Commentary, Local Commentary

Editorial: Better Angels of Our Nature

A Northern Virginian writing a letter to the editor in the Washington Post last week about the Post’s decision to eliminate after 68 years its weekly Sunday “Outlook” section said he is “incredibly disappointed to learn” of this news, noting he “looked forward to reading the Outlook every week for as long as I can remember.” It’s a shared sentiment among many, especially in these troubled times when democracy, itself, is being seriously challenged at every level in our society.

The reader, whose letter of complaint was one of eight run by the Post on October 1, identified himself as Anjali Sadrana of Vienna and made an extremely important point. He wrote, “Reading articles online does not provide the same experience and engagement as reading the print edition.” Whereas, he wrote, he might not click on an article with a headline he disagreed with in an online format, “when I came face to face with it on paper, I was forced to reckon with it,..having been challenged by perspectives that challenged my opinions.” This was not coming from an old “curmudgeon railing against digital transformation,” he said, but from a 20 year old. 

We could not agree more with his and the seven other letters published, all of whom urged the Post to reconsider. They all shared the sentiment that the “Outlook provided something not found in any other section: a weekly anthology dedicated solely to analysis and essays that provided a perspective not often heard.” Dispersing them to different sections of the paper “will lose this unique focus.” Another writer, Steven Watkins of Fairfax Station, called the “Outlook” section “the most valuable section of the paper,” saying, “It was the one section that sought to lift readers out of the morass of daily news and present them with a variety of perspectives, a bigger picture, a greater context with which to make sense of the world.” 

 Such a “bigger picture” perspective is, to us, the most critical element for righting the great wrongs that have brought our nation to the brink of irretrievable disaster. “Dumbed down” thinking and discourse have been our bane the last 40 years. The true arguments to save our republic are not between two different ideologies or parties, but between notions of our higher or lower selves. When Lincoln referred to the “higher angels of our nature” in his First Inaugural Address, he was speaking to us not in our pettiness or our selfish fits of anger.

Our national purpose is found in rising above prejudice and low, ill tempered rage and foul mouthed name calling to draw from our greatest thinkers and most compassionate saints (in the generic, not exclusively religious sense) concepts that inspire and move mountains and generations.

Keep in mind that enemies of democracy always look for ways to degrade people and their ideas, so that our popular discourse requires challenging and deep thoughts and dreams to articulate and share.