Photo by famartin via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Since the 2016 election, my non-scientific review estimates that the media has published seven zillion articles on Trump voters living in rural America, roughly seven zillion more than were necessary. Mother Jones’Becca Andrews traveled back to the area where she grew up, Crockett County in West Tennessee, to talk instead to people of color living and working in rural, red states. The stories she hears aren’t as bad as a white person who hasn’t been paying much attention would think. They’re worse — a lot worse.
The day after the November presidential election, Turner went with her mother to the store, and they both kept their heads down. “We just feel like we don’t belong here anymore,” she says.
Turner’s mom, who cleans houses in town for a living, went to work a couple of days after that, and her employer, an older white woman, brought up the results of the recent election. The two had talked politics before—Turner’s mom is a Democrat, and her employer is a Republican. “Well, you might as well come and live with me now,” the employer said. “You gonna be mine eventually.”
The first casualty of America’s opioid epidemic beyond the users themselves? The American family. As Julia Lurie reports at Mother Jones, while mom and dad are nodding out and overdosing in record numbers, the kids are going into an under-funded foster care system struggling to handle the sheer volume of children who need food, shelter, clothing, and above all, stability.
Long before the social workers showed up in his living room this March, Matt McLaughlin, a 16-year-old with diabetes, had taken to a wearying evening routine: trying to scrounge up enough spare change for food while his mom, Kelly, went to a neighbor’s house to use heroin. On a good night, the bookish high school junior would walk through his neighborhood in Andover, Ohio, a Rust Belt town surrounded by fields and trailer parks, to pick up frozen pizza from the Family Dollar. On a bad night, he’d play video games to distract himself from his grumbling stomach and dipping blood sugar, and wait for Kelly to return with glazed eyes.
It wasn’t always this way. When Matt was little, Kelly was a Head Start caseworker who patiently taught parents how to manage their autistic children. She loved hosting potlucks with friends and playing Barbie with Matt’s sister, Brianna. There was always music: Tchaikovsky when Kelly was at the piano, or Jimmy Buffett blasting through the speakers while she cooked. “Growing up, we were the house that everyone wanted to come to,” remembered Brianna, now 20. “I loved every minute of it.”
It’s hard to overstate just how pervasive the epidemic feels here. Detective Taylor Cleveland, who investigates drug cases in Ashtabula, told me, “I’m dealing with some ruined home two and three times a day.” Cleveland, who coaches youth soccer and recently adopted a 17-year-old player whose mom overdosed, leads a task force that responds to every overdose in the county. Once, he arrived at an overdose scene only to realize that the victim slouched over in the motel room was his cousin, whose young daughter had called 911. “Every OD that happens, I get a text. I’ve gotten two texts while we’ve been talking.” We’d been talking for less than an hour.
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The chatter continued for a while; then Whittle flipped to another photo of two smiling white teenagers. Next to the picture was the phrase “sexual abstinence” and its definition: “saving sexual activity for a committed marriage relationship.” Boals told the kids, “We define ‘sexual activity’ as when the underwear zone of another person comes into contact with any part of your body.” The students would often be asked to recite this definition at the beginning and end of each class.
I don’t regret abstaining in high school, but the fear I picked up along the way hasn’t been easy to shake. I’d believed that sperm could swim through the holes in condoms and impregnate anyone stupid enough to rely on them. It appeared to me that there was no good way to have sex until you wanted a baby, and I didn’t understand what changed once you were married, if birth control wasn’t protection enough. Surely the Pill can’t tell if you wear a wedding band.
When I did start having sex in my early 20s, even though I loved the man I was with, part of me felt disgusted with my body and overwhelmed by the experience. I couldn’t figure out what I liked because I grew up hearing that I wasn’t supposed to like any of it. I felt paralyzing shame at a basic expression of love.
Seems like an effective method to create more handmaids.
President Donald Trump pauses as he talks to media before signing an Executive Order on the Establishment of Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy at The AMES Companies, Inc., in Harrisburg, Pa., Saturday, April, 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
This week we’re sharing stories by Evan Osnos, Ashley C. Ford, Michael Grabell, Chris Heath, and Becca Andrews.
The memory exploded in my head in the dark, quiet classroom, and suddenly, a recurring nightmare I’d had for years made sense. In those dreams, the lower half of my body was made of kid’s construction toys, and pieces kept breaking off as I frantically tried to keep myself together. I began sobbing at my desk. The teacher kindly told me to catch my breath in the hallway; she thought I was upset over the images I was seeing in the video. Later, at lunch, my white girlfriends talked about being relieved that sort of thing doesn’t happen in America.
Only it does. It happened to Tasneem Raja. At Mother Jones, Raja shares her story — she was cut as a child — and explains why it’s so hard to stop the secrecy shrouded tradition.
In the latest issue of Mother Jones, Clive Thompson investigated how the rise of autonomous cars, and Americans’ desire to live in more walkable cities, will mean no longer having to set aside vast amounts of land for parking lots. Many articles have offered a utopian vision of our autonomous driving future, but what I particularly like about Thompson’s piece is that he offers another vision of the smaller changes that are likely to come first—like cities eliminating requirements about how much space developers must set aside for cars, or a collective move to autonomous parking:
“You don’t need fully autonomous cars to get big reductions in parking. Already some cars can parallel park themselves. Carmakers could soon produce vehicles that you drive yourself but that, once you’re at a parking lot, you send off to find a space by themselves. Since nobody would need to get in or out of them after they parked, they could position themselves as snugly together as Tetris bricks, fitting far more cars into our existing parking lots and garages. Achieve even this small feat of self-driving, and it could be possible to never build another piece of parking, says Samaras, the Carnegie Mellon engineer.”
In a recent piece for Mother Jones, Molly Redden looked at why it can be particularly hard for wrongfully convicted women to be exonerated (Women make up about 11 percent of the people convicted of violent crimes, but just 6 percent of those exonerated of violent crimes). Despite their good intentions, most innocence projects fail to bring justice to wrongly convicted women. Why? Karen Daniel and Judy Royal—lawyers with Northwestern University Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions —spent three years pursuing that question. Their research brought them a number of insights, including the fact that women are far less likely to be exonerated using DNA evidence:
Daniel and Royal started by digging deep into the exonerations database. Their first insight had to do with DNA evidence—the very breakthrough that launched the innocence movement a quarter century ago. “Women tend not to be convicted of the types of crimes that can be overturned based on the results of DNA testing,” Daniel explained. Men perpetrate the overwhelming majority of rapes and murders of strangers. These crimes are much more likely to leave behind DNA evidence that can rule out an innocent suspect, or point to the real rapist or killer.
But when women kill, they usually kill someone close to them. And in most of those cases, DNA isn’t relevant. When a woman is suspected of killing her husband or her child, investigators are likely to find her DNA all over the crime scene whether she’s guilty or innocent—so DNA testing can do little to exonerate her. Sure enough, 27 percent of the men in the exonerations registry were freed using DNA evidence. The same was true of only 7.6 percent of the women.