Before we delve into sharing the longreads we’re loving right now, our most popular post last week was Louise Hung’s “How dare I,” on the experience of seeking mental health care while Asian American, and the complex pressures in some AAPI communities that make it so hard to ask for help. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, now is the time.
‘Our Best Hope for Civil Discourse Online Is…Reddit‘ (Virginia Heffernan for Wired)
Is it possible to have a reasonable, rational conversation about a hot-button issue on the internet? And, more specifically, on reddit, which at times feels like the cesspool of the internet? Oddly enough…a carefully curated and moderated subreddit may be the best place to have complex conversations. Surprised? I was.
Turnbull didn’t want to attract the chippy you-talkin’-to-me? crowd that was already adequately represented on Reddit. He meant to populate his forum with people sincerely in quest of lively and honorable debate. At first Change My View did attract rancor and ad hominem brattery, but Turnbull was patient and true to his vision of civil discourse. He enlisted moderators from among the more fair-minded regulars, and for five years now they have policed not just name-calling, rudeness, and hostility but superfluous jokes and mindless agreement. (Turnbull deletes what he calls “low-effort” comments.)
‘How Do You Rebuild Your Life After Leaving A Polygamous Sect?‘ (Anne Helen Petersen for Buzzfeed)
This is an absolutely fascinating read. When the FLDS roared into headlines in the early 2000s, a few common narrative threads emerged. Now, as the women and children who fled the fundamentalist sect have had time to adjust, they’re reclaiming the story, telling their own truth, and providing deep insight into the world of a community that’s been heavily mythologised.
The FLDS broke away from the Latter-day Saints (better known as Mormons) after the church abandoned the practice of polygamy in 1890. They believe Mormons have forsaken the foundational teachings of their religion, and consider them, along with anyone else who is not part of the FLDS, to be “gentiles.” The original leaders chose Short Creek for its remoteness: Zion National Park is to the north, the Grand Canyon is to the south, and miles of vacant desert lie between.
‘Diary of a Do-Gooder‘ (Sara Eckel for Longreads)
Across the US in 2016, many people who’d been previously indifferent to social activism, community issues, and engagement suddenly awoke. 2017 marked the year when people took this new-found interest in contributing to society to the streets, the ballot box, and beyond. This is the story of one woman’s journey into awareness.
I was surprised by how easily I became this person, this pesky do-gooder, this purveyor of obviousness. My high-school English teachers had instructed me to avoid clichés — if you want people to bother reading you, then you must find an original way to tell the story. This became a guiding principle not just in my writing, but in my speech, too, as it was for all my writer friends in New York City, where I had lived until 2012. There, nearly everyone I knew tried to obey the golden rule of conversation: If you can’t think of something interesting to say, don’t say anything at all.
‘The Coping Economy‘ (Laura Marsh for Dissent)
‘Mindfulness’ is a big business in the United States that combines a hodgepodge of appropriated traditions and vague handwaving in a practice that’s supposed to make people feel more ‘grounded,’ ‘in-touch,’ and ‘compassionate.’ Where did this industry come from? Who is profiting from it? Does ‘mindfulness’ work as people claim it does?
Monsanto led an early experiment with mindful leadership in the late 1990s, during one of the lowest periods for the company’s reputation, when Monsanto was criticized for developing “suicide seeds” that could not reproduce (a technology they ultimately dropped) and for contracting farmers to buy new seed each year. As David Gelles of the New York Times describes in his 2015 book Mindful Work—the most thorough account to date of corporations’ use of mindfulness—it was Bob Shapiro, the company’s new CEO, who brought meditation to the multinational. In 1996, he took fifteen top employees to a three-day workshop in Kalamazoo, a plan that nearly fell through when the environmentally conscious instructor hesitated to deal with a company she saw as “a villain in the world.”
‘My Brother’s Keeper‘ (Sabine Heinlein for Pacific Standard)
The death penalty is a bizarre, cruel, anachronistic practice that the United States clings to even as it wanes in popularity across the globe. Many death penalty states haven’t actually conducted executions in decades, but some, like Texas, are still regularly killing people in the name of the state. But…what if some of those people are innocent?
There is nothing normal about counting the days until the state kills your brother. Your world shifts in ways you didn’t believe possible. There is always guilt, shame, and pain. And there is always something that makes the execution seem unmerited, whether it is the defendant’s abuse as a child, his mental illness, or the fact that he wasn’t in the room when the murder took place. The sum of those things, in Jeff Wood’s case, is particularly troubling.
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