The Body In The Street — Charles P. Pierce on the symbol that Michael Brown’s remains became.
I keep coming back to what seems to me to be the most inhumane thing of all, the inhumane thing that happened before the rage began to rise, and before the backlash began to build, and before the cameras and television lights, and before the tear gas and the stun grenades and the chants and the prayers. I keep coming back to the one image that was there before the international event began, before it became a television show and a symbol in flames and something beyond what it was in the first place. I keep coming back to one simple moment, one ghastly fact. One image, from which all the other images have flowed.
They left the body in the street.
Dictators leave bodies in the street.
Petty local satraps leave bodies in the street.
Warlords leave bodies in the street.
A police officer shot Michael Brown to death. And they left his body in the street. For four hours. Bodies do not lie in the street for four hours. Not in an advanced society. Bodies lie in the street for four hours in small countries where they have perpetual civil war. Bodies lie in the street for four hours on back roads where people fight over the bare necessities of simple living, where they fight over food and water and small, useless parcels of land. Bodies lie in the street for four hours in places in which poor people fight as proxies for rich people in distant places, where they fight as proxies for the men who dig out the diamonds, or who drill out the oil, or who set ancient tribal grudges aflame for modern imperial purposes that are as far from the original grudges as bullets are from bows. Those are the places where they leave bodies in the street, as object lessons, or to make a point, or because there isn’t the money to take the bodies away and bury them, or because nobody gives a damn whether they are there or not. Those are the places where they leave bodies in the street.
The story now seems to be about the “healing process” going on in Ferguson. The nights are quieter. The National Guard has pulled out. Some of the reporters have moved on to other things. There will be a funeral on Monday for the boy whose body was left in the street. It will be a dignified spectacle and it will be terrific television and it will be said to be “healing” the wounded place. Meanwhile, there are other people finding their healing in many different ways.
I support officer Wilson and he did a great job removing an unnecessary thing from the public.
An unnecessary thing.
The body they left in the street.
The body that, in so many ways, is still in the street.
An unnecessary thing.
The body they left in the street. For four hours. Ferguson, Missouri was a place where they left a body in the street. For four hours. And the rage rose, and the backlash built, and the cameras arrived, and so did the cops, and the thing became something beyond what it was in the first place. And, in a very real way, in the streets of Ferguson, the body was still in the street. What kind of place leaves the body of a boy in the street? What kind of country does that?
The Tale of the Trolls — Sara Scribner on the age of internet rage.
A young poet, enough of a rising star to be profiled in the New York Times Magazine, posts a poem called “The Rape Joke.” It begins, “The rape joke is that you were 19 years old. The rape joke is that he was your boyfriend.” It is about as intense and intimate as an online post can get. In the magazine article, the poet’s mother reads the poem, but it is the comment thread that makes the mother cry. “Do you see what these people were saying about you?” her mother asked. “Mom, it’s O.K.,” the writer, Patricia Lockwood, said. “It’s just the Internet.”
Internet cruelty is nothing new. It might only surprise children and the uninitiated, who dip into the public sphere for the first time and are shocked by what comes back at them. But Lockwood’s response reveals a generational shift. Her mother calls the commentators “people.” Lockwood identifies them as “the Internet,” a strange hybrid of human and computer, innately vicious but also ubiquitous, phenomena to be ignored.
Others have a more difficult time ignoring it. After reaching out to her father’s mourning fans, Robin Williams’ daughter Zelda became a target of sadistic trolls — piling trauma upon trauma. She closed her Instagram account and shut down her Twitter feed. A budding journalist who had just had one of her first stories posted on her university newspaper’s website was so stunned by the comments that she decided to find another line of work. A young writer in New York City who was photographed trying to make ends meet by hauling his typewriter to the High Line and busking stories was savaged online. (He ended up writing an article about his ordeal called “I Am an Object of Internet Ridicule, Ask Me Anything.”) Journalist Amanda Hess, who wrote one of the most talked-about stories of this year on women and the Internet, relates getting this comment to one of her pieces: “Amanda, I’ll fucking rape you. How does that feel?”
The list of examples seems endless, and there doesn’t seem to be a single space online that is free from overblown antagonistic invective. Once, when speaking to an almost impossibly sweet colleague, I voiced some concerns about my son’s eating habits. She told me to post on an online forum for moms. Seemed like a good idea at the time. The flowing curlicues and sweet-pea-pink background of the site’s design must have lulled me into some kind of trance, so the vitriol that came back was a shock. Internet moms are angry, too, real angry. And they just hate you.
Although the initial promise of the Internet was that it was a noncommercial, alternative space where anyone could have a public forum, there is clearly something about the structure of the Internet and what happens to people when they are using a computer that taps into something deep, dark, completely judgmental and furious. The worry is that the fury will reshape our online world. Will the Internet become a nasty, brutish place where only the bullies can find a voice? Is there a chance for civility and free speech online?
Summer Camp — Kim Severson goes to Dollywood, the Southern amusement park that’s a little bit country and a little bit gay.
At Dollywood, the place on a Venn diagram where gay camp and Southern camp overlap, cinnamon rolls might be the great equalizer.
They’re more loaf than roll, really. You find them at the Grist Mill, a working water-powered replica of an old country mill inside the wildly popular theme park. Workers cut deep slashes into small loaves of bread dough and toss them into pans of cinnamon and sugar, then bake them; the crusty top gives way to soft, sugary canyons inside.
On a recent Saturday, the women behind the counter sold about 1,200 of them — including one to me — at $5.99 a pop. A little plastic cup of white frosting was a dollar extra, which I gladly paid.
The hot loaves of sin are not for the gluten-free, nor for those who might select their food based on where it came from. But there didn’t seem to be many of those people moving through one of the park’s most popular food venues.
There were, however, large groups of Southern Baptists who showed up in matching T-shirts that proclaimed their church affiliations. There were exhausted families from North Carolina trying to get grandma out of the wilting heat. There were rowdy college students from Ohio on a summer road trip, and a single mom from Georgia looking to entertain her young son.
And then there was us, a middle-aged lesbian couple in expensive yet practical footwear who traveled from Atlanta to see if we could find the campy gay undercurrent that runs through Dollywood, arguably the most culturally conservative amusement park in the country. (It is hard to imagine Disney, for example, selling a purse with a pocket for a concealed weapon or leather Bible covers.)
In a lot of ways, we were just like the rest of the nearly three million people who make their way to the foothills of the Smoky Mountains about 30 miles east of Knoxville each year. We wanted to dip into the unapologetic mix of corn pone, roller coasters and celebrity that is Ms. Parton’s very lucrative Appalachian Southern fantasy.
It is hard to dislike Ms. Parton, who grew up in a family of 12 children a few miles from here in conditions so poor her father paid for her birth with a bag of grain. She left for Nashville the day after she graduated from high school and this year celebrates her 50th year in the business. She is a smart and driven businesswoman and has dedicated herself to helping the poor region she grew up in. Opening the lucrative Dollywood was part of that mission; it’s now the largest employer in Sevier County.
That Dolly Parton, 68, is also a gay icon would probably be news to many of the guests in cargo shorts and tennis shoes who wait patiently in line each day until “The Star Spangled Banner” is sung and the park opens. But for the rest of us, it is not.
Doonesbury — Phone messages.