January 2018

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Re: “David Frum's Trump card,” by Andy Lamey

Re: “David Frum’s Trump card,” by Andy Lamey

In Trumpocracy, David Frum says Trump “has ripped the conscience out of half of the political spectrum and left a moral void where American conservatism used to be.” That would be a remarkable feat for any singular actor on the political stage, let alone a man who has the intellectual curiosity of a grape. Andy Lamey suggests that Frum’s account “requires us to forget the moral void that was already present during the Bush years.” That’s true, but the moral void has long been exploited by the powerful and well connected in both parties.

As a born progressive, I will admit that Obama and his administration made an art of moral ambivalence. When Obama began his first term riding a wave of support, a variety of pundits declared the GOP dead. Two years later, it was the momentum that died, and Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives. Having witnessed their energetic black populist become an equivocating Harvard alum once in office, progressives, young supporters, and minorities failed to turn out.

The Clinton years were arguably worse. Public interest and ethical practice took a back seat to privatization, offshoring, and outsourcing. The profit-at-any-cost mentality championed by Reagan was now at full tilt, resulting in Clinton signing into law the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which set the stage for the subprime mortgage crisis. Meanwhile, partisan bickering and the ensuing impeachment exposed gross hypocrisy on both sides of the aisle. Much of this would dog Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations in 2008 and 2016.

What, or who, were we to expect? Trump’s presidency is an aggregate of corruption in American politics. Every political lie knowingly uttered in the last four decades foretold the coming of Trump. Every moral capitulation for the sake of party identification or economic self-interest, every politician who considered themselves above the law or ethical norms, every effort to divide society using fear and racial animus, prepared the ground for this bitter harvest.

Curt Chaffee
Monterey, California

Re: “Is secularism really better for women?,” by Susan Whitney

Joan Wallach Scott’s Sex and Secularism is no doubt a nuanced and balanced book whose author has chosen a deliberately narrow focus. Certainly our world needs correctives to Western smugness about its own values. Secularists—I am one of them—can certainly use the reminder that many women choose their own religious practices and derive strength and comfort from them.

Nonetheless, I do not believe that secularism is the root of the intense emotion provoked by veiled Muslim women in some of our politicians and far too many of our citizens. English Canada has never embraced secularism with the enthusiasm of the French.

Moreover, I have also known Muslim women who wear various forms of hijab not by choice, but in fear of violence from their male relatives. Women across Iran have been removing the hijab in public to protest against their country’s dress code. On February 4, the think tank Center for Strategic Studies, a research arm of the office of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, finally released the results of a survey report—conducted three years earlier—showing that almost half of the population wants the veil to be a personal choice, not a mandated one.

Secular society obviously has its own history of misogyny and discrimination, but as a woman I would still prefer, were I facing an issue of divorce or custody, to appear before a secular court rather than a religious one.

Suanne Kelman
Toronto, Ontario

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