A Great New Accidental Renaissance

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Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn was filled on Feb. 6 for an evening of strategizing against President Trump. (photo: Demetrius Freeman / The New York Times)

By Timothy Egan / The New York Times
March 3, 2017


Trump has been good — indirectly — for a free press, an independent judiciary, high school civics, grass-roots political activity, cautionary tales in literature and theater, and spirituality. You don’t know what you’ve got, as the song says, till it’s gone — or nearly so.


My friend Sam laughed when I told him I was going to spend my Saturday at a “Search for Meaning” festival at a Jesuit college in the heart of seriously secular Seattle. He assumed, as I did, that a bare handful of the usual search-for-meaning suspects would be straining minutiae while still clinging to the meaninglessness of it all.

But nooooo — all the keynote events at Seattle University were completely sold out. In the winter of the American soul, people thronged to hear advice on how to “live a life of significance and impact” and to “find meaning in times of change, challenge and chaos.”

I credit President Trump. Not because he seems any more evolved than the first earthworms now appearing in the cold soil of my garden. But because the threats to truth, civility, rational thought and brotherly love coming from the White House have prompted a huge counterreaction.

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