Weekend Reads: Charlottesville, Smartphones, and the Solar Eclipse
Like so many others in my adopted hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, I have been struggling to make sense of the events of this past weekend.
While I lack the context of US history and the deep divide of the Civil War, I grew up in Apartheid South Africa and witnessed the violent confrontations of the late 1980s. I was midway through my first year of university when the government declared a national state of emergency, giving the police sweeping powers to detain protesters. (According to estimates, about 26,000 people were reportedly detained between June 1986 and June 1987.) My alma mater, the University of Cape Town, was dubbed “Little Moscow on the Hill,” and during marches, riot police used tear gas and whips, known as sjamboks, to disperse protesters. Violent clashes were commonplace on campuses and in townships across the country.
Still, I wasn’t prepared for some of the images and stories that flooded my social media feed over the last week.
There were many horrifying accounts of the events, but there were also glimpses of hope and resilience, like the tweet below, which soon became the most-liked tweet ever.
"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion…" pic.twitter.com/InZ58zkoAm
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 13, 2017
It is fitting that President Barack Obama chose to quote Nelson Mandela. The tweet prompted me to re-familiarize myself with the plot of Cry, the Beloved Country by South African author Alan Paton.
Published in 1948, at the outset of the Apartheid era in South Africa, the novel tells the story of a black South African minister, Reverend Stephen Kumalo, who goes to search for his missing son, Absalom. It is set in a land riven by racial injustice.
“It’s a beautiful book — lyrical without being maudlin, lofty but unpretentious,” writes Kevin Roose. “And Paton captures perfectly the difficulty of non-violent resistance. In one scene, Kumalo, speaking to a farmer who he fears has become too radicalized, says, ‘I cannot stop you from thinking your thoughts. It is good that a young man has such deep thoughts. But hate no man, and desire power over no man.'”
I am suffering from information overload and find myself torn between being informed and feeling overwhelmed. But what I do know is that I want to participate in important conversations about where we go from here. So more information is better.
If you are interested in learning more about what happened in Charlottesville and reading some of the discussion that has ensued, below is a short list of the media I found most helpful (and if you’d rather not, skip to the section below for other weekend reads):
- In “Why This Happened in Charlottesville, My Hometown,” Nicole Hemmer, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, writes that on Saturday, she witnessed “Charlottesville’s transformation from a city into a hashtag,” and that “by the end of the day, I stopped trying to reconcile my years living in the generally bucolic town and the images filtering through national and international media. There were too many contradictions.” Hemmer is also author of Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics. (Vox)
- Here’s something to think about: “What if Western Media Covered America’s White Tribalism the Same Way It Covers Other Nations?” (Washington Post)
- Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern pose a key question in “The Guns Won“: “When demonstrators plan to carry guns and cause fights, does the government have a compelling interest in regulating their expressive conduct more carefully than it’d be able to otherwise?” They conclude that “Charlottesville showed that our First Amendment jurisprudence hasn’t reckoned with our Second Amendment reality.” (Slate)
- A chilling account of events at a local synagogue: “In Charlottesville, the Local Jewish Community Presses On” (ReformJudaism.org)
- Something I have been asking myself: “Who Are the Antifa?” (Washington Post)
- Many bystanders said it was hard to tell who was who between the private militia and law enforcement given their guns and outfits. Philip Zelikow, a history professor at the University of Virginia, writes about the rise of private militias in “The Domestic Terrorism Danger: Focus on Unauthorized Private Military Groups” (Lawfare)
- A stomach-turning documentary about what happened — but fair warning, it’s not for the faint of heart. (Vice)
At a time when many CFA charterholders may be wondering, “What do I do that is relevant to such civil unrest?” Paul Smith, CFA, urges everyone to take a role in “eradicating violence and intolerance by promoting inclusivity and diversity in the workplace.”
— Kevin Mirise (@KevinMirise) August 16, 2017
Beyond Charlottesville, some other articles I found interesting, in case you missed them:
- “Here’s why should stop what you’re doing and look up at the sky on August 21, according to astrophysics researcher Jedidah Isler.” (TED)
- “Eclipsing the Sun” (The New York Times)
- “Beyond Anger” (Aeon)
- “How Amazon’s Alexa Will Upend Wealth Management” (Financial Planning)
- “Emotional Intelligence Needs a Rewrite” (Nautilus)
- “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” (The Atlantic)
- My favorite article, hands-down, from the past few weeks — and perhaps even of 2017 — is Tejal Rao’s delightful and inspiring account of self-taught chef Erin French and her restaurant, The Lost Kitchen, in Freedom, Maine. It is a tale of resilience, determination, and beauty.
I have received messages of sympathy and concern from friends far and wide. Many wonder what it is like in Charlottesville right now, and what has changed since last week. The community is shocked, but perhaps more than that, the overriding feeling is one of resolve. Determination. Unity. Resurgence.
Yesterday, a friend shared on Twitter footage of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “We Shall Overcome” speech. These words stuck with me: “We will be able to rise from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope.”
Indeed, that is my hope.
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
Image credit: Courtesy of Greg Frank