#328: Free Country
One of my favorite things about putting this newsletter together is hearing from loyal readers who have taken a break for a while and then come back. Last week’s issue, one of the most popular in Highlighter history, elicited many kind words and well wishes – for which I am very grateful. I don’t thank you often enough for being part of this reading community. Nearly seven years in, I’m appreciative every day.
This week’s issue includes four outstanding articles focusing on the expansion of gun rights, the long-term effects of school shootings, the importance of accepting death, and the reminder that beauty is right in front of us. If you have time to read just one article, I recommend “Children In The Garden.” What begins as a piece on endurance running develops into a meditation on joy and play and wonder and being a kid.
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Michael Cargill lives in Texas and believes in the Second Amendment. He’s a military veteran, a firearms instructor, and a gun shop owner. He’s also Black and gay. While he fights for the right to bear arms, and appreciates that more Americans are becoming first-time gun owners, Mr. Cargill does not endorse the latest trend among gun proponents: unrestricted permitless carry, now legal in 21 states.
In this well-researched article, Rachel Monroe charts how open carry, mostly nonexistent until the 1980s, has gained popularity as a result of racist fears of urban crime, the Obama presidency, and the pandemic. She also explains why state lawmakers in conservative states feel emboldened (and sometimes compelled) to pass lenient gun laws, when their constituents would prefer stricter regulations. (25 min)
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+ Ms. Monroe also wrote this great piece on van life back in 2017.
The Survivors: The School Shooting Generation Grows Up
In the 1980s and 1990s, decades before school shootings became commonplace (there have been 96 since 2018), young survivors received little mental health treatment. Most suppressed their feelings, soothed with drugs, formed informal therapy groups, and felt guilty to seek therapy, because they suffered less than their friends. Now in their 30s and 40s, they’re coming to terms with their PTSD and deciding what to tell their own children about their experiences, if anything at all. (22 min)
A proud Bodeguero Ratonero Anadaluz, Alma, who belongs to VIP Sage and loyal reader Randy, enjoys protecting sherry cellars from vermin and has an insatiable hankering for rodents. Here she is in Sevilla in front of the Alcázar, a Moorish palace. Want your pet to appear in The Highlighter? hltr.co/pets
Our problem as humans, Melanie Challenger argues in this thoughtful essay, is that we deperately want to avoid death. She reminds us, “Everything that we have cherished, each hope or triumph, however small or glorious, will be gone. And so, too, will the unique form of our bodies. Our smiles and the cut of our buttocks, our hips and the hue of our eyes—all will one day be swallowed back into the immensity of the cosmos.” If we accept death and spend less time convincing ourselves that we are exceptional, somehow superior to animals, then we’ll love ourselves and each other more, offering us a better chance to construct a healthier world for future generations. (16 min)
Children In The Garden: On Life At A 3,100-Mile Race
Even if you’re not a distance runner, you’ll appreciate this profile of the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race, in which participants run around a half-mile block in Jamaica, Queens, over and over, for 52 days. In this beautifully written piece, Devin Kelly starts with running and extrapolates to the philosophical and existential: What is beauty and what is joy in our pandemic world? He writes, “I think we often chase epiphany, despite the fact that, at all times, the possibility of epiphany is right here, exactly where we are. The word itself has nothing to do with how it is commonly portrayed, which is that epiphany occurs out of nowhere, as if what is surprising someone didn’t exist before the moment of their surprise. In reality, the idea of epiphany has to do with seeing things exactly as they are.” (33 min)
+ Reader Annotations: Last week’s lead article, “My Penis, Myself” was immensely popular and resonated with many of you. And several of you shared your reactions upon seeing the subject line in your inboxes. Loyal reader Eunice, who was substituting for a third grade teacher at a small school in rural Michigan, needed to email a writing assignment to the secretary to print. She wrote, “I had the computer up for a previous impromptu addition to the class conversation and didn’t realize my email headers would be so titillating. Thanks for the excitement and forcing a quick browser close.” I’m pleased that you still have your job, Eunice!
In addition, I’d like to thank loyal reader Albina, who sent this delightful and heartwarming comment my way:
I am a recent subscriber and my inbox definitely did not need another newsletter subscription, so I have been unsubscribing from a ton of newsletters that I find are just “noise.” Yours however is one I really enjoy! I’ll admit I don’t always have the time to read all of the articles you recommend, but reading your summaries alone feels like a kind point in the right direction :-) Thank you a lot!
Thank you for being wonderful, Albina – and don’t worry, you’re not alone. Even though I highly encourage everyone to read every single article (because they’re so good!), many loyal readers tell me they’re most passionate about the blurbs.
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