Obama, Aleppo, Capitalist Christianity: This Week’s Recommended Reading


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the Internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing online. Lately, as a predominantly arts/culture-centric website, we’ve been focusing this outward-looking post on indispensable political writing. This week, we recommend an analysis of a particular report that can serve as a “legislative roadmap” to the potential environmental catastrophe of Trumpism; an examination from five historians on how and if aspects of Obama’s legacy can survive through the next four+ years; a piece about how the world ignored the mounting atrocities in Syria and now, specifically, Aleppo; and more.

This week saw a surge in atrocities committed in the Syrian Civil War, as civilians in east Aleppo began posting final messages — anticipating death as Assad’s forces overtook the rebel-occupied part of the city — and demanding that the world cease to ignore their tragedy. For CNN, Anna Neistat, Amnesty International’s senior director for research, writes:

By allowing Assad and his Russian supporters to continue their assault, the international community has become complicit, every day, in their crimes against humanity. What’s more, it is sending a clear signal to any other leader who might decide to murder civilians on a mass scale that we don’t really mean “never again.” The world has betrayed Aleppo, and nothing can make up for the lives lost or shattered. But what we can do is recognize that this catastrophe is an alarm bell signaling the desperate need for the international community to overhaul the way it responds to atrocities.

The New Republic gathered five historians and political journalists to discuss Trump’s threat to what Obama accomplished (as well as noting what he didn’t accomplish), and what likelihood there is that Obama’s legislation will be able to withstand the tests of Trumpian time. The discussion took place as protests against Trump were happening in the New York City streets outside. When asked what Obama achieved that’ll outlast Trump, author/journalist Sarah Jaffe said:

Sitting here and listening to the chants of the Trump protesters in Union Square, I’m reminded that thousands and thousands of young people got trained as organizers in Obama’s campaign. Then they went out and raised hell and didn’t wait for Obama to do it for them. The young people in Ferguson, the young people in New York, the young people in Chicago and everywhere else are saying, “OK, real change is not going to come from the president. It’s going to come from us.” That, in the long run, may be one of the most enduring aspects of Obama’s legacy.

Meanwhile, for The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates took an extensive look back at Obama’s eight years in office — and the numerous blockades he met during his Presidency, highly compounded by internal racism in Washington — and what it meant to have had a black man running a country that’s still so steeped in white supremacist beliefs and actions.

Obama was born into a country where laws barring his very conception—let alone his ascendancy to the presidency—had long stood in force. A black president would always be a contradiction for a government that, throughout most of its history, had oppressed black people. The attempt to resolve this contradiction through Obama—a black man with deep roots in the white world—was remarkable. The price it exacted, incredible. The world it gave way to, unthinkable.

And once you’ve gotten through all of these outside sources’ commentary on Obama’s Presidency, you can of course see what Obama himself has been saying during his final press conference before the holidays, as reported by The Guardian.

And then there’s Trump. For The Intercept, Sharon Lerner analyzes the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s frightening legislative “wish list,” noting that it’s something to take very seriously now that its director, climate change denier Myron Ebell, is, thanks to Trump, leading the transition of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Most disingenuously, CEI presents its efforts to do away with climate protections as stemming from a concern for the poor, since “energy costs already impose real burdens on low-income households.” In truth, the poor are disproportionately affected by climate change. And, of course, huge energy and chemical companies are the ones who stand to benefit most from the assault on climate and other environmental protections suggested in the report. Not coincidentally, many of these same powerful interests, including Exxon, Dow, Texaco, the American Petroleum Institute, and the Koch Brothers have funded CEI.

And, speaking of corporate conflicts of interest, another piece in The New Republic (by Ellen Wayland-Smith) dives into the roots of Donald Trump’s capitalist spin on Christianity (or at least, Christian rhetoric), and the long-escalating confluence of faith and financial success in America.

According to German sociologist Max Weber, the Protestant virtues of thrift, delayed gratification and professional diligence in the pursuit of wealth gave birth to modern capitalism. Business success became a sign of God’s favor, and nowhere more than in America did this ethos achieve such florid expression. During the 19th century, an American prosperity gospel—the conviction that God wanted Americans to live in material abundance—began to take shape.