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WORSE THAN NOTHING

THE DANGEROUS FALLACY OF ORIGINALISM

Sensible arguments opposing what seems like the wave of the future.

A legal expert examines “a dangerous approach to constitutional law that would jeopardize many basic rights and advances in equality.”

In his latest, Chemerinsky, the dean of Berkeley Law School, delivers a lucid, convincing attack on a prominent legal philosophy, though he admits that it is unlikely to change its adherents’ minds. The author writes that the Constitution is an impressive document written by brilliant men who considered it a framework that defined the responsibilities and limitations of government. For nearly two centuries, judges interpreted it broadly to deal with issues in an ever changing world. Matters changed after World War II when the Supreme Court issued a series of decisions that infuriated conservatives, certain they were based on the judges’ personal (and liberal) values. At only four pages, the Constitution seems limited, but scholars maintained that intense study would reveal the Founders’ true intentions. Proponents of originalism postulated that those intentions, plus their beliefs at the time they wrote the document (and of those who wrote amendments), must serve as the sole determining factors for a legal decision. Chemerinsky maintains that this makes no sense. Madison and Hamilton violently disagreed on major constitutional issues of executive power and of Congress’ spending power. Who was right? The 14th Amendment, which guarantees “equal protection,” has long been taken literally, but the intent of the framers in 1868 was to protect freed slaves. Therefore, originalists insist, it does not forbid discrimination against women, racial minorities, the disabled, or gay citizens. They maintain that there is no constitutional right to privacy because the Constitution doesn’t mention it. In a disheartening look toward the future, Chemerinsky warns that the Supreme Court, now solidly originalist, will radically transform our nation in the decades to come. Roe v. Wade has been overturned already, and the author also explores rulings that restrict environmental protection and immigration and expand the right to carry guns.

Sensible arguments opposing what seems like the wave of the future.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-300-25990-2

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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THE AGE OF GRIEVANCE

A welcome call to grow up and cut out the whining.

The New York Times columnist serves up a cogent argument for shelving the grudge and sucking it up.

In 1976, Tom Wolfe described the “me decade” as a pit of mindless narcissism. A half century later, Bruni, author of Born Round and other bestselling books, calls for a renaming: “‘Me Turning Point’ would have been more accurate, because the period of time since has been a nonstop me jamboree.” Our present cultural situation, he notes, is marked by constant grievance and endless grasping. The ensuing blame game has its pros. Donald Trump, he notes, “became a victor by playing the victim, and his most impassioned oratory, such as it was, focused not on the good that he could do for others but on the bad supposedly done to him.” Bruni is an unabashed liberal, and while he places most of the worst behavior on the right—he opens with Sean Hannity’s bleating lie that the Biden administration was diverting scarce baby formula from needy Americans to illegal immigrants—he also allows that the left side of the aisle has committed its share of whining. A case in point: the silencing of a professor for showing an image of Mohammed to art students, neither religiously proscribed nor done without ample warning, but complained about by self-appointed student censors. Still, “not all grievances are created equal,” he writes. “There is January 6, 2021, and there is everything else. Attempts by leaders on the right to minimize what happened that day and lump it together with protests on the left are as ludicrous as they are dangerous.” Whether from left or right, Bruni calls for a dose of humility on the part of all: “an amalgam of kindness, openness, and silliness might be an effective solvent for grievance.”

A welcome call to grow up and cut out the whining.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9781668016435

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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