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Potential war looms over Europe, a new seat on the Supreme Court has opened, and the pandemic could be coming to a close. For better or worse, change is in the air. Here are the stories on my radar:
New Seat, Same Problems
The controversies surrounding whom Biden will appoint to the Supreme Court reminded me of my general disdain for the institution. Instead of wading into the merit vs. identity debate—on which I defer to Jonathan Chait’s argument that identity has always played a factor in nominations—I find myself dwelling on the absurdity of the institution itself, or more precisely what the institution has become.
A nation with laws needs final arbitrators to settle disputes. Such arbitration needs to be done by a court with separation from kings or politicians, to ensure that the final judgments passed down from on-high have credibility with the populace. Yet, in the U.S., we explicitly politicize each Supreme Court nomination while pretending we haven’t defiled the core tenet of an independent court. Members of the court strategically retire to game who their replacement will be, and politicians campaign on appointing the right type of justices.
Theoretical reforms, and assertions that partisanship will always play a role in nominations, are beside the point: the Supreme Court is a political institution. The millions of Americans, who still buy into the comforting narratives about the Supreme Court, should lay these fantasies to rest. The justices aren’t the impartial high-judicial-priests that American mythology would have us believe. We do a disservice to ourselves when we pretend otherwise.
The Evolving Pandemic
As the nation deals with the Omicron wave, a growing chorus is saying that it’s time to move on and put the pandemic behind us. Bari Weiss was showered with both praise and scorn after stating she was “done with COVID.” The Atlantic published a piece voicing an argument against masking students in schools. A few districts across the country closed down schools once again, sparking pushback from progressives.
I cite the death statistics here, not to repudiate anyone who is ready to move on, but to highlight my own uncertainty. Over the past year, I’ve remained agnostic about whether people are over or under-reacting to the pandemic, mostly because I simply don’t know how to feel. My heart aches for people on both sides of this argument.
The regional differences which convolute the debate, deepen my uncertainty. In December, Shadi wrote a Monday Note about the need to avoid Omicron hysteria, which positioned him on the less-concerned side of the argument in the eyes of political-Twitter. However, knowing the precautions he was taking, Shadi would have been considered a COVID-hawk in the red state where I live. Indeed, he has taken safety measures which I haven’t, despite my perception that I am more worried about the virus.
Suffice it to say, I don’t exactly know where I fall on the question of where we should go from here. My only firmly held preference for how to proceed is with an abundance of grace.
Continued Tragedy in Afghanistan
As talks of a potential war in Ukraine heat up, the looming threat of famine in Afghanistan keeps resurfacing in my mind. A recent piece by the Washington Post outlines a truly dire situation:
Over 22 million people, more than half the country’s population, are facing crisis-levels of hunger, the majority of them unable to guarantee when their next meal is going to be, according to the U.N. World Food Program.
Preoccupation with a potential new war is no excuse to ignore the fallout of the previous one.
How Not To Bend The Arc of History
As tensions on the Ukrainian border reach a boiling point, Damir released an essay that ought to be read by everyone interested in a possible Russian invasion. The piece sparked a few passionate discussions on Twitter. Ever the realist, Damir makes the case that America has undermined our alliances, and NATO itself, by giving a flimsy promise that we knew we couldn’t uphold. “By mauling Ukraine as we helplessly stand by,” Putin hopes to further diminish America’s credibility. I can’t help but be reluctantly swayed by Damir’s argument here, Shadi’s objections notwithstanding.
Debate: Is Democracy Good?
Wisdom of Crowds debates are back! If you missed it, go back and read this week’s debate. Their back and forth over Damir’s essay, “Are Human Beings Inherently Democratic?”, highlights exactly what makes Shadi and Damir’s contrasts so compelling. I found myself vacillating back and forth with each volley, unsure of who was ultimately right.