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The deep cultural shame of the United States

Viktor Cherevin keeps a giant painting to Napoleon's defeat in Moscow, symbolizing his intense pride in Russia, and his desire for Russia to triumph over military enemies.
Jon and I watched Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit recently. Jon, especially, is a huge fan of the entire Jack Ryan series. The movie was good: basically taking the elements of existing Jack Ryan novels but re-purposing them into a story that updates the setting and context of the character from the Cold War to the post-9/11 world. But, like any good Tom Clancy (or "Tom Clancy-inspired") story, the bad guy was a classic twisted evil bad guy: wealthy Russian businessman, Viktor Cherevin, who was obsessed with avenging his motherland against the evil things that the United States had done to it. It's not an uncommon type of bad-guy character and motivation, in American movies. But it's worth taking a closer look at, as Americans, and thinking about its implications.
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Young gay bloggers need to just stop writing

Disclaimer: this is a stock photo and is not meant to represent anybody in particular.
Why are young gay people so bad at writing? Why has it become the norm in our culture to accept the shallow, self-absorbed ramblings of young gay bloggers? They don't research, and they don't look outside of their own personal experiences into the wide diversity that is the gay community. Trite op-eds are killing our culture. I think it's time to fight this trend of shallow, self-absorbed blogging. Luckily, I can solve this problem by giving some advice to young gay bloggers: just stop writing! Problem solved! OK, now take a step back, and let's take a serious look at that opening paragraph...
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Is tolerance good enough for liberals?

The Tolerance Trap
Suzanna Walters has argued that gay people (and other minorities) should not be advocating for tolerance. To her, "tolerance" is not a high enough bar to set. She makes an emotionally appealing argument: Used in one sense, the word "tolerance" means "to put up with" or "to endure." She basically argues that we shouldn't be fighting for a world where people despise gay people but "put up with them" nonetheless. I can understand why a lot of people would agree with her interpretation. But she's wrong, on at least two different levels.
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The Kernel magazine 3.0

Kernel Magazine
The Kernel is now in its third incarnation, if you count from the very beginning. This time it is being conceptualized as a Sunday magazine with in-depth reporting that attacks a single subject each week. This format provides an opportunity for real insights and discussion on complex issues, rather than just "chasing headlines" like many daily publications do. In my personal opinion, this could allow the new Kernel to get back toward its original mission statement of "fixing journalism." But I will admit I'm excited about the re-launch for a much shallower, more personal reason. It means my author page and the archives of all of my older work for them from the last 3 years is back up.
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Proof that the first humans came from Eden?

Proof of the Garden of Eden
The Sumerian word édin means "steppe" or "plain". It compounds "éd" (send forth) and "in" (straw). So let's speculate wildly for a moment: what if we were never meant to take seriously the idea that there was a literal garden called Eden? What of the original authors of the tale were just saying "people came from the steppes"? Or what if it was a pun, a bit of deliberate humor, a 5000+ year old joke that nobody gets any more? We will likely never know one way or the other, but it is food for thought: how many ancient ideas that many people take literally today were never meant to be taken literally at all?
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The Church of Satan, and the paradox of individualist religion

Magnus Peter H. Gilmore, Church of Satan
I recently wrote an article for the Daily Dot, Politics, the Dark Lord, and Hobby Lobby: An interview with the Satanic Temple, about the political activism of the Satanic Temple, and the question on so many people's minds: Is it all just some kind of prank? The quick answer is "no". But there is another organization, the Church of Satan, that is very much opposed to the type of political activism that the Satanic Temple engages in. I reached out to Magus Peter H. Gilmore, a spokesperson for the Church of Satan, to find why. And the response that I got blew me away!
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Straight woman schools uptight gays on polyamory

Multie-person Relationships
My friend Josiah recently wrote a little rant on Facebook about how hypocritical it is when gay people fight against narrowly defining "marriage" as between one man and one woman, but then turn around and are judgmental of their peers in the gay community who choose to have other "non-traditional" relationship arrangements, such as polyamorous (multi-person) or sexually open relationships. I've written before about why people who are overall ethically open-minded can get squeamish when considering "non-mononormative arrangements." But the real question is: shouldn't we be actively pushing for people to be more open-minded in their conceptualization of romantic relationships on all fronts? Olga Khazan, a straight woman, has written about a movement among straight people to do exactly that... and the question is: can gay people now be as sexually open-minded as the straights?
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Republicans and toilet paper

Toilet Paper Problems
In the novel Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson includes a section (more or less unrelated to the main plot of the novel) describing a government "memo" about toilet paper. It is a brilliant bit of satire. The memo, for government employees, describes the problem of carefully tracking and regulating toilet paper usage at work, policies surrounding bringing toilet paper from home, sharing toilet paper in the office, and what may or may not be contributed to the "toilet paper pool." But there was one part of this satirical commentary that stood out to me more than any other, because it reminds me EXACTLY of how the Republican Party is acting these days.
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Ukraine, Putin, the CIA, and the modern version of Game of Thrones

Putin is a killer and a terrorist
Instagram was the last place I expected to have a deep political conversation. But then, a Ukrainian guy I follow on there posted this picture, and all hell broke loose in the comments. I ended up going back and forth with someone who turned out to be not only pro-Putin, but outright "anti-Western Society". It was enlightening, but surreal, and if nothing else it makes me grateful that these international social media allow us to have conversations with people of all types, from all backgrounds. So here is a fragment of the conversation, just for you to think about. What do you think? Does he have a point? Is he just a product of pro-Russian propaganda? Or is it more complicated than that? I'll let you decide...
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The emotional release of bomb-throwing

The appeal of bomb-throwing
When the Supreme Court of the United States handed down their decision on the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case yesterday, ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, people on the internet had two options. On the one hand, they could take time to carefully read the exact wording of the decision, find out what legal experts had to say about the implications, weigh information from a variety of sources, and then give a considered reaction. Or, they could slam out histrionic knee-jerk reactions based solely on the title of the decision and their own assumptions, typing as quickly as possible to get their voices on record as soon as humanly possible. You can guess what most people did. Personally, I actually did a little of both... and the fun I had during my "I'm going to yell and scream and troll!" phase was both enlightening, and a bit scary.
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