From his tent in the illegal shantytown carved out of a Bangladeshi forest, 25-year-old Abdul watched as men, women, and children limped into the refugee camp, gaunt from not eating for days. They were his people, the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority that has been widely called the world’s most persecuted people. Abdul had arrived in the camps ten months earlier, when 66 thousand refugees fled the neighboring country of Myanmar in the last months of 2016. Nearly a year later, the Rohingya were once again on the run, with hundreds of thousands fleeing to Bangladesh through grooves worn in the swamps made by the more than 1 million refugees who had preceded them over seven decades.
The most recent violence began on August 25, 2017, when armed Rohingya groups attacked as many as 30 Burmese police and military posts near the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. The army’s retaliation had been swift, with soldiers razing more than 200 villages, causing about 600 thousand Rohingya to flee. The refugees told stories of Burmese soldiers ambushing their villages, raping the women, and shooting the men or decapitating them with knives. They described landmines being laid along the well-known escape routes. Each morning, corpses of Rohingya who had drowned trying to cross the mile-wide Naf River, which divides Myanmar from Bangladesh, washed onto the shore where they had once sought safety.
Abdul called the new arrivals into his shelter, which was made of discarded plastic stretched over bamboo slats, though all he could offer them was a spot on the red-clay floor. Soon, 30 people were occupying just 80 square feet. But they counted themselves lucky: Most new arrivals slept under monsoon-season skies. Nearly a million Rohingya now crammed into a narrow peninsula on the southern tip of Bangladesh, almost all of them in squatter settlements ringing the U.N.-run camps, which have been at capacity for decades. Eventually, Abdul’s tent became so crowded that he had to bed down at a nearby mosque. But having made a similar escape with shrapnel embedded in his shoulder just 10 months earlier, Abdul felt he had to help.
At Rolling Stone, Laura Rena Murray chronicles the dangers young trans women face as they struggle to survive on the streets of New York City. Often the targets of violence, one in two trans women in the city will become HIV-positive before she turns 24. Turning tricks to bring in cash, some have gone so far as to attempt suicide simply to gain access to a bed for the duration of the mandatory 72-hour watch period. “I just needed a bed,” says Scarlet. “I did what I had to do to sleep for Christmas.”
In the Dominican Republic, where Sophie was born, her mother struggled with addiction and sent Sophie to live with her grandmother in New York when she was six months old. Her grandmother, who was able to send the family money, food and clothing, Sophie says, by pimping out undocumented girls, was nearly beaten to death by two men when Sophie was in the fourth grade. Both her grandmother and her father hit her, she says, and sometimes locked her out of the house. “It was more hatred than discipline,” she recalls. “My dad would beat me in the shower with a belt and punch me in the face, calling me a faggot. Then he’d turn around and say, ‘I love you.’ How can you treat me like this if you love me?”
She began living on the streets at 16, attending school whenever possible, but more often worrying about where to eat, shower and sleep each night. “You can’t go to school smelly and drawing attention,” she says. “I would take cat baths at Starbucks.” Now, at 21, she’s hoping to build a civil-rights career, either as a lawyer or a social worker. The next morning, in fact, she has an interview for an eight-week internship at the American Civil Liberties Union. “I know I’m going to be a very successful person,” she says. “I want [my father] to learn he lost something.”
There are now more than 350,000 transgender people under the age of 25 in the United States, the majority in the largest cities of New York, California, Florida and Texas – and an estimated 20 percent of them lack secure housing, though many service providers believe that figure is low. Craig Hughes of the Coalition for Homeless Youth notes that the federal definition of homelessness does not include those who trade sex for shelter; instead, they are considered “unstably” housed. “There are thousands who go uncounted,” Hughes says. “They are disconnected from services, sleep on multiple couches a month and spend some nights trading sex for shelter.”
Photo by Blueag9 via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Philosophy professor Tommy Curry’s work (and part of the reason Texas A&M hired him) asks, in part, whether violence is politically necessary for dismantling white supremacy — an exploration of “violent resistance in the context of American racism ‘not as a call to arms, but as an open-ended political question.'” A frequent guest on a friend’s radio show, it was only a matter of time before the right-wing internet outrage machine found him. The repercussions are still reverberating through his professional and family lives, and shaking the foundations of academic freedom at A&M. Steve Kolowich walks through the story for the Chronicle of Higher Education.
