Happy Monday, gentle readers! We’re in an essay-reading mood and we have a few we particularly enjoyed…along with a deep dive into the lead crisis, the myth of the ‘French girl,’ and an interview with people participating in the resistance that lies at the heart of US social justice movements.
‘The lead crisis: Tackling an invisible, dangerous neurotoxin‘ (Yvette Cabrera for Think Progress)
While many people in the US became aware of lead contamination issues as a result of the ongoing water safety crisis in Flint, this is a national problem, and one that isn’t getting better. An army of researchers, volunteers, and community advocates is fighting to improve the lives of children in low-income communities affected by lead contamination.
Mielke’s work, geographically mapping contaminated soil and documenting the effects on the blood lead levels of children who ingest or inhale these particles, confirms the predictions of a scientist who decades ago broke new ground on lead’s impact: Clair C. Patterson, a California Institute of Technology geochemist.
‘How to Sell a Billion-Dollar Myth Like a French Girl‘ (Eliza Brooke for Racked)
Effortless chic is quintessentially French, yes? But how did the ‘French girl’ become such an iconic and oddly specific figure in the West? The secret lies down a fascinating, twisted path of marketing and consumerism.
It’s safe to say that Violette’s French roots are part of her appeal. Her 10 most-watched tutorials include “Breakfast & Blue Eyes in Paris With Loan,” “My Bardot Look,” “The French Kissed Look,” and “Yeux Chocolats in Paris.” The search term “French beauty tutorial” returns more than 2 million results on YouTube at large.
‘Occupied Territory‘ (Rebecca Solnit for Harper’s)
Solnit remains one of the most brilliant modern American essayists for a reason. This thoughtful, winding piece leads the reader on a fascinating journey through cultural and social attitudes, though it starts with a mundane — and all too familiar — anecdote, chronicling an interaction between the author and an ill-mannered dog owner.
When its owner came around the bend with a second dog, I said, the snot from the first still gleaming on my pants, “You need to keep your dogs under control.” “My dogs are under perfect control,” the woman replied with asperity. The point was clear: She could control them but didn’t care to.
‘Taco Night‘ (Julie Hecht for Catapult)
A glimpse inside a slow cascade into horror. Intergenerational differences. Absurdity and mundanity, side by side. An essay about one thing, that’s really about something else entirely. Intrigued? You should be.
I turned on MSNBC. How could I have been so stupid. I saw Chris Matthews’s face. And on his face was a ghastly expression. I never saw him look like that, ever. And on the face of that woman whom I don’t like to hear talk about anything, there was also a grim, horrified, desperate look. I turned it off right that instant. I thought, Oh, that’s it. It happened.
‘‘Police Chose the Klan Over Our People’: On Resisting Racism in Charlottesville‘ (Sarah Jaffe for In These Times)
Former Global Comment editor Sarah Jaffe’s ‘Interviews for Resistance’ series is a fascinating exploration of the lives and people driving social justice movements. This, the latest entry in the series, makes for excellent reading.
We delayed the Klan. They showed up. Their permit was from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., and they didn’t even get into the park until like 3:55 p.m. We could not completely prevent them from entering—that would have been a bigger victory. But, yes, we delayed them. There were like eight of them and thousands of us. We are stronger than them, there are more of us than them. The state and the threat of racist terrorism can’t keep us away.
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Photo: Paul Sableman/Creative Commons