Originally published 08/23/2013
At the time of his first inauguration, it was widely noted that President Obama was a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln. Those who thrilled at the election of our first black president thought his decision to swear his oath on the same Bible Lincoln had used was fitting and proper. Those who distrusted him found it excessive and vain.
Originally published 05/17/2013
Thomas Meaney is a doctoral candidate in history at Columbia University and an editor of The Utopian.In the fun-house mirror of the present, the contours of the twentieth century have assumed a strange symmetry. It begins and ends with imperialism. The century opens with the West plundering the Rest, until one Asian nation, Japan, joins the action and becomes an empire itself. In the century’s last decade, the pattern repeats: the forces of liberal capitalism are again as dominant as ever, only this time China is the apt pupil of Western rapacity. The way historians speak of the present in terms of “imperialism,” ”anti-imperialism” and “the rise of Asia” makes the burst of decolonization after World War II seem like an interlude in a perpetual age of empire. The temptation to see Western colonials still lording it over hapless subalterns continues to guide our understanding of the relations between the “North” and “South” since the end of formal imperialism in the 1960s. But this perspective passes over the major structural changes in the history of the postwar decades, when the United States reconceived its mission in the world and new nations were no longer willing to support it on the same terms. Without grasping how this new configuration of forces reshaped the world order, we will continue to misidentify ways to change it.
Originally published 03/27/2013
Before there was an internet, with blogs, listservs and web pages to turn to, there was the Health/PAC Bulletin, the hard-hitting and muckraking journal of health activism and health care system analyses and critiques. A new web site, www.healthpacbulletin.org, is a complete and searchable digital collection of Health/PAC’s influential publication, which was published from 1968 through 1993. Health/PAC staffers and authors in New York City and briefly, a West Coast office in San Francisco, wrote and spoke to health activists across the country on every issue from free clinics to women’s health struggles to health worker organizing to environmental justice. Health/PAC both reported on what was going on and reflected back on a wide variety of strategies and tactics to build a more just health care system – a conversation that continues today.
Originally published 03/25/2013
Professor Betsy West on the set of Makers. Credit: Columbia University School of Journalism.Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.--Maya AngelouThis past February marked the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan’s now classic The Feminine Mystique, a study of what Friedan called “the problem that had no name” -- the widespread unhappiness of many women who felt stymied by traditional female roles and had few options for meaningful work outside the family. Friedan’s trailblazing book, with her call for educational and occupational reforms, has been seen as inspiring the modern women’s movement, and the ensuing conversation led Friedan to found the National Organization for Women.
Originally published 03/18/2013
Rashid Khalidi, a professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia University, is the author, most recently, of “Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East.”WHAT should Barack Obama, who is to visit Israel next Wednesday for the first time in his presidency, do about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?First, he must abandon the stale conventional wisdom offered by the New York-Washington foreign-policy establishment, which clings to the crumbling remnants of a so-called peace process that, in the 34 years since the Camp David accords, has actually helped make peace less attainable than ever.
Originally published 01/22/2013
Jon Wiener teaches US history at UC Irvine and is a contributing editor for "The Nation."A Rembrandt portrait that had been protected by Columbia student protesters in 1968 and later sold by Columbia for $1 million is back on the market this year, with a price tag of $47 million. The story of the 1658 painting, Man with Arms Akimbo, has many lessons, starting with the folly of universities selling art to make money.When radical students at Columbia occupied several buildings, including Low Library, the administration building, in May 1968 to protest university complicity in the Vietnam War, the painting hung in the office of then president Grayson Kirk. According to The New York Times, the student occupiers agreed to allow police to remove the painting to protect it.Student radicals in 1968 were criticized as barbarians out to destroy the university and all that it stood for. But the students at Columbia protected the university’s Rembrandt—and then the university put it in storage, and sold it in 1975 in a secret transaction with a private collector. A painting that should have been on display disappeared from public view for the next forty years—in exchange for which the university got $1 million. So who were the real barbarians?...
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