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Dear Friends,

Killings and loss marred July 4th celebrations in America. Chuck Lane is with us today for an American Purpose salon to discuss what seems to be increasing polarization, sectarianism, and violence across the United States. If you’ve not yet had time, try Chuck’s new American Purpose podcast, “Times Like These with Charles Lane.” A new episode (Opens in a new window) appears today, a discussion with former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson on public safety. Chuck researches, learns, and works things through (nothing glib; no snark). Here’s his column (Opens in a new window) on the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade.

I’m sharing here (Opens in a new window) the July 4th program produced by American Purpose contributor Joe Horowitz. Joe and his guests focused on the American national anthem as a vehicle for exploring race and identity. Mark Clague — author of a new cultural biography (Opens in a new window)of the “Star-Spangled Banner” — notes that Francis Scott Key, author of the words, owned slaves. FSK also freed 200 enslaved Black Americans (which doesn’t let him off the hook, Mark argues). Mark makes the case for retaining the Star-Spangled Banner as part of our national inheritance, but with two versions. African-American bass-baritone Davóne Tines and Civil War historian Allen Guelzo weigh in. Read Joe’s reflections on the program here (Opens in a new window).

We risk losing our balance as a nation. Carolyn Stewart is exceptionally gifted in wrestling with history — the culture wars surely do not lend themselves to nuance — and understanding connections between art and society. She’s written for us on Black cemeteries (Opens in a new window), for example, and on the architecture and legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright (Opens in a new window).

This month, Carolyn joins us as managing editor of American Purpose. We’ll learn from her, as we push ourselves to grow and move to the next level. We’re not letting beloved colleague Michelle High escape. Michelle served as managing editor for the first year and a half of American Purpose. She’s been masterful in juggling, integrating, and aligning our publishing and policy discussions. Michelle is now senior editor. She will also help build out our new membership model.

Our Publishing (and Purpose)

We remain concerned about the broad, vital center. We need a vibrant political and intellectual space where principled and responsible individuals from both right and left can debate, demand, dissent — and explore opportunity for compromise! We are becoming increasingly concerned about intolerance, zero-sum thinking, and authoritarian tendencies at home and abroad.

Read (Opens in a new window) this week Larry Diamond and Lindsay Newfeld on the midterm elections as they ask, “Who Will Certify the Certifiers?” Young legal scholar and contributing editor Tom Koenig examines (Opens in a new window) the 14th amendment as a check on judiciary power in our system.

Tim Pawlenty once teased me, asking whether American Purpose was a bit highbrow. I hope not (I’ve teased back that if only he had succeeded in leading the GOP back in 2012, we might have been spared Donald Trump). We’ve hosted the former governor of Minnesota on polarization (Opens in a new window) (and race) in America. We have an upcoming, relevant piece by young writer Julian Waller. It’s serious — but not highbrow. Julian reports on young social media influencers who, alarmingly, provide encouragement and seem to be providing a philosophical basis for authoritarian solutions to America’s problems.

Our Friends (and Programs)

  • Follow the work (Opens in a new window) of the Paris-based Tocqueville Conversations. I’m a member of the advisory board. They’re convening this week their annual conference in Normandy. It’s a splendid group dedicated to fighting illiberalism on both the left and the right.

  • Follow the work (Opens in a new window) of the London-based Justice for Journalists Foundation. I’m a member of the advisory board. With small grants, they support the work of journalists in countries ruled by authoritarian regimes.

  • Follow the work (Opens in a new window) of Samizdat Online. I’m a member of the advisory board. With leading technology, they help dissidents and ordinary citizens bypass blocks to information created by authoritarian regimes.

  • Follow our work on Ukraine. (Opens in a new window) We continue to see a great deal at stake. I commend to you Bill Galston’s column in the Wall Street Journal and John Bolton’s column in The Hill. Both Bill and John see a race against the clock and treacherous waters ahead unless we provide Ukrainians the full and complete military assistance needed to drive Russia’s invading forces out of their country. Read Gary Schmitt on NATO (Opens in a new window) in The Dispatch.

  • Join us for our Zoom and in-person discussions. (Opens in a new window) On July 18th at 12 noon ET Bill Kristol moderates a Zoom conversation with Eric Edelman on how to break the Black Sea blockade. In Washington on the 19th, we’ll host Ukrainian MP and chair of the Odesa Regional Council Alex Goncharenko. We’ve invited Tamara Demuria to join us this month on the humanitarian crisis. Tamara is chief humanitarianism officer with Corus World Health — engaged in Africa, Latin America, and Asia — and is just back from Poland and Ukraine.

  • Keep listening to music. In Joe Horowitz’s program, you can hear renditions of the “Star-Spangled Banner” by Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, Whitney Houston, and Morton Gould. I’m listening to Mahler this week — Gustav and Alma. Theirs was a world of tremendous dynamism and creativity — the time of Klimt and Freud, Einstein and Thomas Mann — matched with intense polarization and fragmentation. Gustav Mahler was born on July 7 in 1860 in eastern Bohemia, part of the Austrian empire. Alma Schindler was born on August 31 in 1879 in Vienna.

Here’s (Opens in a new window) Alma Mahler’s “Die stille Stadt.

Here’s (Opens in a new window) Gustav Mahler’s “Midnight Song,” from Symphony No. 3.

I’m also re-reading parts of the Mahler biography by Jens Malte Fischer (a professor of theater history at the University of Munich). Gustav was dogged by antisemitism and pressures of business. He was compelled to convert to Catholicism in order to become music director of the Vienna State Opera.

Alma complained that her husband, during summer holidays, would spend all day into the evening chained to his desk working. He was driven and willful. Gustav once recorded in his diary that he had been banging his head against the wall on a piece — “but the wall is beginning to move.” For any number of reasons, the Fischer book (Opens in a new window) is worth dipping into.

My best,


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