Posted by: George | February 8, 2017

Lessons from The Federalist Papers, No. 7

     It is sometimes asked, with an air of seeming triumph, what inducements could the States have, if disunited, to make war upon each other. It would be a full answer to this question to say—precisely the same inducements which have, at all times, deluged in blood all the nations in the world.

 Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No 7

Hamilton and the other Federalists were convinced that only a strong federal government could act as a sufficient restraint to prevent war among the states. It is a fear less vital these days. We don’t tend to think of ourselves as Pennsylvanians or Virginians. We don’t think about protecting state interests to the extent that it might lead to another war between the states.

 We are divided in other ways.

 Living in a farm community or a major city is more likely to separate us than state boundaries. Our geography seems to affect our politics as deeply as race, gender, and income. And race, gender, and income are profound differences.

 We used to come together—find some common ground as we talked through our fears and hopes at church, in bowling allies, and at our neighbor’s kitchen table. We read the same newspapers and watched the same thirty minutes of television news. We weren’t split off into camps that watch Fox News and camps that watch MSNBC.

 Now, we scream at each other. Communities are divided. Even many families have split into factions.

 So many people have told me they have stopped watching the news. It’s just too depressing, they say. It is just too hard to watch.

 They are talking about cable news. When we watch hours of it in a day, we are doing more than taking in information. We are experiencing a kind of trauma. It is almost like watching the Twin Towers come down over and over again.

 In such times, how do we continue to stay informed? How do we remain witnesses to an unfolding history? How might we position ourselves to act?

 I have been watching less cable news. I have probably gone from watching three hours of news shows a day to watching maybe thirty minutes. Instead of skimming across the surface of news, I have concentrated on going deep.

 I am reading articles that cover a topic in detail, like David Cole’s “Trump Violates the Constitution” in The New York Review of Books. I am reading books on public policy and history, like Timothy Snyder’s Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning. I am reading foundational texts, like The Federalist Papers.

I also read some conservatives, like Andrew Sullivan, but I need to find more sources on the right that are doing reasonable commentary and real journalism.

 As I read print sources, I find that I am better informed and less traumatized.

 I am going to read deep. I am going to try to maintain a dialogue, even with those on the other side, even when it is uncomfortable. I am going to write some checks.

Consult http://www.teachingamericanhistory.org for background and texts relating to The Federalist Papers.

I also invite your to read Homo Academicus, my serial novel, which is being published at http://www.homoacademicus.us.

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Responses

  1. This source is pretty interesting for finding different sources, George. http://www.allsides.com/

    Like

    • Thanks Dani. I appreciate it.

      Like


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