With Mubarak's supporters bearing down for another round of assaults, demonstrators have found new strength in singing, dancing, and prayer
CAIRO, Egypt -- The demonstrators have been calling today "the day of departure" for Hosni Mubarak and, with their mission complete, presumably for themselves, too. Many protesters have been in Tahrir Square for as long as a week -- exhausted from stress, from having to sleep body-to-body on cold pavement and patchy grass, and from having to improvise (with miraculous effect) a static defense strategy against an enemy with virtually limitless supply lines.
And yet today it seemed as if many of the protesters want never to leave. The atmosphere a few days ago was doomed but resolute, like the last days of the Alamo. Now it was ecstatic, with an optimism that seemed wholly warranted. "We understand Mubarak's strategy, and we reject him," a young man who spent five days in the square told me. "This is a place of liberation [tahrir], not negotiation. Over our dead bodies." Two days ago those last words might have been sounded prophetic, but now they sounded merely figurative.
Cairenes poured into the square from several directions and in enormous numbers. The most heavily trafficked entry point, Kasr el Nil bridge, had multiple orderly queues, hundreds of yards long, with a wide cross-section of Egyptian society. Until late yesterday, the bridge was held by the Mubarak supporters. This morning, the only sign that the Mubarakites had been there was the disrepair of the base of the statue in the center of Opera Square, at the far end of the bridge from Tahrir. The stone had been broken up for throwing. Now those chunks of pink granite are stockpiled in Tahrir near the protesters' barricades, ready as ammunition against the next attack.
Using a tape measure and chalkmarks on the ground, the protesters organized themselves into neat lines for Friday prayer. So many newcomers appeared in the prayer lines that the bandaged heads were in the minority, although many still wore the headgear -- including hardhats and hunting caps -- that protected them as they dodged rocks yesterday. I asked a man with a thick callous on his forehead (a zabiba or "raisin," developed from years of placing one's forehead on the ground to pray) how he kept performing ritual ablutions without water. He said that when you're away from water and engaged in a just or holy cause, you can clean yourself not with water but with tayammum, the ritual striking of the earth with the palms. The cause of unseating Mubarak easily qualified, he said.
After prayers, the heads popped up like a hundred thousand jack-in-the-boxes, and fists pumped in the air to the chant of "Leave!" Next came a rendition of "My Country, My Country, My Country," the national anthem.
Mahmoud Awad, 35, approached me after prayers, with a forwardness that probably served him well in his former business as one of Tahrir Square's famously pushy tour guides. He wanted to go on the offensive, and said he wouldn't be satisfied even if Mubarak left. What he wanted was justice. "We will follow him everywhere. We will trap him," Awad said. "He stole our dreams, and we will never let him go."
The hatred is of course mutual. A café manager chased me out through his doors a few minutes ago in Zamalek, because a crowd of Mubarakites was on its way through to meet up with another Mubarakite group in Mohandiseen, and he wanted to shutter the business until they passed. Mohandiseen is on the other side of the Nile, in a business-dominated area with relatively strong Mubarak support. So far, Mubarakites have barely arrived at Tahrir to begin the day's attacks. When they arrive, they will find an opposing force that is physically, materially, and spiritually resupplied, and harder to dislodge than it has ever been.
Jen Hatmaker says the “days of silence are over” in polite evangelical culture.
By her own estimation, Jen Hatmaker is “low-grade Christian famous.” She has written 12 books, starred in an HGTV series with her family, built a large social-media following, and gone on tour with other prominent female Christian writers.
In some circles, Hatmaker is also controversial. Last fall, she told the writer Jonathan Merritt she thinks LGBT relationships can be holy. LifeWay, a large Christian retailer, pulled her books from their stores. Some of her followers were “angry or shocked or confused,” she said, and her interview set off a round of debate on the authority of evangelical women in ministry. This spring, Hatmaker wrote on her blog that she has “[become] painfully aware of the machine, the Christian Machine.”
The scientists are all talking like it’s a sure thing.
On August 21, the “moon” will pass between the Earth and the sun, obscuring the light of the latter. The government agency NASA says this will result in “one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights.” The astronomers there claim to have calculated down to the minute exactly when and where this will happen, and for how long. They have reportedly known about this eclipse for years, just by virtue of some sort of complex math.
This seems extremely unlikely. I can’t even find these eclipse calculations on their website to check them for myself.
Meanwhile the scientists tell us we can’t look at it without special glasses because “looking directly at the sun is unsafe.”
“Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him.”
Ever since it was first published in 1982, readers—including this one—have thrilled to “Total Eclipse,” Annie Dillard’s masterpiece of literary nonfiction, which describes her personal experience of a solar eclipse in Washington State. It first appeared in Dillard’s landmark collection, Teaching a Stone to Talk, and was recently republished in The Abundance, a new anthology of her work. The Atlantic is pleased to offer the essay in full, here, until the day after the ‘Great American Eclipse’ on August 21.
It had been like dying, that sliding down the mountain pass. It had been like the death of someone, irrational, that sliding down the mountain pass and into the region of dread. It was like slipping into fever, or falling down that hole in sleep from which you wake yourself whimpering. We had crossed the mountains that day, and now we were in a strange place—a hotel in central Washington, in a town near Yakima. The eclipse we had traveled here to see would occur early in the next morning.
The country’s exceptionally thin safety net prompts residents—especially those with less-steady employment—to view partnership in more economic terms.
Over the last several decades, the proportion of Americans who get married has greatly diminished—a development known as well to those who lament marriage’s decline as those who take issue with it as an institution. But a development that’s much newer is that the demographic now leading the shift away from tradition is Americans without college degrees—who just a few decades ago were much more likely to be married by the age of 30 than college graduates were.
