Best columns: The U.S.
Trump’s historical ignorance
President Trump’s lack of historical knowledge “is as revealing as it is troubling,” said Jamelle Bouie. Trump prompted widespread snickering last week when he claimed in an interview that President Andrew Jackson had been “really angry” about the Civil War—which, inconveniently, erupted 16 years after Jackson’s death. “Why was there the Civil War?” Trump added. “Why could that one not have been worked out?” The answer to that “is as straightforward now as it was in 1861”: slavery. The enslavement of millions of black Americans and all the interests tied up in that institution dragged us toward an almost inevitable bloody conflict. But Trump’s amoral alternative history reveals a disturbing worldview in which every crisis can be resolved by deal making, “where there aren’t battles that have to be fought for the sake of the nation and its soul.” Above all, Trump’s musings are a reminder that his ignorance “isn’t an act or a performance.” Our president is as “uninterested in the challenges of the past as he is in the dilemmas of the present.” That should make all of us afraid. As we’ve been told many times, “Those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it.”
Conversion therapy is free speech
The Boston Globe
The idea that “conversion therapy” can turn gays and lesbians straight “seems hopelessly misguided, if not downright delusional,” said Jeff Jacoby. But that doesn’t mean therapists who try to talk people out of their homosexuality should be punished. The Supreme Court refused to take up a challenge last week against a California ban on conversion therapy, only a few days after Democrats in Congress introduced legislation to outlaw the controversial practice nationwide. The lawmakers argue that homosexuality isn’t a medical condition, which means conversion therapy patients are being defrauded through “deceptive advertising.” But it’s not the government’s job to stop people from wasting money on “dubious therapeutic techniques.” If it were, authorities would also have to crack down on crackpot treatments like primal scream therapy and pastlife regression therapy. Moreover, conversion therapy isn’t some “risky surgical technique” or “dangerous drug”—it’s a discussion between a therapist and a patient. And like all speech, that discussion should be protected by the First Amendment. The fact that “millions of Americans, gay and straight alike, would deem it offensive and insulting, even hateful,” is irrelevant. The Constitution gives people the freedom to engage in all kinds of speech—even the kind that “makes you want to scream.”
Online news is dragging us down
Michael Brendan Dougherty
“Do you lie awake in bed more often these days, unable to sleep, scrolling through Facebook or Twitter on your phone?” asked Michael Brendan Dougherty. Do you have a nearly constant feeling of stress, a “gnawing fear” that dark alliances are conspiring against you? If so, “what you’re feeling might be my fault.” I write about politics on the internet— and to my mind, nothing has warped the human experience more than the way we receive news on social media. Together, the internet and journalists have colluded to feed our deepest suspicions. Are you an architecture fan? “Someone just built a monstrosity next to a building you loved. Click here.” Worried about campus free speech? Scroll down and you’ll find an outraged student magazine editorial confirming your worst fears. The onslaught is incessant and comes as ever more Americans are disconnected “from everything that is humane, gentle, or life-giving.” Americans are now more likely to live alone than they were two decades ago, less likely to belong to a civic association, and more likely to have an addiction. We’re living in a culture of anxiety and alienation, and I’m only feeding it. So please, stop consuming “content”—even mine.