Today’s news features several stories bearing on immigration to the US, international migration, and refugees around the world. How would you describe the present moment? Is there something distinctive about this juncture in time—an immigration crisis—or is that an exaggeration? How should we be responding?
In particular, stupidly broad protocols on the use of deadly force could . . . be tightened up. One prevailing standard, introduced apparently at random by a single police trainer, is that any civilian moving at an officer with a stabbing weapon from any distance within twenty-one feet may be shot, and more than two hundred of the yearly dead threatened with something other than a gun. But the documented outcomes of such encounters say that the officer’s chance of death is effectively zero. Under the Common Law concerning proportional self-defense, there is little or no rationale for a well-trained and well-informed officer to shoot; and there is only an iffy justification under the Tennessee vs. Garner Supreme Court ruling, that an officer may kill only someone posing a significant threat of death or serious injury to another.
Everyone’s genome contains genetic mutations. Some mutations might raise our risk for a disease or slightly change our propensity to freckle in the sun, but other mutations do not change such phenotypes at all. Still, greater knowledge of our genetic makeup necessarily involves greater awareness of potential health risks. As Dr. Colleen McBride, the former chief of the Social and Behavioral Research branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute, explained in an interview with Rochman, “The more [parents] anticipated feeling good, the more they wanted to test. But the reality is, those parents are going to get bad news. Their kids are going to be at risk for something.” Risk and destiny are not equivalent, but that news does not always calm an anxious parent.
Didion, as narrator, is aware of her own quirks, in ways that most of us are blissfully not; I am too often content to allow the pictures in my mind to remain unsullied if inaccurate, whereas Didion felt compelled to return and look again. She had visited the South once before, as a child, when her father was stationed in South Carolina during World War II. She notes that in her childish egocentricity (“which then approached autism”) she imagined the war as a punishment designed specifically to deprive her of her father.
Consider the looting of the developing world…: not how or why the looting has happened, but how the West has regarded and changed (or, mainly, tried to change or made a pretext of changing) its relationship to the looters and the loot. Human drives and the typical structures of our societies (right across continents and hemispheres) seem to work against justice at every turn, so that a better question than “How on earth do people get away with all this?” might be “How could any wronged citizenry ever get even a little of its own back?”
The central fact in understanding “Nigerian organized crime” is the extreme inadequacy of the formal state, and the (justifiable) public contempt in which it is held. Persistent misgovernment has resulted in mass poverty and desperation, forcing ordinary people to venture outside the law to achieve simple survival. As a vampiric élite battened upon the nation’s wealth, educated and enterprising younger people were increasingly driven to seek their fortunes overseas, and most did their honest best to advance through legitimate means. For a minority, though, the riches to be won through criminal enterprise proved enormously tempting, and the global nature of the Nigerian Diaspora offered wonderful opportunities for illicit transnational commerce.
War is . . . so interwoven into the fabric of contemporary life that civilians hardly notice it anymore . . . . It hasn’t always been this way. Michael Kazin’s brilliant new book, War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914-1918, lends credence to the old saying, “the past is a foreign country.” It tells the remarkable story of how, one hundred years ago, a diverse coalition of Americans struggled to keep the nation out of the Great War.
Since independence in 1948, but particularly since the 2011 end of military rule, Myanmar (formerly called Burma), has taken a series of measures with chilling parallels to the worst 20th-century genocides. Government officials—eventually aided by Buddhist monks—over the years effectively banked the Rohingyas as scapegoats for policies that were not going to end well: blind ethnic nationalism, unchecked military rule (the new constitution reserves a role for the generals that is preventing essential reforms), and the super-corrupt “Burmese Way to Socialism.”
The last voyageurs were a group of recently graduated high school students, five high school teachers, a priest, and a playwright who traveled 3,300 miles over a period of eight months in 1976, trying their hardest to re-create the lifestyles of 17th-century French explorers . . . . The original voyageurs were the riverine version of frontiersmen. They crisscrossed North America in birchbark canoes, mostly transporting furs but also sometimes naturalists, physicians, Jesuit missionaries, and more. The “last voyageurs” weren’t transporting furs, but knowledge.
Two recent books offer windows into the role of moderates in American politics. Historian David S. Brown’s Moderates focuses on this theme with mixed results. Though Michael Wear’s Reclaiming Hope is primarily a memoir of a young staffer’s work for Barack Obama, he ends up offering practical insights into the need for political moderation. Together, these books show readers the perils of extreme party polarization and point toward a different model of politics.