Is Prison Necessary?

Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind (Rachel Kushner)

Abolition means not just the closing of prisons but the presence, instead, of vital systems of support that many communities lack. Instead of asking how, in a future without prisons, we will deal with so-called violent people, abolitionists ask how we resolve inequalities and get people the resources they need long before the hypothetical moment when, as Gilmore puts it, they “mess up.”

For Gilmore, to “never forget” means you don’t solve a problem with state violence or with personal violence. Instead, you change the conditions under which violence prevailed. Among liberals, a kind of quasi-Christian idea about empathy circulates, the idea that we have to find a way to care about the people who’ve done bad. To Gilmore this is unconvincing. When she encountered the kids in Fresno who hassled her about prison abolition, she did not ask them to empathize with the people who might hurt them, or had. She instead asked them why, as individuals, and as a society, we believe that the way to solve a problem is by “killing it.” She was asking if punishment is logical, and if it works. She let the kids find their own way to answer.

We Can’t Ride it Out

Eugenics Isn’t Going to Get Us Out of This Mess (Sarah Jones)

They’re asking [willing death] of your grandparents, and of your neighbor with cancer; they ask it of me and of you, too, if your body is flawed or simply unlucky. The views…are eugenics. They separate human life into categories. In one box, there are people worth saving. In the other, there are people we ought to let die. Believing this makes them eugenicists. What they contemplate is not quite mass murder, but a sort of planned, negligent homicide….Let nature take its course. The fit will survive the cull.

[The] obsession with market forces was not about human flourishing, productivity, and abundance, but about something else. Supply-side economics gave them a way to intellectualize their own amorality. Markets care nothing for ethics. They aren’t governed by justice and they don’t feel mercy.

What today’s eugenicists are unwilling to admit is that there is one, less deadly way to rescue the economy from this pandemic. It’s redistribution, not just of resources but of power. The government will have to massively expand its tiny welfare state, and grant workers rights they do not currently have. It has the financial capacity to do so, but the project would force it to reconsider its priorities.

Looking Forward

How the Pandemic Will End (Ed Yong)

Rudderless, blindsided, lethargic, and uncoordinated, America has mishandled the COVID-19 crisis to a substantially worse degree than what every health expert I’ve spoken with had feared.

It’s likely, then, that the new coronavirus will be a lingering part of American life for at least a year, if not much longer. If the current round of social-distancing measures works, the pandemic may ebb enough for things to return to a semblance of normalcy.

Veterans of past epidemics have long warned that American society is trapped in a cycle of panic and neglect. After every crisis—anthrax, SARS, flu, Ebola—attention is paid and investments are made. But after short periods of peacetime, memories fade and budgets dwindle. This trend transcends red and blue administrations. When a new normal sets in, the abnormal once again becomes unimaginable. But there is reason to think that COVID-19 might be a disaster that leads to more radical and lasting change.

Talk About It

How to Talk about the Coronavirus (Liz Neeley)

These steps will help you improve, and check the quality of, your own knowledge, as well as enhance your credibility when you try to communicate it. Inviting your audiences to explore a topic with you and equipping them with the tools to interrogate the process respect their agency and autonomy. Science communication should be about service, not self-importance.

Wear a Mask

Why We Should All Wear Masks (Sui Huang)

Intuition suggests that even an imperfect mask may offer some protection, that is at least in the range of the recommended separation by more than 6 feet in social interactions or washing hands or not touching your face — all recommendation based on mechanistic plausibility without strong epidemiological support.

A Description

A Medical Worker Describes COVID-19 (Lizzie Presser)

Since last week, he’s been running ventilators for the sickest COVID-19 patients. Many are relatively young, in their 40s and 50s, and have minimal, if any, preexisting conditions in their charts. He is overwhelmed, stunned by the manifestation of the infection, both its speed and intensity. The ICU where he works has essentially become a coronavirus unit. 

“And once I saw these patients with it, I was like, Holy shit, I do not want to catch this and I don’t want anyone I know to catch this.”

The First Drag Queen was a Former Slave

The First Drag Queen Was a Former Slave (Channing Gerard Joseph)

Coming of age at a time when an entirely new form of freedom and self-​determination was developing for African Americans, Swann and his house of butlers, coachmen, and cooks—the first Americans to regularly hold cross-dressing balls and the first to fight for the right to do so—arguably laid the foundations of contemporary queer celebration and protest.

When I Stopped Trying to Lose Weight

What I Gained When I Stopped Trying to Lose Weight (Reina Sultan)

I have the freedom to be who I am now — instead of being trapped in a mental prison that I wouldn’t free myself from until I lost weight.

There are so many things we cannot and should not try to control. When I accept those things, I can put my energy into focusing on the things I can change, making my relationships healthier and my work more fulfilling.

It’s Not Too Soon

It’s Not ‘Too Soon’ to Talk About the Kobe Bryant Rape Case (Josh Levin, Stefan Fatsis, Joel Anderson)

The way that I think of it is that if your support and your admiration for Kobe is strong enough, like if you really loved Kobe, you idolized him, that should be real enough to sustain an analysis or review of his life as he lived it. Nobody is telling you how to mourn or that you can’t feel sorry for the fact that he died or that it was a tragedy, because it is. But that should not therefore dictate the way others choose to remember him or what we want to say about his death.

Victims everywhere are watching. Survivors in your life right now are listening to this and reading this and hearing all the dismissals. Survivors aren’t in a community all to themselves. They’re part of all these other communities.

How I Learned to Embrace Calling Myself Fat

How I Learned to Embrace Calling Myself Fat (Samhita Mukhopadhyay)

Accepting that I am fat gave me the space to consider what care would look like for myself outside of the confining walls of self-hatred. Carving out a space that is rooted in dignity, in believing you deserve better and you deserve to be cared for. It’s recognizing that the world is horrible to fat people: openly discriminatory, hostile even, and understanding that you do not deserve that treatment. It’s understanding that everyone has internalized these toxic views of thinness and it impacts their behavior. It’s giving yourself a break from the pressure to feed into everyone else’s ideas of what your body should look like.