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We seem to be in the middle of vigilantism--so we had better understand it. Robin Hood, sure--but the Ku Klux Klan? Batman, yeah! But the Irish paramilitary army? The resemblance isn't limited to pointy hats and face masks. That 13th Century folklore outlaw supposedly stole from the rich and gave to the poor. But he's folklore, and likely was an ordinary thief escaped to the greensward, his merry men a bunch of drunken louts, and Maid Marian an enabler. But there they are, Hollywood's anti-heroes: Superman, Batman (and Robin too), almost every role Clint Eastwood ever played, Travis Bickle in "Taxi Driver," right up to today's hit TV series, "Dexter," about a lovable, boyish vigilante--who's a serial killer. The vigilante ethos existed long before the word was introduced into English from Latin via Spanish. The concept can be found throughout the Bible, for example in Genesis 34, in the account of...

I will be forever grateful to Miriam Schneir, the great American historian and chronicler of women's rights, for her books, especially her staggering trilogy, Feminism, The Essential Historical Writings; and then Feminism in Our Time, which contains foundational documents in the struggle for women's rights; and particularly her just published prequel, Before Feminism: The History of An Idea Without a Name. This newest book is one hell of a positive, revealing, and hopeful work: it's an instant classic. I rarely go this far to praise a book but this one is so accessible, lively (for which read written in "non-academes"), yet brilliantly sourced -- and most of all contains things in it that the most saturated feminist reader (like me) still doesn't know or doesn't know enough. It's the ultimate answer to the snide question, "Where were all your great ...

In 1923, on the 75th anniversary of the 1848 Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, Alice Paul introduced the first version of the Equal Rights Amendment: “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.” The National Women's Party and professional women like Amelia Earhart, the great pilot, supported it. But other reformers, particularly in the labor movement, who had worked hard for protective labor laws for women, were afraid the ERA would wipe out their progress. (This could have been solved by mobilizing for the extension of protective labor laws to men – like not lifting items over a certain weight or doing especially hazardous labor — but it became a huge sticking point for those protectionists who exploited class divisions within the women's movement.) By the early 1940s, both the Democratic and Republican parties had added support of...

The Christian share of America's population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who don’t identify with any organized religion whatsoever is growing, according to an extensive new report by the Pew Research Center.

Values has been of late a much-abused word, being brandished as almost synonymous with nativism, jingoism, the nuclear family, religious systems, and flat-out bigotry. Yet the word itself, stripped of these overlays, still has, well . . . value. For instance, disagreements over money are almost always about differing values, whether they’re quarrels about family issues, business matters, or politics. So it is with what is shaping up in Congress over budgetary emphasis. It comes down to values. I am the last person to take issue with funding for sturdy bridges, smooth roads, clean water, and all those other items that make for, shall we say, civilized living. But it’s also true that such priorities — so-called “hard infrastructure”— are meaningless if there is nobody to cross those bridges, walk on those roads, drink that water, etc. Furthermore, any time something gets named “hard,” and something else gets named “soft,”...

Afghanistan is a country about the size of Texas. Within one 24-hour period, between August 31 and September 1, the Taliban rose to power in both. Sima Samar, Afghan former Deputy President and Minister of Affairs, and the 17-year Chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, warned that “Sustainable peace will not be possible without full and meaningful participation of women as half of the population. Without peace in Afghanistan, the problem will reach other countries as well, as history has shown.” History isn’t waiting, it’s already on display. I’m not going to descend into wrangling over President Biden’s decision to end America’s longest, 20-year war. I understand, so far as my knowledge of the facts extends, the terrible ironies inherent in his decision, and the rage and grief of some American veterans who are being reassured that their sacrifice was for something other than corporate and political power. It was. Though...