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Liz Smith, Interracial Friendships, and Roy Moore

Past Present Episode 108

In this episode, Niki, Natalia, and Neil debate Liz Smith and the history of gossip columns, whether interracial friendships are possible, and evangelical responses to Roy Moore’s pedophilia scandal.

EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionMedia/PublicsRace

The (de)Construction of the “Illegal” Immigrant

Latinos respond to Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s derisive statements about Mexican immigrants have mobilized a large portion of the Latino community in the United States. Faced with the same old accusations that Mexican immigrants are criminals, drug-dealers, or rapists, businesses and public figures such as Univision, NBC, ESPN, NASCAR, Macy’s, chefs Jose Andres and Geoffrey Zakarian, Miss USA contestants, and even mayor of New York Bill de Blasio, took action …


“I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” – But They are Not

As the holidays are coming to an end, I return to New York after a week spent in Puerto Rico with my family. The island is enchanting: it has opened itself to tourism, without selling its soul to it. What most impressed me upon our arrival in San Juan was the number (and strangeness) of Christmas decorations. Instead of the usual western iconography, here Christmas is most often symbolized by what appeared to me as a small detail of the nativity scene: the three Magi. Furthermore, funnily enough, instead of gold, frankincense and myrrh, the three exotic kings have musical instruments in their hands — as a reminder of the overwhelming importance of salsa, which one hears on almost every corner of the city. For the whole week we spent traveling around the island I kept asking myself “why such a choice?” …


Season’s Greetings and the War on Christmas

Consider season’s greetings. For many, these are unselfconscious gestures. But for others, they are loaded with significance. While we can together celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah after Thanksgiving, along with the new New Year, showing respect for each other, some prefer to exclude. There are the combatants against “the war on Christmas,” fighting valiantly on Fox News.

Indeed, this is the time of year that I often feel like an outsider in my own country. It has felt this way my whole life, though it was much harder as a child. I heard, and learned by osmosis, the Christmas songs, from “White Christmas” to “Silent Night,” and like all American kids, I was charmed. …


Are We Really Such Beasts?

There is a relentless barrage of narratives about our supposed beastly nature and conduct. Since childhood, we have all watched animals routinely tear off each others’ limbs in countless nature documentaries meant to show us that survival at any cost is the natural order of life. We are fascinated by House of Cards, from which we infer that only suckers play by the book and uphold standards of decency. Many of us stumbled across the political theory of Thomas Hobbes in school; he told us that man is a wolf to other men and that the only way to reign in the beast is to resign to a larger beast — the Leviathan. We also recall that Adam Smith advised us not to rely on the charity of the butcher and the grocer for our meal, but on their self interest. We watched Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street or Costa-Gavras’s Le Capital, and they confirmed that self interest knows no bounds. …