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Nation States and Independence

Why does national independence matter? What does it even mean? Prior to the 18th century, nations as we understand them did not exist. Political borders existed, certainly, but these were drawn up by various monarchs and despots to delineate their territory. Individuals feeling affinity toward the political body under whose boundaries they lived was uncommon. Once that began to change, though–as modern ideas of nations and political participation took hold–individuals started identifying with nations.

Beware Presidentialism

If you grew up in the United States and haven’t spent much time examining other countries, it might surprise you to learn that the US is fairly unique in having a presidential, rather than parliamentary, government. Such a system comes with some unique quirks and shortcomings, too. First, let’s distinguish just what presidential and parliamentary systems are. In a presidential system, the President leads an executive branch and serves as both head of state and head of government.

Failures of Liberalism

There is presently a rising tide of right-wing sentiment in Western countries. These aren’t happening in a vacuum–they represent what are, ultimately, failures of liberalism. Brexit, the Tea Party, Donald Trump, and right-wing movements throughout Europe are reflecting changing attitudes that threaten to upend the established order. It’s easy to dismiss right-wing reactionaries as ignorant, racist xenophobes. Often times, that’s exactly what they are. But when they become numerous enough, when they have enough support, it doesn’t matter whether or not they’re wrong.


In a historic move, the United Kingdom just voted to leave the European Union. Why did this happen and what does it all mean? Right up to the day of voting, it looked like the votes to remain in the EU would win out. Instead, the UK voted to exit the EU by a comfortable margin of 52-48. Certain consequences are unfolding quickly. Prime Minister David Cameron has already promised to leave office by October.

A History of the World in a Postmodern Novel

Julian Barnes’ A History of the World in 10 1⁄2 Chapters is a great book, just so you know. I apologize for having two reviews in the same week. It wasn’t intentional, that’s just how these things go sometimes. (The other one is here, in case you missed it.) _A History of the World in 10 1⁄2 Chapters _is a postmodern novel, which might make it sound inaccessible, but it’s quite the opposite.

Taking Trolls Seriously

What’s the deal with Internet trolls, anyway? The New Republic offersan intriguing review of a new book entitled This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture, which does pretty much what it says. Folklorist Whitney Phillips plumbs the depths of troll culture and psychology and finds that, for people who consider themselves so novel and edgy, the truth of the matter is that their repertoire is altogether simplistic and well-worn:

In Defense of Incrementalism

Nobody likes when change happens slowly. But given a choice between no change, a little change, and an epic disaster, is that really a choice at all? I’ve had this particular topic in my queue for a while, I just hadn’t gotten around to it. For want of something to talk about that isn’t the Orlando shooting, which I do plan to write about again at some point, I came across an insightful piece written in response to a Freddie deBoer post.

The Deadliest Shooting in US History

This is not a title I would have wanted to use, but there’s no point in denying reality. If you’re not up to speed, here’s a summary. Early Sunday morning, a man armed with an AR-15 and a handgun opened fire in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. He killed 49 people and wounded 53 more. It must be pointed out that the club targeted was Pulse, a popular gay nightclub in the area.

What are Safe Spaces Good for?

So-called “safe spaces” get criticized as zones where everything “uncomfortable” is banned, dissenting ideas are quashed, and people are shielded from conflict to the point of being infantilized. But is that really what’s happening? The origin of the “safe space” concept is uncertain. _Dissent_ Magazine offers a few possibilities: The term “safe space” has multiple origin stories—Moira Kenney’s _Mapping Gay L.A. _links safe spaces to gay and lesbian bars, where, as Malcolm Harris [described](http://fusion.

Thoughts on White Pride

What is “white pride” and how does it manifest? Is any aspect of it salvageable, or is it hopelessly racist and xenophobic? We live in a culture in which various minorities are permitted–encouraged, even–to express pride in who they are. Gay pride, black pride, Latino pride, female pride. Everybody’s proud! But the very phrase “white pride” brings to mind rallies of neo-Nazis, hooded Ku Klux Klan members burning crosses, and other uncomfortable scenes of violence and bigotry.