I’m writing you all from an outdoor cafe in Savannah, where one of my best friends has spent the pandemic year. Have you been here? My God, is it gorgeous. Hot as soup — I’m pouring sweat even in the shade — but a charm explosion. This particular coffee shop is mostly populated by students from SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design, who are wearing clothes that make me feel even more like human Teva than usual. It feels good.
I’m surrounded by chic kids wearing pleather pants and Docs in 100 degrees without breaking a sweat. Just outside the cafe, I stumbled upon this teeny tiny blue door (see above photo) and squealed loudly. Life is coming back and I am feeling it.
I have several essays in the works that I am excited to share with you in the coming weeks — up soon: a debate about Bitcoin and exposés about how Critical Race Theory is insinuating itself into the corporate world and medicine — but today I wanted to revisit some of the stories I’ve written about in this newsletter and update you on how they are shaking out.
First: Covid. Or rather, the politics of the pandemic in its waning days.
Last week I wrote about the irrationality we are witnessing among those, on the right and the left, for whom masks have become a tribal marker rather than a tool of public health.
Of all the pieces I’ve published so far this one elicited the most outraged emails by far. One sort went like this: “I’m not wearing a mask, and I am absolutely not getting vaccinated, and I have removed myself from your email.” Perhaps that’s for the best.
One reader, a writer I admire, wrote me to say: “I do not have the guts to write what you just did. But I agree with every word, and am bemused and appalled watching two out of three people of my demographic fully vaccinated and yet clearly committed to living like a year ago except for small gatherings with relatives that they talk about as if they had tried dropping acid.”
I was gratified to hear from a subscriber who identified himself as “a retired aerosol scientist and a former associate professor of environmental health physics at Harvard's (now Chan’s) Graduate School of Public Health.” He wrote: “I well understand the science and found your essay to be quite appropriate.”
If only I had that kind of sway over lawmakers.
Washington, D.C., is allowing weddings to take place again, but the mayor has explicitly banned dancing. This past week, Brookline, Massachusetts — the second-most educationally credentialed town in the country — decided to overrule CDC guidance and keep mandatory outdoor masking in place. Why? Why require outdoor masking when the science overwhelmingly shows that Covid-19 cannot be transmitted in fresh air?
There is something deeply addictive about the virtue that locking down conferred to the lock downers. As I wrote: “The pandemic provided the perfect opportunity for the Amazon Prime elite. It allowed people to feel virtuous for staying home. Watching Netflix was noble. Being anti-social was virtuous. Ordering DoorDash was saving the world.”
So what happens when those rules ease up? Well, a lot of the people with signs on their front lawns declaring “believe science” are denying it. Lockdown has become a pseudo-religious calling for some on the left, and so it makes sense that the best reporter to cover this phenomenon is a religion reporter for the Atlantic, Emma Green. She published an excellent story this week on the liberals who can’t quit lockdown.
One of the choice bits:
After Emily Oster, an economist at Brown University, argued in The Atlantic in March that families should plan to take their kids on trips and see friends and relatives this summer, a reader sent an email to her supervisors at the university suggesting that Oster be promoted to a leadership role in the field of “genocide encouragement.”
The danger in treating reasonable liberals like Oster as science-denying baddies is summed up perfectly in Emma’s piece by Dr. Monica Gandhi: “Those who are vaccinated on the left seem to think overcaution now is the way to go, which is making people on the right question the effectiveness of the vaccines.”
The messaging here, again, should be extremely simple: Get vaccinated. Get back to life.
The long march through America’s schools continues apace.
I pulled together some of the most shocking examples from the public school system — Exhibit A: the Seattle Public Schools are saying that the education system is committing “spirit murder” against black children — back in February. That was then.
Now, California’s Department of Education has put forward a new framework for changing the way math will be taught in the state. The proposal is more than 800 pages, but what you need to know is that it embraces a “justice-oriented perspective” and “rejects the ideas of natural gifts and talents.” It does this by doing away with gifted programs, discouraging algebra for eighth graders and calculus for high schoolers.
If you think that these self-defeating ideas only have sway inside schools that cost more than $50,000 a pop, I regret to inform you that you are wrong. (Think about China and you want to scream.)
