the person you’re running against is a fascist — or a groomer — then the race is over. Because if the choice is you or Hitler, you pretty much have it in the bag. And if you can also convince people that your opponents’ supporters and voters are fascists and deplorables, who cling to their guns and their Bibles and their bigotries, well, who wants to be in that category? Divisiveness in politics is a shortcut — a workaround to actually having to deliver the promises you make your constituents.
Take heart, readers. Times they are a-changin.
Lean Out with Tara Henley is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.