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Culture war burnout is very real. I blame social media for a lot of this: people get caught up in echo chambers when they have to take more extreme positions to curry favor with their side.

People of my generation often use the term “touching grass” to refer to simply turning off the screen and going outside. I spend a lot of time writing about politics on Substack. But even then, I often get burned out and worry about if people like my work or not, and feel pressured to write for an audience. I’ve learned in these situations, it’s best to take a break and touch grass.

And what you’ll find is that people in real life are not the caricatures you’ll meet online. It’s even possible to hang out with people you disagree with... and even have a good time with them. People are complex creatures. When you don’t have to worry about social media likes and retweets, suddenly you’ll feel more free to interact with people on the “other side”.

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Thank you for this.

It is Advent right now for Christians. For old Catholics like me, today is one of the Ember Days, when we should fast from the world and contemplate the greatness of God, and our own littleness and total dependence upon Him.

This essay was perfect for today, and the yellow butterfly spoke loudest of all.

Thanks Bari.

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Modern journalism has gone off the rails. It no longer serves its traditional function of reporting news. Instead it is devoted to manipulating readers so that they might accept a party line interpretation of events. This essay goes a long way to explaining what we have lost. Bravo!

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founding

“My root objection to these fictions isn’t about politics or even ethics, purely; it’s one of aesthetics. Not only are these narratives untrue, they’re also uninspired and formulaic. They feel engineered with a takeaway in mind, assembled from a kit—with a moral, a villain, and a hero.”

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Yes, and then when you have the most amazing, unbelievable, and grotesque story of all time it disappears. Because this is fascism.

Imagine if Ron DeSantis had grabbed a shotgun to chase a black man, who was just out jogging, down the street. Imagine it.

John Fetterman absolutely 100% did that and he wasn’t ostracized. He is, in fact, heralded. I just saw some photos of this nasty, obese, skinhead simpleton with his communist wife and Christian Bale yucking it up on the set of a movie.

HE CHASED A RANDOM INNOCENT BLACK GUY DOWN THE STREET WITH A SHOTGUN. It is literally the most racist shit I have ever heard of.

No narrative. Story disappears.

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I loved this - and remember, too, that diving down into the granular in order to reveal what is truly real and good and beautiful is precisely what God was doing in Christ, taking to himself the flesh and bones and blood of reality and all all the particulars of an every day life of hopes, fears, loss and loves and reredeeming all precisely through the singular. . . . Thank you for this piece. It gave me hope.

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Beautiful essay! This quality of writing is why I joined Common Sense and I feel it will only get better from here.

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Yeah, it is called reality. Entertaining angels unaware, anyone? The world God created has been there all along for anyone who cared to notice. “I don’t want your sacrifices, I want your love. I don’t want your offerings, I want you to know me”. Simple and profound.

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The butterfly story... that resonated. Thank you. I’ve had similar magical experiences where my over-logical mind stops dominating my life, pinching me into bitterness and frustration. That’s when I can feel my soul again. One time when starting a canoe trip in the boondocks a bird flew down and perched on my knee, staying there for a long time. It had no fear of people apparently, which is so unbirdlike. It seemed to be delivering a message for me personally, and it was amazing. In my better moments life can be like that.

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Year's end is always a pensive time, and the end of 2022 is filled with anxieties for almost everyone.

My 84-year-old brother and I visit often now - while we still can - and on my last visit we spent hours talking about the decline of the social order. The passing of seemingly inconsequential amounts of time has changed everything. I remember bands of kids walking along the dirt road by our house, shouting out for recruits for the afternoon softball game. He's considerably older and remembers the long evenings of community "corn shuckin's," a dozen adults shucking each neighbor's crib of corn in turn by kerosene light while their many children played in the discarded husks. We both remember neighbors and relatives who regularly showed up for Sunday visits, invariably staying for Mother's sumptuous noon meal. Since almost nobody owned a telephone and cell phones were far in the future, drop-in visiting was the usual, not the exception. After a hard day's work in the hay, the older men's evening games of "setback," pranks played on newlywed wedding nights, local tales that made the rounds. Now solitary young addicts roam the valleys and hollers with backpacks, cooking methamphetamine as they walk to agitate the reagents.

These memories and the ones chronicled in this well-written essay are pleasant and self-indulgent and by themselves mean little. Their importance, though, is that they are one more data point illustrating the breakdown of Western culture - and that, of course, is why those who are attacking it and mean to bring it down must first destroy our history. I see in the news that the racist mayor of Richmond is destroying another monument and digging up the corpse beneath in another of his Woke attacks on the civilization that put him in office. Whatever the cost, these people must be resisted. And they must be stopped.

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I cannot "yes" this enough. I have not paid much attention to the narratives, mostly because they've never tracked with my day to day life. I have neighbors from at least six different nationalities who are wonderful people, and we all want the same things. Health. Safety and security for our families. And we all care about each other's well being. The people I speak with at the grocery store and in restaurants are generally friendly, kind, and polite, and willingly offer grace for mistakes. The Us vs Them narrative being pushed in so many different ways is simply that, a narrative. It's not real life. Thank you for this essay, it reaffirms my belief that we can live outside the narratives that are constantly being forced down our throats.

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“You might even start to notice that most stories are not tidy parables with morals.”

I have a 6 year old, I have a niece and nephew who are about 15, and I have a cousin I used to babysit that’s 23. One thing I noticed in observing small kids in 3 different decades is that cartoons/kid tv is not just funny for the sake of entertainment anymore. There’s no more Bugs Bunny or Tom and Jerry style shows. EVERY. SINGLE. SHOW. in the past 20 years or so is the same- there’s some crisis that needs to be fixed and a moral lesson to be learned. It’s no wonder that we’ve fallen down this hole. This culture is a product of our own creation and we started training our citizens at a very young age.

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I see now why I have gravitated so fast to reading fiction, nonfiction ( a pile of books await) and of what Substack, and now THE FREE PRESS has to offer. The other day walking in Queens, NY I saw a squirrel and realized how they have disappeared. Oh, the simplicity and wonder of a squirrel, a red leaf from a tree in the Fall and a blade of grass. Enjoy!

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Thank you for addressing what I always refer to as the gaslighting of America!

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Amanda- I loved reading this. It validated my decision to subscribe and cut the cable cord. Thank you for sharing.

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“I tell my students to go out and report on events as they unfold, letting their stories arise from whatever they find”

One of the joys of having children is that when they’re very young, they have no preconceived notions. Watching the wonder in their eyes with each new experience, nurturing their curiosity and letting them be children is perhaps the most gratifying experience any human can have. It also gives hope for our future, but only if we protect them.

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This is a wonderful essay and provides a beautiful start to the day. I have been reading Frederick Buechner who well writes about getting in touch with the story of our own lives, all of our strengths, incongruities and weaknesses. Our stories are well worth remembering and telling. The stories of our lives and others are what makes us human. I would say the ideologies that surrounds us dehumanizes us and separates us as well. As I recall Annie Dillard loved Buechner. He is little known but is well worth finding and reading. Thank you, Bari, for your work.

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