The Sunday Post for February 25, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for consumption over a cup of coffee (or tea, if that's your pleasure). Settle in for a while; we saved you a seat. You can also look through the archives.

I thought my bully deserved an awful life

Geraldine DeRuiter, the blindingly smart author and blogger, did an online search for her childhood bully, hoping for the usual comeuppance story. Instead she found her tormentor had died — young, scared, and alone. The essay she drew from that experience isn’t an apologia for bullies, who can do a hell of a lot of damage, but it’s a reminder that the forces that turn kids into bullies can be ugly. Does hating your bully turn you into a bully? Ugh. Thanks for the wake-up call.

I read that he had anticipated an attack. His friends said he was so terrified in the weeks leading up to his murder that he’d slept with a hammer under his pillow. I was haunted by what I imagined his final moments were like, by how scared he must have been. I cried for the boy who had made me so miserable.

Now I had to wonder: What kind of fate would I have considered sufficient retribution? Would I have been satisfied if he was merely unsuccessful or unhappy? What sentence are we comfortable bestowing upon a fifth-grader for his crimes? What’s the statute of limitations for revenge?

When Whisper Networks Let Us Down

A very long read but a worthwhile one by Sarah Jeong, who reported on the rape and abuse allegations against Morgan Marquis-Boire for The Verge. Here, Jeong talks about why whisper networks have failed to protect women against men like Marquis-Boire, men who exhibit clearly violent behavior but do so under cover of social status and of a host of other caveats and codicils. Given an excuse to excuse men for hurting women, we have; it’s time, Jeong says (and our social chorus will continue to say, I hope), for that to change.

The stories carried by whisper networks are easily subverted, especially when the accused has enough social capital. Journalist Anne Helen Petersen connects the concept of whisper networks to the function that celebrity tabloids and gossip magazines often play in the entertainment industry, and to how gossip and whispers of any kind are socially stigmatized as a feminine vice. She describes how “pun, innuendo, and blind items” in celebrity tabloids had long pointed to the truth about Weinstein and his normalized “casting couch,” hiding alleged nonconsensual assaults behind consensual encounters both real and imagined. But the same tabloid press went all out to smear Ambra Battilana Gutierrez when she wore a police wire to record Weinstein’s admission that he had groped her. “Harvey Weinstein rapes women” could also be heard as “Harvey Weinstein sure gets in a lot of trouble with crazy sluts.” The signals inside the whisper network can become corrupted, and sometimes, the connections fail because the carriers choose to protect the accused.
How Black Panther Asks Us to Examine Who We Are To One Another

SPOILER ALERT: save this for later if you haven’t seen Black Panther and care about spoilers. I have not yet seen Black Panther and usually do care about spoilers, but I read anyway. There was no way I was passing up an essay by friend-of-Seattle Review of Books Rahawa Haile.

Haile articulates a deep joy in the movie side by side with equally sharp criticism; she takes this movie seriously in a way that no other superhero film (no, not even Wonder Woman) has earned. And I’m happy to have read this before seeing Black Panther — happy that my first experience of it will be through her lens. There aren’t many reviews about which I’d say the same.

How then does one criticize what is unquestionably the best Marvel movie to date by every conceivable metric known to film criticism? How best to explain that Black Panther can be a celebration of blackness, yes; a silencing of whiteness, yes; a meshing of African cultures and signifiers — all this! — while also feeling like an exercise in sustained forgetting? That the convenience of having a fake country within a real continent is the way we can take inspiration from the latter without dwelling on its losses, or the causes of them. Black Panther is an American film through and through, one heavily invested in white America’s political absence from its African narrative.
Besides I'll Be Dead

Just a reminder that while our attention is diverted by the daily Twitter Trumpfeed, the oceans are rising steadily and will soon kill us all. Meehan Crist on why we’re so comfortable ignoring this uncomfortable reality.

How do you mourn the loss of someone whose hand you can still hold? How do you mourn a home increasingly prone to flooding, but not submerged, yet? The parallels aren’t perfect, but even the disjunctures reveal how wickedly hard the problem of climate grief can be. When a beloved person is slowly disappearing into the fog of senescence, the endpoint is known. With rising seas, the endpoint remains unknown. Three feet? Eight feet? Grief is stalled by uncertainty. For what eventuality should you and your community prepare? Of what do you need to let go in order to move forward? The incentive to wait and see is powerful.
Worst Roommate Ever

William Brennan investigates the first nightmarish, then tragic, story of Jamison Bachman, a serial squatter who posed as the perfect roommate then used escalating legal and physical threats to take over his hosts’ homes. A law education makes him a formidable annoyance in court; his presence on the grounds gives him destructive access to everything from bathmats to beloved pets (in one case, he started dropping his landlord’s cats off at local kill shelters). A broken man who did a lot of damage — and most, in the end, to his family and himself.

Bachman wasn’t a typical squatter in that he did not appear especially interested in strong-arming his way to free rent (although he often granted himself that privilege); instead, he seemed to relish the anguish of those who had taken him in without realizing that they would soon be pulled into a terrifying battle for their home. Nothing they did could satisfy or appease him, because the objective was not material gain but, seemingly, the sadistic pleasure of watching them squirm as he displaced them.