“You and your entire family of low-IQ, affirmative-action herpes-infected african monkeys might need to be put to death.”
There were dozens like that. The professor forwarded them to the campus police department. Mr. Curry says a detective told him some of the messages appeared to have been sent from within the county.
Police officers made a point to drive past his apartment building often for several weeks. But Mr. Curry worried about whether his 6-year-old was safe at her elementary school. Driving her home at the end of the day, he would circle the block a few times to make sure they had not been followed.
Nobody came to his door, knocked him down, disarmed him, fired a bullet between his legs, or made him beg for his life. The mob that came for Mr. Curry reflected his own time. It was digital and diffuse, everywhere and nowhere.
The goal, however, was the same as ever: fear. And it worked.
A United Airlines jets sits at the gate at Denver International Airport. (AP Photo/David Boe)
Colin Dickey | Longreads | April 2017 | 12 minutes | 3000 words
On Monday night, Oscar Munoz, the CEO of United Airlines, sent an internal email to his staff regarding the incident on Flight 3411 in which members of Chicago Aviation Security forcibly removed a customer who refused to give up his seat when asked. In the note, Munoz offered an explanation of events and a defense of both his employees and law enforcement. The email ended up on Twitter where its contents were roundly excoriated.
Munoz’s email is, in its own way, a work of art; a triumph of the willingness to pass the buck. It misstates objective facts and shifts responsibility onto the passenger, David Dao, who ended up bloody and dazed after the encounter.
As you will read, the situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers was politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Officers to help.
What struck me as I read the email is how a careful and consistent use of syntax, grammar, and diction is marshaled to make a series of points both subtle and unsubtle. On Twitter, I referred to it as a “master class in the use of the passive voice to avoid responsibility,” and followed with a few tweets that highlighted its use of language to shift the blame on to the victim.
GQ published an excerpt from Chuck Klosterman’s book But What If We’re Wrong? last May — and while it’s nominally about football, violence, and why the sport isn’t going away anytime soon, it’s also a prescient analysis of current U.S. politics.
There’s an embedded assumption within all arguments regarding the doomed nature of football. The assumption is that the game is even more violent and damaging than it superficially appears, and that as more people realize this (and/or refuse to deny the medical evidence verifying that damage), the game’s fan support will disappear. The mistake made by those advocating this position is their certitude that this perspective is self-evident. It’s not. These advocates remind me of an apocryphal quote attributed to film critic Pauline Kael after the 1972 presidential election: “How could Nixon have won? I don’t know one person who voted for him.” Now, Kael never actually said this. But that erroneous quote survives as the best shorthand example for why smart people tend to be wrong as often as their not-so-smart peers—they work from the flawed premise that their worldview is standard. The contemporary stance on football’s risk feels unilateral, because nobody goes around saying, “Modern life is not violent enough.” Yet this sentiment quietly exists. And what those who believe it say instead is, “I love football. It’s the last bastion of hope for toughness in America.” It’s not difficult to imagine a future where the semantic distance between those statements is nonexistent. And if that happens, football will change from a popular leisure pastime to an unpopular political necessity.
A manufacturing entrepreneur is jailed over toilet paper in his factory’s restrooms. An American attorney and figure in a once-thriving expat community in Caracas is killed in a violent robbery. There are so many stories of people trying to live amid Venezuela’s instability and chaos. Here are five.
“What our country is going through is monstrously unique: It’s nothing less than the collapse of a large, wealthy, seemingly modern, seemingly democratic nation just a few hours’ flight from the United States.” The day-to-day stories of Venezuelans reveal the collapse of the country on all fronts.
