Outside Reading — Life, Liberty, Etc. edition

This 2018 AP photo shows caged children in a Texas facility.

Meet the people fighting for health care access for disabled kids detained at the border by s.e. smith

The grotesque immorality and abject cruelty currently being perpetrated against human beings attempting to immigrate into the U.S. — most of them seeking asylum and therefore entering the country legally — casts a grim shadow on this long weekend of patriotic celebration. The multitude of callous, unforgivable actions are so vast that new examples of heartlessness can be illuminated on a daily basis. For Vox, s.e. smith explores the brutish disregard for the medical and mental health needs of the gratuitously incarcerated people and highlights the handful of humanitarian organizations valiantly trying to help in the face of federal officials operating with an astonishing combination of intransigence and ineptness. The situation is truly approaching “crimes against humanity” levels.




McSweeney’s has become a tremendous outlet for absolutely scathing political satire, the effectiveness of the pieces bolstered significantly by a firmly established practice of including hyperlinks to news stories that provide legitimate context for the bleak comic commentary. Writing in the collective voice of the GOP, Lawrence Wang illustrates why the dwindling number of left-leaning U.S. political figures who still speak of compromise — most notably Joe Biden predicting an inevitable “epiphany” ushering in an era of respectful collaboration — are embarrassing fools.


The Underground Railroad (2016) by Colson Whitehead


I covered my broader admiration for Colson Whitehead’s writing earlier this week, so there might be a little redundancy to this paragraph. But I’ve carved out a corner of this weekly feature for reflections on books I’ve recently completed, hence a few words for Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, which earned him the Pulitzer Prize. His most significant act of invention in the novel is positing the Underground Railroad — the support system of subterfuge that helped slaves escape the cruelty of their immoral bondage in the decades before the U.S. Civil War — was truly equipped with locomotive transportation puffing steam beneath the surface of the Earth. This fanciful fact isn’t presented with whimsy nor overt marveling. It simply is, which is perhaps the boldest approach possible. The plainspokenness is shared by Whitehead’s depiction of the cruelty of slavery, both in the base physical brutality and — of more enduring pertinence — the the ritualized dehumanization of a large group of human beings in the name of preserving corrosive power. The book makes for a tough read, but its importance, value, and impact are practically inarguable.

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