Category Archives: Nonfiction

This Is Rape

Wolfram Burner, Flickr

Do you remember me? you type. I have some questions. I would be grateful if you might be willing to answer them.

Why did you hurt me? is your question, the only one, but you do not write this.

Of course I remember you! he replies, almost immediately. I will give it my best to answer any questions you have. I hope you are doing good.

You ask if he might be willing to share his memory of that day at the mall. Your point of view would be helpful for my own closure, you say, no matter what that may be. You ask if he has ever thought of it again, if the experience ever held any weight for him. You tell him there are no right answers, because you believe this is true.

Gil responds from a different email address. His personal one.

Let me really think about it, he says, so I can give you my best recollection.

I want to help you, he says, in any way that I can.

You never hear from Gil again.

In Guernica, T Kira Madden tells the story of her rape, confusion, and redemption to show us what rape culture really looks like in this country. To help foster the transparency and responsibility necessary to combat it, Madden holds her own sexual assault and her assailants up her for all of us to see.

Read the story

 

 

The Racist and Sexist T-Shirts of an Inauguration

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The StrangerLongreads has teamed up with The Stranger’s Sydney Brownstone and Heidi Groover, along with photographer Nate Gowdy, to cover the presidential inauguration and protests. Below, the latest dispatch from Brownstone in D.C.

***

Donald Trump has just been sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. I’m sitting at a Bolt Burger in Washington, D.C., watching the inauguration ceremony post-mortem play on several flatscreen TVs. A friend is sitting across from me. Her eyes are wide and wet. We have no words.

Last night I watched Trump signs burn at a protest outside the National Press Club, where leaders of the alt-right, a loose conglomeration of people who seek to make racism, xenophobia, and misogyny cool and current, were attending something called the Deploraball. Several hundred protesters were outside the event waving antifascist signs. One protester, a young white man in a black bandana, elbowed his way past me and said, “It was better when there were less media people here.” He didn’t speak for every protester, but I couldn’t help but think that the people attending the Deploraball might agree with him.

Earlier in the evening, Heidi Groover and I wandered down the National Mall, where Trump supporters were listening to Toby Keith. The walk between the Capitol Building and the Lincoln Memorial was dotted with enormous screens echoing Fox News’ Trumpian propaganda. I stopped to bum a cigarette from a guy who was having an argument about feminism with a protester who was broadcasting the interaction on Facebook Live. This man told me that 70 percent of domestic violence attacks are perpetrated by women against men. I asked him for his source. He showed me something called “Newscastmedia.com,” and I told him that wasn’t credible. When the man asked for my sources on rape and domestic violence, I e-mailed him three reports from the CDC, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the DOJ’s Violence Against Women Survey. He told me he would read them later, then told me that more women are at risk of being raped because they are not strong enough to fight off men.

Later that night I threw on a dress and a blazer and attended a Young Republicans MAGA ball at Ultrabar. Wealthy young people in ball gowns sipped cocktails and rubbed their bodies against one another. The DJ played Beyoncé. An ambitious 21-year-old told me I was cute. I told him I was a reporter. Trump wasn’t his first choice, he said, but he thought America should give him a chance. I went outside to go bum another cigarette. I got one from a young man with a fashy haircut and an interesting pin showing a “Y” inside an inverted triangle. When I Googled this image later, I found out that it was called the “Dragon’s Eye,” an ancient Germanic symbol depicting the battle between good and evil.

Outside the Bolt Burger, I can hear a group of roughly 50 protesters being arrested, one by one, after being kettled into a street corner by dozens upon dozens of officers of the Metropolitan Police Department. Tear gas has been used, and the protest is growing. When I last saw them, they were holding up a sign that read, “Make Racists Afraid Again.”

But the racists are not afraid in DC this week. At Trump’s Tody Keith concert, one man wore a t-shirt reading “Blacks Make Racial Slurs & Commit Hate Crimes Too!!” The misogynists are not afraid, either. They are buying leftover RNC kitsch that reads “Trump That Bitch!” and plowing through crowds of young queer kids protesting outside security checkpoints. These people are the ones in power now.

‘We Need to Have A Voice In This America, Too’

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The StrangerLongreads has teamed up with The Stranger’s Sydney Brownstone and Heidi Groover, along with photographer Nate Gowdy, to cover the presidential inauguration and protests. Below, the latest dispatch from Brownstone in D.C.

