Red, Brown, and Blue
The Atlantic on post-racial America.
Atlantic, January/February 2009
The cover story of the race-themed "State of the Union" issue explores "the dawning of a post-racial age or … the end of white America." The United States is nearing a demographic shift predicted for 2042, when "those groups currently categorized as racial minorities … will account for a majority of the U.S. population." While minorities in the United States have already begun to reject the assimilation that defined the immigrant experience a few generations ago, now it's young, well-heeled white Americans who "are eager to divest themselves of their whiteness entirely." This yearning is not shared by lower-middle-class whites, who have a "growing sense of cultural solidarity."… A feature portrays Michelle Obama's identification with the plight of the modern American woman as the result of her upbringing on the South Side of Chicago, where African-Americans have always had "a sense of security in who they are."
New York Times Magazine, Jan. 11 Psychologist Steven Pinker evaluates "the era of consumer genetics," in which people can discover their own genetic makeup. Pinker thinks new technologies "could usher in an era of personalized medicine" but acknowledges they'll remain "more recreational than diagnostic for some time to come." After having his own genome analyzed, he says, "I soon realized that I was using my knowledge of myself to make sense of the genetic readout, not the other way around."… An article questions the purpose of a new product from Procter & Gamble that allows users to add fruity "flavor cartridges" to their water filters. Isn't "adding flavor to tap water … incongruous when combined with filtration"? Apparently not. The claim that filtered water can be not only pure but also tasty proves that "the end point of 'new and improved' simply does not exist."
Economist, Jan. 10 The cover story wonders "how long [it will be] before the century-long war between Arabs and Jews in Palestine" finally comes to an end. The most recent fighting between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip follows three previous attempts by Israel to claim that land over the last six decades. But ending the fight over Gaza wouldn't end the ongoing clashes, which are not only territorial but "also about the periodic claim of each side that the other is not a people at all—at least not a people deserving sovereign statehood in the Middle East."… An article commends Ghana for upholding democracy in its recent election, in which Nana Akufo-Addo won the presidency from his incumbent rival after two rounds of voting. With the exception of "several reports of intimidation and attacks at polling stations," the election was another sign that "Ghana has been one of Africa's successes in recent years."
Time, Jan. 19 A profile of Jim Jones, Barack Obama's appointed national security adviser, previews the difficulties he will face in trying "to rebuild a National Security Council that sorts out foreign policy disputes rather than skirts them." While the retired Marine general has had "modest successes" with his "pilot project in the West Bank town of Jenin to organize training for Palestinian police and funding for development projects," he will soon be dealing with unrest in the Middle East on a much larger scale. … An article examines recent advances in treating borderline personality disorder, which is marked by "the sufferers' inability to calibrate their feelings and behavior" and often leads to self-abuse or suicide. Therapists and their patients are finding success with dialectical behavior therapy, a form of treatment that forces therapists to "accept patients just as they are (angry, confrontational, hurting) within the context of trying to teach them how to change." It also helps patients relinquish their "propensity for black-and-white thinking."
Smithsonian, January 2009 One story reports on a fight to stop coal miners from "demolishing mountains instead of drilling into them, a method known as mountaintop coal removal." This tactic has been used throughout the Appalachian Mountain region since the mid-1990s, but in Anstead, W.Va., "many people, former miners included, oppose it, making the town an improbable battleground in the struggle to meet the nation's rising energy needs."… A feature studies the rebuilding of Samarra, Iraq, where "in February 2006, Al Qaeda militants blew up the delicate gold-tile dome atop the thousand-year-old Shiite shrine, igniting a spasm of sectarian killing that brought the country to the edge of civil war." Al-Qaida held control of the city for two years, and it is only within the last year that Samarra has become secure enough for UNESCO to send experts to restore the mosque.
Christopher Hitchens takes on Obama's "cool cat" status in the Atlantic with a look at the pros and cons of the future president's "lithe and laid-back, agile but rested, cool but not too cool" demeanor.
Reason's column on Obama's hope to create jobs to save the economy shoots down the president-elect's plan without a compelling alternative.
Best Culture Piece
A New York Times Magazine feature spotlights an unlikely success in Seattle: an evangelical church with a strong following among twentysomethings that is at the forefront of "a movement to revamp the style and substance of evangelicalism."
Best Politics Piece
TheNew Yorker's profile of Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank by Jeffrey Toobin is almost as colorful as the congressman himself.
Best Letter to the Editor
A reader from New York thanks the Economist for not censoring Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's expletives in a recent article. "I was struck by how much more powerfully the Illinois governor's seedy, cynical greed was communicated when the obscenities were printed in full," he writes. "F***ing good decision."