The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Wash down your classified docs with delicious Coca-Cola

5 min

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In today’s edition:

How death changes — and cheats — us

A little time in the presence of death can lead to beautiful things. That was the case for author Pico Iyer with the coronavirus pandemic.

For all its atrocity, Iyer writes, covid-19 clarified how he wanted to live: “with less hurry, perhaps, and more time for the people who meant the most to us.”

Iyer’s essay relives the months he stepped away from his harried travel schedule to move in with his mother. He describes long walks and long talks and lots of gratitude.

In the time since then, Iyer’s mother died after a long life and unrelated to covid. But now, when he walks through her old house, he still thinks of that time and finds that it made him more attuned to the loved ones who remain.

Iyer’s piece is the first in a new Opinions series, Post Pandemic, publishing weekly into the fall. (Want to be notified when new essays publish? You can sign up here.)

Death can just as easily be an ugly thing, too. Current and former ACLU officials Yasmin Cader and Jeffery Robinson write that the government’s seeking of the death penalty for the man who killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018 is a travesty.

Just because the shooter was motivated by antisemitic hatred and white supremacy, they argue, doesn’t make the institution of the death penalty any less of a white-supremacist instrument.

Cader and Robinson focus specifically on the ghoulish-sounding “death qualification” process, by which potential jurors prove they’re not opposed to capital punishment. On top of skewing juries toward the penalty, death qualification also rules out many Black and Latino citizens, who tend to oppose it.

How can a jury possibly be fair when swaths of people are excluded, and when the most important qualification is, as the authors write, jurors’ “willingness to vote to kill”?

Chaser: Editorial writer Molly Roberts wrote a semi-defense of firing squads — for how they lay bare the brutality inherent in all executions.

C-minus in civics, A-plus in life

Columnist George Will, master of the silver lining, says that the great thing about kids’ “summer learning loss” these days is that there’s less learning to lose.

Indeed, the steady decline of kids’ subject-matter proficiency continues; the nation’s latest report card posted the lowest scores ever recorded for U.S. history and civics.

So what’s the problem?

Oh, where to begin? George gripes about so-called equity grading, about overly progressive curriculums and about clannish educators for whom “mediocrity might be an aspiration.” He hopes plenty of attention during the 2024 race might stop U.S. education from slacking in the back of the class.

Playwright and Trevor Project co-founder Celeste Lecesne sees at least one area where young people are really growing: being themselves.

Before you scoff, know that for queer kids, this can be a matter of life and death. Lecesne reveals that decades ago, before co-founding the world’s largest suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ+ youth, he tried to take his own life.

Today, though, Lecesne is exhilarated to see that despite the flood of legislation targeting them, a generation of “young queer people are busy living lives of quiet determination.”

One preternaturally wise quote comes from a sixth-grader whom Lecesne asked about the source of their self-certainty: “Your heart just tells you, and you obey.”

From contributing columnist Ramesh Ponnuru’s piece advising Republicans to focus on the family. Why are they not proposing the necessary boost to one of their signature achievements, or at least indexing it to inflation to prevent further erosion?

Instead, Ramesh writes, Republicans’ current big tax proposal merely increases the standard deduction a bit for the next two years. But the column picks apart that plan: “It’s as though Republicans went out of their way to find a tax cut that would not accomplish anything.”

More politics

Not since the success of “It’s the real thing” has Coca-Cola landed on a really bang-up slogan. Might I suggest “Hey, bring some, uh, bring some Cokes in, please” — direct from the audio recording of Donald Trump apparently discussing the classified documents he was holding on to?

Humor columnist Alexandra Petri can’t get over this insane instance of product placement. To be fair, she writes, “if someone said something like, ‘I, Benedict Arnold, am about to do treason! But first, a nice sip of my favorite beverage!’ I would say, ‘Treason is bad, but I am curious about that drink he mentioned!’”

Alex’s imagination takes us through history’s greatest missed opportunities for other product drops, from the French Revolution (what kind of cake, exactly?) to the A-bomb to the Silicon Valley Bank implosion.

Chaser: On the documents, intelligence community veteran Sue Gordon asks: If we cannot trust our former presidents, whom can we trust?

Smartest, fastest

It’s a goodbye. It’s a haiku. It’s … The Bye-Ku.


Just doesn’t feel right without

Windex-clean windows


Have your own newsy haiku? Email it to me, along with any questions/comments/ambiguities. See you tomorrow!