In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, America enjoyed a sense of unity that was, if short-lived, a dramatic reminder that we are a single people with a strong and good national spirit.
Like so many of us, I was reminded of that spirit in what so far has been one of the most hopeful and unifying public moments of the American response to the pandemic, former President George W. Bush's recent eloquent and moving plea for unity.
But the reality today is so much different. This time around, we can't seem to put away partisan vituperation during the crisis itself. Our national politics seems as toxic as ever, our divisions more deeply rooted and widespread.
Right now, so many of us are alone and separated from others that we are rightly thinking about the deleterious effects of isolation.
Indeed, it is no accident that isolation is one of the more serious punishments we inflict upon the incarcerated. In a recent New Yorker article, Robin Wright lays out the physical and psychological damage that prolonged loneliness can have. One of the most telling studies cited by Wright is predicated on neurological experiments of the different impact on our bodies of the presence and absence of physical touch.
Being alone can be, and so often is, painful and damaging.
Could it be that a return to the past might provide a new way for the Islamic world to view and shape the future?
There has been much written and discussed about the contrast between contemporary, insular Muslim societies and the treasure of high intellectual and cultural achievement of Islam's ancient past.
The question that both Muslims and the broader world should be asking constantly is whether such a vision of Islamic civilization can be revived. And, if so, how?
The phrase ut laetificet cor, "that the heart might be made glad" (Psalm 103) is the motto of the brewery (birra nursia) of the Benedictine monks of Norcia, who established a community in 2000 in the city of Saint Benedict's birth. That phrase might be said to encapsulate an entire theory and practice of the Catholic understanding of the consumption of alcohol.
Although wine rather than beer is the beverage of choice in Italy, the brewery motto nicely sums up the Italian practice of consuming alcohol — in social settings, over long meals at gatherings of friends and family, and as a complement to the art of conversation.
We all understand poverty is a problem, one that can seem intractable and inevitable. But what if the way we have approached poverty has been wrong for years, for generations even?
There's evidence it might be.
The traditional model of the American social service industry has long been a one-size-fits-all approach that treats the symptoms of poverty — transportation, child care, food insecurity — but does nothing to address the cause. The result traps the poor in a never-ending cycle of dependency and stigma, creating repeat customers.
That scathing indictment comes not from a critic of the war on poverty but from one of its most passionate advocates.
Books by Thomas Hibbs