***

When Kimball Allen and Scott Wells married in October, Seattle band Prom Queen serenaded the couple with a David Bowie cover song as they walked down the aisle. Later, during the reception held at Portland’s Jupiter Hotel, Washington state senator Marko Liias recited the text of Obergefell vs. Hodges, the 2015 US Supreme Court decision that legalized Allen and Wells’ right to marry in the first place. “It was magical,” Allen remembers. The couple thought about their future, about adopting or fostering children. The election was still a month away, and Allen and Wells were hopeful Hillary Clinton would win.

But just a month after the wedding, Allen and Wells’ sense of hope plummeted. The election went to Trump and his notoriously homophobic vice president-elect, Mike Pence. The newly married couple realized that a Trump appointee to the Supreme Court could reverse their hard-won rights. Allen started having trouble sleeping at night. The couple fought.

These had not been problems before. Read more…

The Scientific Language of Cooking

Warren In The Weeds, Flickr

“He wanted to know if there was such a thing as a ‘Fart Chart’ of different kinds of beans,” McGee said. “And if he used a different kind of beans, could he maybe eat a couple more servings? He also wondered if there was something he could do to the beans ahead of time.”

The next day, McGee went looking for answers. At the Yale biology library, he discovered that plenty of food-science research had been published by and for the food manufacturing and packaging industries, but little of it had been shared with chefs or home cooks.

“I spent hours in that library because I had never seen anything like it,” McGee told me. “Poultry science and agricultural and food chemistry. I would just flip through random volumes and see microscopic studies of things I eat every day. It seemed so cool and unexpected. It took more than a day to home in on the right sources about beans, but not only did I find out what’s in them and what you can do about it, but there is a fart chart and there are things you can do to lessen your suffering.  Most of the research in the field of flatulence was funded by NASA. If you think about it, it makes good sense — these were still the days of capsules.”

In the California Sunday Magazine, Daniel Duane eats with the unassuming culinary celebrity Harold McGee, to find out how the failed academic’s popular first book changed the way we talk and think about cooking.

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In 1971, the People Didn’t Just March on Washington — They Shut It Down

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L. A. Kauffman | Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism | Verso Books | February 2017 | 33 minutes (8,883 words)

 

Below is an excerpt from Direct Action, by L. A. Kauffman. This story is recommended by Longreads contributing editor Dana Snitzky.

* * *

If the government won’t stop the war, we’ll stop the government.

The largest and most audacious direct action in US history is also among the least remembered, a protest that has slipped into deep historical obscurity. It was a protest against the Vietnam War, but it wasn’t part of the storied sixties, having taken place in 1971, a year of nationwide but largely unchronicled ferment. To many, infighting, violence, and police repression had effectively destroyed “the movement” two years earlier in 1969.

That year, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the totemic organization of the white New Left, had disintegrated into dogmatic and squabbling factions; the Black Panther Party, meanwhile, had been so thoroughly infiltrated and targeted by law enforcement that factionalism and paranoia had come to eclipse its expansive program of revolutionary nationalism. But the war had certainly not ended, and neither had the underlying economic and racial injustices that organizers had sought to address across a long decade of protest politics. If anything, the recent flourishing of heterodox new radicalisms—from the women’s and gay liberation movements to radical ecology to militant Native American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, and Asian-American movements—had given those who dreamed of a world free of war and oppression a sobering new awareness of the range and scale of the challenges they faced.

On May 3, 1971, after nearly two weeks of intense antiwar protest in Washington, DC, ranging from a half-million-person march to large-scale sit-ins outside the Selective Service, Justice Department, and other government agencies, some 25,000 young people set out to do something brash and extraordinary: disrupt the basic functioning of the federal government through nonviolent action. They called themselves the Mayday Tribe, and their slogan was as succinct as it was ambitious: “If the government won’t stop the war, we’ll stop the government.” The slogan was of course hyperbolic— even if Washington, DC were completely paralyzed by protest for a day or week or a month, that would not halt the collection of taxes, the delivery of mail, the dropping of bombs, or countless other government functions—but that made it no less electrifying as a rallying cry, and no less alarming to the Nixon administration (Nixon’s White House chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, called it “potentially a real threat”). An elaborate tactical manual distributed in advance detailed twenty-one key bridges and traffic circles for protesters to block nonviolently, with stalled vehicles, improvised barricades, or their bodies. The immediate goal was to snarl traffic so completely that government employees could not get to their jobs. The larger objective was “to create the spectre of social chaos while maintaining the support or at least toleration of the broad masses of American people.”

