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Fiction

Victory

In their letter to the weekly newspaper, the Klan hadn’t said what time they planned to arrive, just that on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination they would be in Churchill passing out literature and demonstrating. When I called around town to find out what people were planning to do about it, the consensus in the white community was that we should ignore them.

The Sun Interview

Throwing Away The Key

Michelle Alexander On How Prisons Have Become The New Jim Crow

Yes, during the original Jim Crow era Whites Only signs hung over drinking fountains, and black people were forced to sit at the back of the bus. There was no denying the existence of the caste system. But today people in prison are largely invisible to the rest of us. We have more than 2 million inmates warehoused, but if you’re not one of them, or a family member of one of them, you scarcely notice. Most prisons are located far from urban centers and major freeways. You literally don’t see them, and when inmates return home, they’re typically returned to the segregated ghetto neighborhoods from which they came, leaving the middle class unaware of how vast this discriminatory system has become in a very short time.

The Sun Interview

Quiet, Please

Gordon Hempton On The Search For Silence In A Noisy World

Certainly people have their preferences regarding music and other sounds they like to listen to, but I do believe there is an “ideal” soundscape, and I’ve given it a name: “sonesia.” It includes the sounds of wildlife, such as songbirds. It includes the gentle sound of insects and the sound of distant water. (Up close, rushing water can mask the other sonic elements of the environment.) All of these sounds are indicative of grassland, a savannah. That’s where humans evolved, along with songbirds, which are the best indicator of an environment’s suitability for human prosperity: where songbirds live, there is also sufficient food for humans.

The Sun Interview

Redneck For Wilderness

Earth First! Cofounder Dave Foreman On Being A True Conservative

I think that civilization and real wilderness can coexist in North America and elsewhere, but we’ve got to allow room for wilderness and wild creatures. A favorite word of mine is wildeor, which goes back to the time of Beowulf and the origins of the English language. It means the “self-willed beast.” From the very beginning, civilization has tried to domesticate the beasts, and if we can’t domesticate them, then we destroy them. We’ve got to allow land to be wilderness, which means, in Old English, “self-willed land.” Letting some things have a will of their own, not trying to control everything — that is the challenge.

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Foreign Coasts

It’s already sweltering at sunrise on this August Sunday morning in Norfolk, Virginia. My Lebanese grandfather is taking my brother and me fishing for blue crabs on the Elizabeth River. He stands on the dock and drops the oars into the flat-bottomed rowboat.

Sy Safransky's Notebook

December 2008

When a friend called with the news, I assumed he was putting me on. A deer, he said, had crashed through the plate-glass window of a pottery store in downtown Chapel Hill. It was exactly one month after the 9/11 attacks, and I wasn’t in the mood for a joke.

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Some Thoughts On Mercy

Among the more concrete ramifications of this corruption of the imagination is that when the police suspect a black man or boy of having a gun, he becomes murderable: Murderable despite having earned advanced degrees or bought a cute house or written a couple of books of poetry. Murderable whether he’s an unarmed adult or a child riding a bike in the opposite direction. Murderable in the doorways of our houses.

The Sun Interview

The Magic And The Power

An Interview With Odetta

I’m shy about writing, about exposing myself, but songs have come through me. Once, I was in Israel and had a hard night — an argument that was so unimportant I don’t even remember what it was about — and I decided I’d go to sleep. In those days that was the way I handled my problems. There’s a Chinese proverb that says if you have a big problem, and you need to solve it, go to sleep. The problem won’t disappear, but you’ll wake up in another position. (Chuckles.) Well, I got back to the hotel, and I couldn’t go to sleep. So I took pencil and paper in hand and out came a song. The kind of writing I admire involves yourself right out there, like Joni Mitchell. Her songs are about what she did or didn’t do or what she’s feeling. It’s almost like an exorcism. But I haven’t gotten there yet.

The Sun Interview

By The Color Of Their Skin

Tim Wise On The Myth Of A Postracial America

Some think that racism ended with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Those were important steps, because they made it illegal to engage in discrimination. But just because you’ve made something illegal doesn’t mean it no longer happens. No enforcement mechanisms existed for the Fair Housing Act until 1988, and evidence suggests there are still millions of cases of race-based housing discrimination every year.