The Internet’s big thinkers shared their perspectives on the issues of the week — from the Oscar Pistorius case to gun control legislation. Here are some of the opinions that got us thinking. Did we miss one? Share the “ideas” that caught your attention this week in the comment section.
“Suffer the Little Children” on Slate
Who: Kate Roiphe, author and professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University
The Idea: Why are we drawn to tragic stories, especially those that involve children? Roiphe talks about her experience reading Emily Rapp’s memoir The Still Point of the Turning World, which chronicles the life of her son, Ronan, who was diagnosed with a terminal disease when he was nine months old. As Roiphe read the book, she wondered why we are drawn to stories of loss and extreme grief. In the end, she finds that such stories allow us to “look at death without blinking. It offers us the precise combination of vividness and distance necessary to think through the unthinkable.”
Sum-it-up Quote: “My avidness made me think about what lies behind our appetite for stories of extreme suffering, for descriptions of terrible things happening to babies and tiny children, for the well-narrated, almost unbearable heartbreak that Rapp’s book represents?”
“Cry, the Misogynistic Country” in The New York Times
Who: Eusebius McKaiser, radio host, author and associate at the Center for Ethics, University of the Witwatersrand
The Idea: “It is a tragic truism that South Africa is one of the world’s most violent countries outside of war zones,” writes McKaiser. But the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp allegedly by superstar Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius shows that violent crime “is not limited or the poor or committed by impoverished blacks against wealthy whites.” McKaiser goes on to discuss the rampant violence against women in South Africa, and how, with this case, violence is not precluded by class, affliction or athletic ability.
Sum-it-up Quote: “The Pistorius case tells us that brutal violence against women is an equal-opportunity affliction in South Africa; it has no respect for whether its victims are rich or poor, black or white, suburban or rural. Our society is drenched in violence. A woman is safe in neither a shack nor a mansion.”
Who: David Frum, author, CNN contributor and contributing editor at The Daily Beast
The Idea: President Obama knows that he might not have the necessary votes to pass the sweeping gun legislation that his administration proposed, says Frum. But there is a Plan B that could help diminish gun violence, without legislation. First, the president could propose a surgeon general’s report on the hazards of guns, similar to the 1964 report about the hazards of cigarette smoke. Second, the Senate could convene hearings on the practices of the gun industry to shed light on “an industry whose record makes the tobacco industry look a paragon of transparency and accountability in comparison,” Frum says. This Plan B would “publicize what guns really do to those who carry them — and what gunmakers do to their customers.”
Sum-it-up Quote: “There’s a gun agenda that need not depend on politics and that will not snatch a single weapon from any owner, whether law-abiding or not.”
“The Best Choice for Pope? A Nun” in the Washington Post
Who: E.J. Dionne Jr., author and Washington Post columnist
The Idea: As the College of Cardinals convenes next week to elect a new pope, Dionne has an idea for a selection that is “brave and bold”: choosing a nun to lead the Catholic Church. Dionne says that, “More than any other group in the church, the sisters have been at the heart of its work on behalf of compassion and justice.” A nun would be able to drive a “compassionate dialogue” about abortion and enjoy a “degree of credibility” on the sexual abuse scandals that a male pontiff could not.
Sum-it-up Quote: “Throughout history, it’s not uncommon for women to be brought in to put right what men have put wrong. A female pope would automatically be distanced from this past and could have a degree of credibility that a male member of the hierarchy simply could not.”
Who: John Harris, author and journalist
The Idea: Upset about the idea of eating horsemeat? Harris has one easy answer: go vegetarian. As most consumers buy meat from grocery stores, many people recoil when they see what it takes to butcher and serve up that meat. If that’s not reason enough to “go veggie,” Harris offers another point: demand for meat has not just pushed the price up, but has also led butchers to use increasingly sketchy tactics to increase their quantities. Even “organic” can’t guarantee ethical standards anymore, Harris says, so it’s time to cut back: both for financial and environmental reasons.
Sum-it-up Quote: “If the world is going to eat ever-increasing quantities of meat, a lot of it will originate in places where rules are not respected, where animals are routinely brutalised and where what exactly is in those frozen blocks of mush is anyone’s guess.”