Long Reads for the Weekend

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I thought I should compile some longer readings that take a bit more time, but are also worth it. The first set of articles deals with physical violence: we have the Rolling Stone profile of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the “Boston Bomber.” Then there’s a compelling and fascinating article about the Jurors and lawyers in the Emmett Till case, and what they had to say about it fifty years later. Finally, Ross Gay delivers a powerful and poignant narrative of being a black man in the U.S.

Jahar’s World

Janet Reitman, Rolling Stone magazine.

The already controversial Rolling Stone cover story everyone is talking about. It’s worth actually reading it to form your own opinion. I think one could say that the writer looks perhaps a bit too hard to make him sympathetic. But despite what the critics say, no amount of knowledge about his troubled background is going to make you forget that this is a man who (allegedly, although confessedly) killed civilians.  It’s a much needed complication of the simpleminded,singular narrative we usually hear about those who commit this sort of violence.

“Listen,” says Payack, “there are kids we don’t catch who just fall through the cracks, but this guy was seamless, like a billiard ball. No cracks at all.” And yet a deeply fractured boy lay under that facade; a witness to all of his family’s attempts at a better life as well as to their deep bitterness when those efforts failed and their dreams proved unattainable. As each small disappointment wore on his family, ultimately ripping them apart, it also furthered Jahar’s own disintegration – a series of quiet yet powerful body punches. No one saw a thing. “I knew this kid, and he was a good kid,” Payack says, sadly. “And, apparently, he’s also a monster.”


The Ghosts of Emmett Till 
Richard Rubin, The New York Times Magazine.

In 2005, Rubin wrote about how ten years earlier he had interviewed two of the defendants’ lawyers, as well as the only remaining members of the jury that acquitted the murderers of young Emmett Till. Rubin wanted to know why they had not found them guilty. The article can’t be summed up with a pithy quote, but read it — it’s a fascinating glimpse into a time and mindset that are both very different and yet sadly, strikingly similar to our own.


Some Thoughts on Mercy 
Ross Gay, The Sun Magazine

Among the more concrete ramifications of this corruption of the imagination is that when the police suspect a black man or boy of having a gun, he becomes murderable: Murderable despite having earned advanced degrees or bought a cute house or written a couple of books of poetry. Murderable whether he’s an unarmed adult or a child riding a bike in the opposite direction. Murderable in the doorways of our houses. Murderable as we come home from the store. Murderable as we lie facedown on the ground in a subway station. Murderable the day before our weddings. Murderable, probably, in our gardens. It seems to me that part of my reason for writing this — for revealing my own fear and sorrow, my own paranoia and self-incrimination and shame — is to say, Look how I’ve been made by this. To have, perhaps, mercy on myself. When we have mercy, deep and abiding change might happen. The corrupt imagination might become visible. Inequalities might become visible. Violence might become visible. Terror might become visible. And the things we’ve been doing to each other, despite the fact that we don’t want to do such things to each other, might become visible.

So good, please please read it.   Hey you made it down here, cool!


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