Today, though, just over half of women in their early 40s with a high-school degree or less education are married, compared to three-quarters of women with a bachelor’s degree; in the 1970s, there was barely a difference. The marriage gap for men has changed less over the years, but there the trend lines have flipped too: Twenty-five percent of men with high-school degrees or less education have never married, compared to 23 percent of men with bachelor’s degrees and 14 percent of those with advanced degrees. Meanwhile, divorce rates have continued to rise among the less educated, while staying more or less steady for college graduates in recent decades.
Many presidential appointees face an agonizing choice—leave the president with fewer restraints on his darker impulses, or stay to serve the republic even if it costs their integrity.
John Kelly’s stricken look, head slumped on chest, as President Trump brayed a defense of the “fine people” on both sides in a Charlottesville march of neo-Nazis and white supremacists, said it all. A man raised to believe in a code of decency and honor had to endure language from his boss which would have earned one of Kelly’s Marine lieutenants the chewing-out of a lifetime. And he had to listen knowing that despite his efforts to instill discipline in the White House, he could expect more rhetoric—lies, bombast, and provocation—that would inflame some of the worst memories and darkest impulses of the American soul. If Kelly had not chosen to be there fully aware of who Donald Trump is, one might have felt sorry for him.
Life inside North Korea's Camp 14 so twisted 13-year-old Shin In Geun that he betrayed his mother and only brother.
Life inside North Korea's Camp 14 so twisted 13-year-old Shin In Geun that he betrayed his mother and only brother.
A North Korean soldier patrols inside the fence of a prison camp near the Chinese border / AP
Nine years after watching his mother's hanging, Shin In Geun
squirmed through the electric fence that surrounds Camp 14 and ran off through
the snow into the North Korean wilderness. It was January 2, 2005. Before then,
no one born in a North Korean political prison camp had ever escaped. As far as
can be determined, Shin is still the only one to do it.
He was 23 years old and knew no one outside the fence.
Within a month, he had walked into China. Within two years, he was living in
South Korea. Four years later, he was living in Southern California.
More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.
One day last summer, around noon, I called Athena, a 13-year-old who lives in Houston, Texas. She answered her phone—she’s had an iPhone since she was 11—sounding as if she’d just woken up. We chatted about her favorite songs and TV shows, and I asked her what she likes to do with her friends. “We go to the mall,” she said. “Do your parents drop you off?,” I asked, recalling my own middle-school days, in the 1980s, when I’d enjoy a few parent-free hours shopping with my friends. “No—I go with my family,” she replied. “We’ll go with my mom and brothers and walk a little behind them. I just have to tell my mom where we’re going. I have to check in every hour or every 30 minutes.”
Those mall trips are infrequent—about once a month. More often, Athena and her friends spend time together on their phones, unchaperoned. Unlike the teens of my generation, who might have spent an evening tying up the family landline with gossip, they talk on Snapchat, the smartphone app that allows users to send pictures and videos that quickly disappear. They make sure to keep up their Snapstreaks, which show how many days in a row they have Snapchatted with each other. Sometimes they save screenshots of particularly ridiculous pictures of friends. “It’s good blackmail,” Athena said. (Because she’s a minor, I’m not using her real name.) She told me she’d spent most of the summer hanging out alone in her room with her phone. That’s just the way her generation is, she said. “We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”
The nation’s current post-truth moment is the ultimate expression of mind-sets that have made America exceptional throughout its history.
When did America become untethered from reality?
I first noticed our national lurch toward fantasy in 2004, after President George W. Bush’s political mastermind, Karl Rove, came up with the remarkable phrase reality-based community. People in “the reality-based community,” he told a reporter, “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality … That’s not the way the world really works anymore.” A year later, The Colbert Report went on the air. In the first few minutes of the first episode, Stephen Colbert, playing his right-wing-populist commentator character, performed a feature called “The Word.” His first selection: truthiness. “Now, I’m sure some of the ‘word police,’ the ‘wordinistas’ over at Webster’s, are gonna say, ‘Hey, that’s not a word!’ Well, anybody who knows me knows that I’m no fan of dictionaries or reference books.
The legend of the Confederate leader’s heroism and decency is based in the fiction of a person who never existed.
The strangest part about the continued personality cult of Robert E. Lee is how few of the qualities his admirers profess to see in him he actually possessed.
Memorial Day has the tendency to conjure up old arguments about the Civil War. That’s understandable; it was created to mourn the dead of a war in which the Union was nearly destroyed, when half the country rose up in rebellion in defense of slavery. This year, the removal of Lee’s statue in New Orleans has inspired a new round of commentary about Lee, not to mention protests on his behalf by white supremacists.
The myth of Lee goes something like this: He was a brilliant strategist and devoted Christian man who abhorred slavery and labored tirelessly after the war to bring the country back together.
Empty pedestals can offer the same lessons about racism and war that the statues do.
Six years before it would become the inspiration for bloody protests, the Robert E. Lee monument in Charlottesville, Virginia, was vandalized. The 2011 incident capped off my 11-year residency in the small city—where I’d taught high-school history and where my understanding of the legacy of the Civil War was nurtured. There was no better place to teach the Civil War than Charlottesville. Some of the most important battlefields in Richmond, Fredericksburg, and the Shenandoah Valley are within an hour’s drive. But it was the region’s monuments that played a central role in my teaching, and I believed they should be left alone.
I argued my position in an essay for The Atlantic: “For better or for worse, monuments to Confederate heroes are part of our story, but each of us can choose how to engage with these places. We can express outrage over their existence. We can alter them with statements of our own. Or we can let them be, appreciate their aesthetic qualities, and reflect carefully on their history.” I fell short on understanding what they still meant to some in the community. I didn’t realize that so many of my neighbors didn’t need further reflection at all.