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One of the tragedies of our current existence on the vertical end of the slippery slope is that we often feel we get no cultural respite from the institutional advancements of the left. This is not, as many claim, because “politics has infected everything,” although it has. Rather, it’s because the moral, theological, personal, and historical are inextricable parts of politics in the larger sense, and little is worth discussing that touches on none of these.
Cultural respite does not mean dispensing with the political in this broader understanding, but instead finding spaces in which we can exercise intellectual muscles atrophied from underuse, and think honestly and critically about truths, stories, and art.
This is why, for the last six months, First Things has become a hub for young conservative writers, artists, and friends to come together to enjoy and discuss great films.
Hosting these film nights and discussions for the young (and youngish) in Manhattan is just one of the many ways First Things has strived not just to publish a wonderful magazine, but to create a living community in which critiques, discussions, loyalties, and friendships can all form outside controllable boundaries.
Authoritarian regimes, communist or otherwise, are not stupid; they understand the power of such gatherings, which is why they are always suppressed. Similar get-togethers are what Czech dissident Václav Benda called the “parallel polis”—distinct, personal, small communities in which both truthful conversations can be had and truthful lives can be lived.
Of course, in many ways we are much more fortunate than Benda and other famous dissidents of the twentieth century. But as Afterimage—my selection for our film nights, which shows the systematic removal of artist Władysław Strzemiński from public and eventually private life in communist Poland—reminds us, gulag sentences are not the defining characteristic of tyranny they are sometimes made out to be. It’s hard to dispute we have arrived at a time and place when creating our own parallel polis is necessary, and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.
First Things is indispensable to the creation of events like these (our film nights being just one of them), and your subscriptions and donations are indispensable to First Things. That’s why I am asking you to donate today.
Inez Stepman is a senior policy analyst at the Independent Women's Forum.
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