Don’t Turn Around

When I was growing up, I had an aunt who was a very committed evangelical Christian. She told me about how being gay was the one sin that you can never be forgiven for — even worse than murder, if you can believe it. She was the first to mention the concept of a “sex change” operation, which as a nine-year-old I’d never heard of before. (Good on you for that one.)

But she and her husband were also very hung up about music, and they particularly disliked Ace of Base’s song “The Sign,” which was popular at the time. It somehow involved the Egyptian Ankh symbol, which was apparently the Sign, so the song had to be a shameless recruitment tool for New Age Satanists.

My aunt also subscribed to Entertainment Weekly at the time, and I remember reading a review of Ace of Base’s album that said (something along the lines of), “They’re so stupid you have to love them.” This review was clipped not long after in an advertisement for the band that cited Entertainment Weekly as saying “You have to love them!”

So I learned something about critical media literacy and, crucially, the danger of taking things way too literally. All because of the idiotic music of Ace of Base. And for that I thank you, you hilarious Swedes.

So many things in politics and pop culture can be confusing, vague, open to interpretation, such that you could debate forever about what this tweet or that piece of legislation or TV series finale symbolizes. One thing you can’t really futz around with very much is the fact that Joe Biden decided to get U.S. armed forces out of Afghanistan. Boom. Done. It’s pretty literal.

As friends have told me, there’s never really a “right time” to have a kid or get divorced. Either way, it’s going to hurt. And you have to try to find the least worst time, which in many cases is now.

The entirety of the U.S. political, media, and national security establishment has rained hell on Biden for making this unspeakable decision. And they kept asking him over and over again: “Isn’t it time to admit you were wrong?” And Biden said… “no.”

He has, so far, had the courage of his convictions and a political mettle that our presidents since September 11th, 2001 have not possessed. There is a big risk to being single-minded and set on a course, refusing to take criticism or new advice, but there’s also a danger to dithering and constantly worrying about what others think. As FDR said, the worst feeling is to look over your shoulder and realize no one’s following you. But sometimes that’s the best least worst course.

Here are some interesting readings picked by our editors for this week: