Toward a Politics of Charity

Passengers board an American Airlines flight at San Diego International Airport, May 20, 2020 (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
We must strive to understand our opponents even as we disagree with them, and even as we consider at least some of their fears irrational or unfounded.


he Covid-19 era is a cascade of related tragedies, and we would be adding one more item to the tragic catalogue if we were to fail to take the opportunity presented by the heightened contrasts created by the epidemic to understand our national differences a little better. An epidemic is a bit like a war in that it injects an unusual measure of intensity into public affairs, which helps both to reveal and to clarify preexisting differences. Think, for example, of how World War I drew out the militaristic, nationalistic, and centralizing tendencies in American progressivism, producing a reaction whose

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