Courtney Martin

Courtney E. Martin is a Prospect senior correspondent. She is the author of Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists (Beacon Press). You can read more about her work at

Recent Articles

Why Race and Gender Do Matter

The "Oppression Olympics" are a distraction from the critical conversation about how race and gender matter in this election and in this country.

Barack Obama flashed his million-dollar smile during the South Carolina debates and joked that he'd have to see Bill Clinton's dance moves before he could sanction him an official "brother," as legendary author Toni Morrison once did. Hillary Clinton told Tim Russert on one of the most-watched Meet the Press episodes ever (4.71 million viewers) on Jan. 13: "I don't think this campaign is about gender, and I sure hope it's not about race. It needs to be about the individuals." Neither his lighthearted humor nor her faux-naiveté masks the serious fact that this campaign is , in part, about gender and race. It is, perhaps even more than most elections, about symbols. It comes at a time when Democrats the American people are dying for reconfirmation that our country is, indeed, a place bent on equality, though rooted in a history of slavery and sexism. We are longing for a leader who can make us feel hopeful about the future of this country and its reputation and relationships throughout...

The Democratic Race as a John Hughes Comedy

Let's not kid ourselves: Most of America votes largely on the basis of personality. And every candidate fits a stereotype.

Change is obviously the buzzword of the 2008 presidential race, at least where the Democratic nomination is concerned. But let's face it, change is the buzzword of every election (with the exception, perhaps, of the incumbent). It is the catch-all container for the American voter's outrage and frustration, the magic box in which each candidate swears they can turn that disappointment into gold. So let's set aside the buzzword for a second and think about what's really on people's minds when they go into the voting booth. It's not policy. It's not past experience. It's not even values. For better or worse, it's personality. In a Democratic primary where there are certainly platform nuances but few make-or-break differences in the candidates' politics, it is their leadership style and public persona that differentiate them. Plus, much of what the next president will be working on is completely rebuilding our nation's reputation; if the global community were high school, the '08 winner...

Putting the Humanity in Philanthropy

What's the best way to decide how -- and how much -- to give to charity?

As I ride the subway home, especially this time of year, I inevitably find myself looking up from my book and listening to a homeless woman asking for change to feed her kids or a teenager trying to sell candy bars to "stay off the streets." But I don't reach into my bag. I have decided -- after a lot of personal angst and conversations with my social-worker friends -- to save my change and, instead, donate it to outreach programs that do this work in a systematic way. I tell myself that I'm thinking big picture, that I'm committed to efficient social change, that I do what I can. But the problem with my little strategic plan is that I feel demoralized every time I look into another human being's pleading eyes and then turn back to my book. In that moment, on that train, someone asked me for help, and I turned away. As I drag my feet back to my warm apartment with wireless internet and last night's leftover Chinese, I feel alienated from my humanity. This time of year always gets me...

All the News That's Fit to Depress

Staying informed has become -- for so many of us -- a moral obligation that feels like hell.

"I turn on Tape Nine, Omission/Partial Omission . When sadness-inducing events occur, the guys says, invoke your Designated Substitute Thoughtstream. Your DTS might be a man falling off a cliff but being caught by a group of good friends. It might be a bowl of steaming soup, if one likes soup…My DTS is tapping a thin rock wall with a hammer. When that wall cracks, there's another wall underneath." --George Saunders, In Persuasion Nation * * * It is Saturday. I am at a coffee shop in Brooklyn with my boyfriend and one of our best friends -- nice guys, guys who care deeply about what is going on in the world beyond fantasy football, music, and their motley crew of friends. We're drinking coffee, eating bagels, and reading my New York Times . I tend to stick to a quick perusal of the Times online, in addition to a half dozen blogs and online news sites (like this one) during the week, but on the weekends I like to hold the paper in my hands, let my fingertips get blackened, really...

Where Politics and Buddhism Intersect

TAP talks to Ethan Nichtern, author of the new Buddhist political treatise One City, about faith, youth, 9-11, consumption, and powerlessness.

For most of my childhood my father's Buddhist faith was little more than silence -- early morning meditations that I never even witnessed. But when I hit my mid-20s, it became real. I was looking for some kind of psychic comfort, some kind of larger explanation for all the suffering I saw in the world, so I started reading his old, dog-eared books -- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance , Beginner's Mind , The Power of Now . I gained insight into my own anxiety but still felt desperate for a faith that also offered a political analysis, a set of ethics, a worldview. It turns out that one of my own peers -- 29-year-old Ethan Nichtern -- has provided just that in the form of his new book, One City . He writes passionately and innovatively about our interdependence and its implications for our lives and our world. Nichtern's toolbox is deep and original -- surprising metaphors, hip-hop lyrics, personal stories, plenty of traditional Buddhist training -- and his voice is resonant and...