The protest certainly interfered with business as usual in Washington: traffic was snarled, and many government employees stayed home. Others commuted to their offices before dawn, and three members of Congress even resorted to canoeing across the Potomac to get themselves to Capitol Hill. But most of the planned blockades held only briefly, if at all, because most of the protesters were arrested before they even got into position. Thanks to the detailed tactical manual, the authorities knew exactly where protesters would be deployed. To stop them from paralyzing the city, the Nixon Administration had made the unprecedented decision to sweep them all up, using not just police but actual military forces.

Under direct presidential orders, Attorney General John Mitchell mobilized the National Guard and thousands of troops from the Army and the Marines to join the Washington, DC police in rounding up everyone suspected of participating in the protest. As one protester noted, “Anyone and everyone who looked at all freaky was scooped up off the street.” A staggering number of people— more than 7,000—were locked up before the day was over, in what remain the largest mass arrests in US history. Read more…

What Happens When a Tribe Cuts Ties with 306 of Its Own Members

Photo by rick_leche

In more than 30 years of membership, Annie’s descendants became interwoven in the life of the tribe. They married other Nooksacks and had kids; those kids had kids. But once the disenrollment process began, people chose sides. “It was just like a light switch,” Elizabeth Oshiro, one of the 306, told me. People she knew for years “all of a sudden had a different heart.” …

On the reservation, Michelle Roberts found that people who babysat for her as a child or attended her wedding would no longer make eye contact with her. “The most important thing isn’t friendship,” says Diane Brewer, who no longer speaks to her former best friend, one of the 306. “The most important thing is the tribe.”

In the New York Times Magazine, Brooke Jarvis chronicles the legal battle over the “Nooksack 306,” members of the tribe who were disenrolled over questions about their identity.

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‘Continue Panicking’: Samantha Bee’s Interview with Journalist Masha Gessen

“Really it’s the nuclear holocaust I’m worried about.”

One of my essay selections for Longreads Best of 2016 was by Masha Gessen, the Russian-American journalist and author of 2016’s The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, whose “Autocracy: Rules for Survival” in the New York Review of Books revealed in stark terms what happens when an autocrat takes power.

Gessen’s back in a new interview with Samantha Bee that is both funny and terrifying, as she predicts what happens next — and what she fears in terms of worst-case scenarios.

‘Not Too Much, Not Too Little’: Programming Luck Into Video Games

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In fully digital video games, luck is even more deeply baked into the experience, and must be actively simulated. When the soccer ball sails past the goalkeeper in FIFA, or when, inexplicably, a herd of race cars slows down to allow you to catch up, a game designer’s hand has just acted to provide some ghostly rigging. The effect of this manipulation is to flatter you and thereby keep you engaged. But it’s a trick that must be deployed subtly. A player who senses that he’s secretly being helped by the game will feel patronized; after all, luck is only luck if it’s truly unpredictable.

Which is where the problems begin.

— At Nautilis, Simon Parkin examines the responsibilities and challenges of engineering luck into video games.

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What My Great-Grandfather Taught Me About Trump and the Press

Photo by geoliv
The StrangerLongreads has teamed up with The Stranger’s Sydney Brownstone and Heidi Groover, along with photographer Nate Gowdy, to cover the presidential inauguration and protests. Below, a dispatch from Brownstone, on her way to D.C.

***

My great-grandfather was a man of few words. I never met him, but I understand he had a thick accent from growing up speaking Yiddish in a shtetl in what is now known as Moldova. The shtetl no longer exists, and neither does the deli my great-grandfather opened in Brooklyn after fleeing to America a hundred years ago.

My great-grandfather also had a thing about TVs. He had never owned one, and my dad assumed that was because he couldn’t spend the money. As a gift, my dad bought my great-grandfather his first television set. But when my father visited him not long after, he noticed something strange had happened to the TV.

It had been unplugged from the wall and covered in a number of blankets. My great-grandfather had been afraid that the Soviet government would use the TV to spy on him. Read more…