I teach regularly at a prison in Only, Tennessee. I post about it sometimes. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the experience more than usual, probably because for the first time I’m carpooling with a philosopher friend of mine who has started teaching ethics out there. We talk about any number of things, but invariably discuss pedagogy and the men we teach. It helps that I’ve had some of his students in some of my classes in the past, so we compare notes. I’ve also been following and rereading the posts of our own Holly Genovese on prison writing, which has got me thinking more seriously about prisoners as intellectuals. Thank you, Holly, for reminding all of us that we need more intellectual histories of incarcerated women and men.
On Saturday afternoon, Vice President Mike Pence tweeted out the following: “Before summer’s out, we’ll repeal/replace Obamacare w/ system based on personal responsibility, free-market competition & state-based reform”.
Before summer’s out, we’ll repeal/replace Obamacare w/ system based on personal responsibility, free-market competition & state-based reform pic.twitter.com/JzCyxX9kJb
— Mike Pence (@mike_pence) June 24, 2017
The invocation of “personal responsibility” led many people to respond with examples of people whose health conditions cannot, under any reasonable set of circumstances, be considered their “personal responsibility.” How, they asked, is taking away Medicaid from children born with underdeveloped organs or costly but ultimately surmountable complications an example of promoting “personal responsibility?”
My son was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for a week after his birth, so this is not a hypothetical question for me. My wife and I would not have been able to afford that week of excellent care on our own, and while my son may have been stable enough to have survived if we had to bring him home earlier, I don’t see how putting him at a heightened risk of dying would have taught anyone involved “personal responsibility,” at least as most people understand the phrase. There must be something else going on beneath this rhetoric. What would Mike Pence have said to me if the worst had happened? Continue reading
Two recent essays have caught my eye in recent days, forcing me to think even harder about the importance of history to modern political and cultural debates. Both illustrate to me the reason why recent history is such a crucial aspect of the historical profession. While it is often easy to use comparisons to the nineteen-sixties when talking about the chaos of modern politics—and we should all brace ourselves for next year, which will mark numerous fifty-year anniversaries for the calamitous events of 1968 (you were warned)—or the “malaise” of the nineteen-seventies, it is time to also think about historicizing the nineteen-nineties. Events in that decade say as much about our current predicaments as much as referencing the Cold War, the Civil Rights/Black Power era, or the “Age of Reagan” of the eighties.