By now, our Thanksgiving tables are cleared and the last of the leftovers consumed. Across the country this weekend, we collectively usher in the start of “the holidays.” And with this season comes joy, yes. Festiveness. Cheer. But inevitably, when families gather, tension comes, too.

In fact, November and December are, in many ways, months marked by tension. We start in early November with election season and its attendant anxieties. Then we move swiftly into pre-holiday scheduling stress, last-minute work deadlines, and logistical dilemmas as we accommodate everything from school parties to office gift exchanges to making travel arrangements for out-of-town family members with strong opinions aplenty. We sit in traffic, we fight crowds in stores, we consume, we rush, we complain. Our stress level rises as our bank accounts diminish.  

Everyone, it seems, is on edge. Tense. 

Tension is something we at Public Discourse strive to handle well. Ours is a voice of reason, moderation, and calm even as storms swirl around us. The kind and thoughtful operation of reason always leaves peace, not awkwardness, not lingering tension, in its wake. 

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This month was no exception. Our authors have treated some of the thorniest issues with the utmost grace and care. First, on the night of the first Republican presidential debate, Peter Meilaender shared how political candidates this year might draw still-relevant wisdom from the work of the late philosopher Martin Buber, who called for a posture of greeting others not as mere objects but as partners in dialogue. Similarly, Richard Doerflinger’s essay “Ideas vs. People?” lays out the dangers of a fixation on ideology at the expense of our interlocutors’ personhooda lesson we would all do well to observe.

Respecting persons as persons should go beyond the political or transactional; it should infuse all that we do. A student, Gianna Garcia, penned a thoughtful essay on our culture’s distortion of an authentic picture of intimacy between men and women: a distortion that convinces our young people that their minds and bodies have no tie and thus what we do to one has no bearing on the other (which, we know, is profoundly untrue). And Rachel Roth Aldhizer offers this month’s “long read” on a topic of personal interest to many: how the shifting language around disability has resulted in real, radical, and resounding hardships for our disabled brothers and sisters. Finally, James Greenaway shares a perspective on diversity, equity, and inclusion that recognizes and acknowledges the raw human need for authentic belonging.


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From the Archives

Our archives are rich with essays calling us to reflect on what meaningful connection, civil discussion, a just politics, and authentic belonging might mean in our divided cultural moment. Here is a sampling:


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Thanks for reading PD. 

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