My monthly collection of things that are inspiring, entertaining, and moving me—shared for no other reason than that it brings me big joy.
You may have picked up that I’ve been doing some deep exploration to ground and educate myself politically. I would say most of my extra time these past few months has been spent with this content.
Why am I doing this?
For most of my life, I’ve buried my head in the sand politically. Over the years I’ve gone from ignorance (truly not watching the news or paying attention for years at a time), to overwhelm (thinking there is far too much to understand/I’m not smart enough), to indifference (thinking politics didn’t actually matter). I’ve got no excuse for the first stance anymore and was dead wrong about the others. Perhaps it’s getting sober, perhaps it’s getting older, or perhaps it’s a product of our current climate being so polarized— likely all of these things. At the core, my interest in philosophy, human psychology, literature, and theology all weave directly into and through politics. So in a sense, it’s an outgrowth or natural evolution of refining my thoughts in those areas.
If you live in America, it is to your benefit (and at the risk of sounding sanctimonious, even your duty) to pay some attention. You don’t have to know everything, but education at a basic level is totally possible—and, I’m learning, it’s actually fun you guys. Seriously.
How to start?
Limit mainstream news.
I’ve stopped reading or watching any major news sites, but if you do, you must watch news from networks/houses that represent both sides. So, if you watch MSBNC, you’d better also be tuning into FOX for a while. Likewise with CNN. If you’re going to read The New York Times, you’d better also read the WSJ or Drudge Report.
News sites are heavily partisan because moderation doesn’t help ratings. So, at the very least, know that if you only tune into media weighed to one side, you will only be seeing one, limited (and heavily biased) perspective.
Listen to podcasts and watch independent YouTube channels.
There are some incredible daily or near-daily podcasts and YouTube shows. There are a few reasons why these are great. First, they don’t claim to be objective journalism—you know what side you’re getting. Second, and probably most importantly, these formats allow for the necessary, longer format conversations required to really dig into issues. Lastly, both left and right leaning show hosts purposely have people who oppose their own views on their shows, so you get to hear these longer, more sane discussions vs. the pointless soundbites you get on the mainstream news.
These are my recommendations.
“A political podcast for people not yet ready to give up or go insane.”
A no-bullshit conversation about politics hosted by Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor that breaks down the week’s news and helps people figure out what matters and how to help.
“The fastest growing, hardest hitting, most insightful, and savagely irreverent conservative podcast on the web.”
Hochschild is the author of Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on The American Right and a voice many are turning to in an effort to understand Trump’s America. It’s an important, enlightening discussion.
They talk about a range of things from sobriety to political infighting to how to actually lead in a time like this.
The largest talk show about free speech and big ideas on YouTube. I like Dave because he is a self-proclaimed classic liberal who has invited people from all sides to talk with him. He’s got a generous demeanor while also being a straight shooter.
This isn’t a political show, but he hosts plenty of political and intellectual voices from all sides. I think Joe is a master interviewer and conversationalist. He’s unconventional and unapologetic and refreshing. And yes, I think his views on weed are basically dumb. This is also a podcast.
JBP is highly polarizing, but the fact that he’s become so wildly popular says something. I would not consider him a political figure (and he doesn’t consider himself one either), but he’s been pulled into political conversations because of his views and teachings. I’ve learned a hell of a lot by listening to his lectures, interviews, and recent shows with Sam Harris (another voice I recommend). Most of this content is also available via his podcast.
Yes, I realize these shows are all male shows. I would love to find women who are producing similar content. If you know about one, tell me!
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
A struggling novelist travels the world to avoid an awkward wedding in this hilarious Pulitzer Prize-winning novel full of "arresting lyricism and beauty". - NY Times Book Review
This won the Pulitzer, yes, which is admittedly why I picked it up to begin with, but it is actually wonderful. Funny, witty, lyrical prose. A little Maria Semple, a little David Sedaris, a little of its own unique magic.
In The Stack (What I'm Currently Reading)
Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild
Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier
The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
The Way We Stay by Cere Demuth