Old Struggle, New Politics
Thanks for your timely issue on the new politics of abortion [December 16/23]. I thought especially important was Katha Pollitt’s piece on the criminalization of pregnant women [“Personhood Is Punishment”]. I would add only that the phony tears that “pro-life” terrorists shed for the unborn are belied by the fact that these are many of the same people who want to deny support to single mothers struggling to raise their kids—from replacing the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program to cutting food stamps, child care funding, and everything else needed to cope with raising a child, especially on low wages. I know it will sound crass, but the demand should be made that if you’re going to force someone to have a baby, then you are responsible for financially ensuring the baby has all it needs for full and healthy development. Actually, someone should sue for child support as a test case.
The only other thing I would add is that I am always shocked when the word “sex” is not uttered in modern discussions of abortion rights. The subconscious message of “pro-life” activists is that the enjoyment of sex is a sin, especially for the unmarried. Clearly sexual repression is a large part of the moral view of the right wing, and we can no longer ignore it.
It has taken some time for me to get over the rage I feel about anti-abortion arguments. Opposition to abortion is a religious issue, and I do not want anyone forcing his or her religion on me. The question of abortion must be decided only by the individual woman, not by a law that forces her to accept someone else’s religious views.
William Allin Storrer
traverse city, mich.
The cover of your December 2/9 issue depicts a fat man with a pig’s face and the words “How Much Is Too Much?”
It is time to let go of such stale, Depression-era fat-cat images as stand-ins for greed and wealth when the current reality is that the vast majority of fat people in America are poor.
The consequences of promoting fat phobia are real. Every day fat people die or are misdiagnosed, or a diagnosis is delayed until they lose weight. The Nation leads the way in so many areas of progressive thought that it breaks my heart to see you stuck so far behind the times in this area.
The Truth About These Truths
Daniel Immerwahr’s analysis of historian Jill Lepore’s work—specifically These Truths and This America—is brilliant [November 11/18]. His conclusion that “the old rules no longer apply,” along with all that follows, is dark and grim and, I’m afraid, brutally accurate.
east setauket, n.y.
The limitation of Lepore’s thesis in These Truths is clear in her introduction, in which she argues that our “national creed” derives from Thomas Jefferson’s ideas of liberty and equality. What nonsense! His Declaration of Independence was no more than a propaganda piece that employed the buzzwords of the Enlightenment to justify the American Revolution and to persuade the French to lend us money for our war. Jefferson, who owned 600 slaves, could not have believed those ideas.
Historians tend to rely too much on words, particularly on the words of leaders, as representations of reality, whereas the sinews of a culture include not only words but also unspoken assumptions, passions, and above all, actions. Taken together, these forces constitute what we call cultural values, and they are powerful indeed.
The white males who left Europe for Africa, India, and the Americas in the 17th century shared an assumption that the earth was theirs and that native peoples could be disregarded—or worse. Thus, the displacement of natives by the Puritans, the enslavement of Africans and African Americans, and the depredations of Manifest Destiny were of a piece with what Europeans were doing in India and Africa. If we seek to identify the informing values of our national development over the years, they can most accurately be described as male dominance, racism, and the acquisition of wealth.
As Immerwahr argues, the climate crisis offers the United States an opportunity to change its course from the mistakes of the past toward a world in which every person has the right to a home, to health care, to education, and to a living wage.
The Collective Is Political
This is just a brief note to thank Kate Aronoff for the sharply insightful review of Jonathan Safran Foer’s We Are the Weather [November 11/18]. Her opening parody of Foer is pitch-perfect, as are her passing observations regarding Michael Chabon and Jonathan Franzen.
Yes, those of us who can should cut back on or just stop eating meat. But only strong collective action has any chance of avoiding disaster.
Aronoff does a fine job of pooh-poohing the belief of Foer and a few other novelists that individual actions might help mitigate climate change. Everything she says about national mobilization, corporate agriculture, and self-serving capitalist interests is true.
However, the countervailing idea that the solution to climate change is to wait until the left wing of the Democratic Party gains sufficient clout to enact, say, a Green New Deal is no less delusional than the ideas of the authors Aronoff criticizes. The message that Greta Thunberg and the youth of the world are sending is that the time for talking, writing essays, and waiting for some transformative future government program to come to fruition has long passed. We as individuals (and collectively, if we can) should be doing something different now! If that means eating less meat, taking a train to Philadelphia instead of a plane to London, and giving the money we save by doing so to a struggling community center so it can install a more efficient HVAC system, then perhaps we should do it.
The Nation has well over 100,000 subscribers, a good portion of whom are leaders in their communities. If they change their behavior in response to climate change, others will notice and follow suit. If they do nothing, others will notice and remain complacent.
Haydon Rochester Jr.
Bryce Covert’s article “The Medicaid Expansion Effect” [December 30/January 6] misattributed the authorship of a report, “The Missing Medicaid Millions.” The authors are Jake Haselswerdt, Michael Sances, and Sean McElwee.