Thank God for the people who are pushing back. One of them is Asra Nomani. Asra is a former investigative reporter at the Wall Street Journal and the mother of a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Thomas Jefferson is the Stuyvesant of Virginia. It is consistently rated one of the best public high schools in the country; just like at Stuyvesant, students are admitted based on a race-blind admission test.
Or they were until this past fall, when that test was scrapped in the name of diversity.
But Thomas Jefferson is diverse: the school is 79 percent non-white. The most recent freshman class is more than 70 percent Asian American. Getting rid of the test will ultimately hurt these minority students: Asian American enrollment is expected to decrease more than 40 percent.
A group of parents called the Coalition for TJ is suing, arguing that the school’s new admissions system violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment. In the meantime, the school board has found itself in the deeply strange position of smearing parents like Asra, a Muslim immigrant, as a racist. She isn’t taking it, and gave the board an earful this past week. Watch:
As John McWhorter put it on Twitter: “Everybody should listen to her.”
My blood still boils when I think about the justice denied to Sarah Halimi. You’ll remember that her Jew-hating murderer was let off because he had smoked pot.
The mayor of Paris announced that a street in the city’s Jewish quarter, the Marais, would be named in Halimi’s honor. “It will be a way of achieving justice for her,” Mayor Anne Hildago said.
Not really. A symbolic gesture does not make up in any way for this travesty, which is a reflection of how little Jewish life rates in 21st century France.
What does matter was the moral example set by a French Jewish judge named Jack Broda. Late last month, the 82-year-old resigned his post over the catastrophic decision. A street naming costs nothing. Quitting your job costs a lot. Merci, Judge Broda.
In late March, I wrote a column about the shocking rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans. New data shows how extreme it has become.
For months now, Asian-Americans have been viciously attacked on the streets of cities like New York and San Francisco, but the mainstream press and our politicians have had a very hard time describing these attacks accurately. Why? Because of the identity of the attackers. “When the perpetrator is a neo-Nazi it is a moral gimme. When the person carrying out the hate crime comes from a group that’s also a target of hate crimes condemnation becomes much more difficult.” This struck me and still does as morally perverse. As I wrote: “The value of a victim should not be dependent on the identity of their victimizer.”
The NYPD just dropped new data that shows that the hate crime spike against Asian-Americans isn’t just anecdotal.
To what extent are these disgusting attacks — many of them against the elderly — an outgrowth of the crime wave we are seeing across American cities? I’ll be looking to journalists and analysts I trust on this issue, like Charles Fain Lehman, Zaid Jilani, Rafael Mangual, and Lee Fang, to answer that question. I recommend you do, too.
Jews are like everyone else, just more so. That’s a line variously attributed to famous Jewish writers, which makes sense because it reflects a truth obvious in every era of our history. So it should not come as a surprise that the Jewish community hasn’t been immune to the illiberalism sweeping across American institutions — not by a long shot.
David Bernstein, a longtime Jewish professional, blew the whistle on this phenomenon and on his own failure to stand up to it.
He’s just started a new organization, called the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values, to counter the imposition of woke ideology in the Jewish community. Its first effort: an open letter in defense of liberalism signed by Rabbi David Wolpe, Steven Pinker, former ACLU president Nadine Strossen, Rabbi David Ingber, Jonathan Haidt, and many others.
I was glad to join them and invite anyone who agrees with the principles of the letter to join us here.
This coming Thursday you can catch me and the brilliant Glenn Loury, who you’ll remember from the symposium we just ran on systemic racism. Glenn and I will be speaking at an event online hosted by the Manhattan Institute Called “Anti-Semitism and Anti-Racism Collide.” You can register here.
In preparation, I’m reading this bracing piece by a former college chaplain, and this absolutely brilliant essay by the psychologist Pamela Paretsky called “Critical Race Theory and the ‘Hyper-White’ Jew.”
Last: a very happy mother’s day to everyone, but especially to the gorgeous and hilarious Amy Weiss, and to my two sisters, Casey and Molly, who themselves became mothers in the past few months.
If you want to read something fantastic that is spinning America’s too-online leftists out of their minds with rage, check out this essay by Liz Bruenig about becoming a young mother and loving it.
And if you want to give the perfect mother’s day gift . . .