Schoolgirls walk in front of a mural painted with the faces of disappeared girls. Local artists and families of the disappeared have been working together to raise awareness about disappearance in Juárez; they paint the faces of missing girls on the donated walls of schools, churches, and homes around the city. Photo: Alice Driver
Ciudad Juárez, Mexico was once known as the global murder capital. It’s no longer the world’s most dangerous city, but violence still haunts the town just over the border from El Paso, Texas. Alice Driver, a filmmaker, writer and photographer whose work focuses on human rights, feminism, and activism, has written extensively about Juárez. Her searing 2015 book More or Less Dead: Feminicide, Haunting, and the Ethics of Representation in Mexicodeals specifically with thedisappearance and murder of women in Juárez. The work, which grew out of her dissertation, blends theory with stories and interviews to explore not just the violence against women in Juárez, but also how that violence has been represented in media and culture. As Driver writes:
“To talk about feminicide is to talk about violence against women in all its manifestations, and in Juárez one of the most visible of those is disappearance. When women are murdered, their bodies don’t always appear. Often they disappear, and so the violence becomes unregistered, unrecorded, and seemingly invisible. This book is about the ways in which those bodies, whether identified or nameless, have been represented in literature, film, and art.”
Lidia Yuknavitch, author of the acclaimed new novel The Small Backs of Children, has a haunting essay up at Guernica about “Laume,” a mythological water spirit and guardian of all children that her Lithuanian grandmother introduced her to when she was young, and about the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of violence and tragedy:
I had a recurring dream for twenty years that I would have three sons.
I did not have three sons, and I’m fifty-two, so it’s not looking likely. What I did have was a daughter, who died, and one son, sun of my life. But I did have three husbands.
Maybe dreams don’t mean a goddamned thing.
Or maybe they mean everything.
They say you marry a man who is like your father. My father, the artist-turned-architect, molested and abused us. He was big. Angry. Loud-fisted. Marked us forever—three little women, making for their lives.
My first husband was gentle as a swan. A painter with long fingers and eyelashes. You can see what I was shooting for. I almost self-immolated next to his passivity.
My second husband, another painter, used harsh lashing strokes on the canvas. He was big and loud, but made softer by alcohol and art. Except when he wasn’t. The gun of him. Sig Sauer.
My third husband, father of my son, is big and loud and a filmmaker. But there is the gentleness of a cellist in his hands and eyes.
So sometimes I wonder if my dream was meant to show me not three sons, but three husbands. Take my second husband, for instance—the one who pressed the gun of him to me—he was a lot like a child. I wonder if Laume came and took my baby daughter, who died right before I met him, and replaced her with a man-child. This is kind of how we get through our lives: we tell ourselves stories so that what’s happening becomes something we can live with. Necessary fictions.
To begin to get a grasp on the economic toll, Mother Jones turned to Ted Miller at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, an independent nonprofit that studies public health, education, and safety issues. Miller has been one of the few researchers to delve deeply into guns, going back to the late 1980s when he began analyzing societal costs from violence, injury, and substance abuse, as well as the savings from prevention. Most of his 30-plus years of research has been funded by government grants and contracts; his work on guns in recent years has either been tucked into broader projects or done on the side. “I never take positions on legislation,” he notes. “Instead, I provide numbers to inform decision making.”
Miller’s approach looks at two categories of costs. The first is direct: Every time a bullet hits somebody, expenses can include emergency services, police investigations, and long-term medical and mental-health care, as well as court and prison costs. About 87 percent of these costs fall on taxpayers. The second category consists of indirect costs: Factors here include lost income, losses to employers, and impact on quality of life, which Miller bases on amounts that juries award for pain and suffering to victims of wrongful injury and death.
We’re pleased to bring College Longreads back for the academic year. Even if you had a productive summer, you still didn’t do as much as the 2014 News21 team. The Carnegie-Knight News21 is an investigative multimedia reporting project based out of Arizona State but staffed by student journalists from some sixteen universities. This year’s project, Gun Wars, resulted in dozens of stories, videos, interactive graphics and more about gun rights and regulations in the United States. The slick presentation is supported by deep, solid reporting, the kind that’s time consuming (interviews) and sometimes just plain tedious (comparing suicide-by-gun data, state by state). News21 presents its findings with empathy but without judgment, a rarity in a media culture where reporting is often presented through the lens of a particular point of view. So read, watch, and explore this lush journalism experience.