Left, Right, But Not Center

The traditional center loses out in the latest European parliamentary elections. Plus: A former Marine colonel cautions against the temptation of revenge in war.

It’s Monday, May 27, Memorial Day in the U.S. In today’s issue: The center won’t hold, a former Marine colonel’s caution, and non-white characters in outdoorsy kids’ books.

Looking for our daily mini crossword, which gets more challenging as the week goes on? Try your hand at it here.

The new European parliament has been pulled to the left and right.

As the outcome of Sunday’s European parliamentary elections unfurled, candidates representing far-right platforms (Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, for instance) claimed an impressive number of new seats. But the right’s victory wasn’t resounding: in a year that saw the highest voter turnout in two decades, support for smaller, pro-EU parties such as the Greens in Germany also surged.

The clear loser? Traditional centrist parties—a defeat foreshadowing a Europe that’s increasingly polarized, and increasingly fragmented, writes Yasmeen Serhan.

These elections don’t usually inspire voters to come out in such numbers, and those who turn out are focused mostly on issues pertinent to their home countries. But since the last parliamentary elections five years ago, the stakes have changed: Brexit, the fight over immigration and borders, the rise of new populist leaders, and an existential reckoning for the EU.

Children’s literature is full of adventurers. They’re just predominantly white.

Owl Moon, Blueberries for Sal; Hatchet, Julie of the Wolves. But what about outdoorsy books featuring black kids? “Sometimes they learn to navigate the untamed outdoors as they escape from slavery,” Ashley Fetters writes. “But by and large, according to children’s literature, black children don’t hike or camp or bird-watch for fun.”

Correcting for such an absence can have sweeping implications. The environmental sciences isn’t a diverse field. Climate change will affect communities of color, more so if they’re also left out of the conservation conversation. Childhood obesity overwhelmingly affects children of color.

The public outdoors has a tainted legacy: When America was building up its first national parks, Jim Crow laws made these spaces dangerous for black Americans. Organizations such as the Boy Scouts were officially segregated until the 70s. Now, as millions of visitors descend on several hundred American national parks each year, consider how a more diverse range of children might be encouraged to explore nature in the first place—by seeing faces like them in books about the natural world.

The Future Library: A Disneyland of Books?

University libraries are a center and symbol of academic life. But around the world, books are getting dusty on the shelves, as the number of people actually checking out physical copies plummets:

Before you tsk-tsk today’s kids for their lack of bookishness, note that the trend lines are sliding southward for graduate students and faculty members, too: down 61 percent and 46 percent, respectively, at UVA. Overall, across its entire network of libraries, UVA circulated 525,000 books during the 2007–08 school year, but last year there were only 188,000 loans—nearly 1,000 fewer books checked out a day. The Association of Research Libraries’ aggregated statistics show a steady decrease of the same proportion across its membership, even as student enrollment at these universities has grown substantially.

Maybe students aren’t checking the books out but are still consulting them regularly within the library? This also does not appear to be true. Many libraries also track such in-house uses, by tallying the books that need to be reshelved, and the trends are the same.

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Fighting the Temptation of Revenge in War

Naval Special Warfare Operator Chief Eddie Gallagher. Green Beret Major Mathew Golsteyn.

These men, both awaiting trial for murder, are among those whose names have been reportedly floated for a presidential pardon. Gallagher is accused of shooting civilians and killing a prisoner; Golsteyn, of murdering a detainee. Andrew Milburn, a former Marine colonel, argues:

As a combat veteran myself, I watch these developments with deep unease.

If the men in question had been junior soldiers, I might feel differently. But when the military gives you responsibility, it comes with the understanding that you can’t abandon it by blaming the stressors of combat. Because it’s in combat when your subordinates depend on you the most—when fear, fatigue, and anger threaten to take them off path, and when, lacking firm guidance, they are likely to blunder down a dangerous path. Among the squad leaders whom I sent into Karmah that day were a number who had earlier served with me as junior marines in the Battle of Fallujah, during a four-month period in which the same battalion had seen 45 marines killed, with another 250 wounded. None of them used that fact as an excuse to abuse prisoners or the local population—then or afterward. That doing so was forbidden was just understood.

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Every Monday, Lori Gottlieb answers questions from readers about their problems, big and small. This week, an anonymous reader writes in:

After 29 years of marriage, I asked my wife for a divorce. We had some discussions and agreed we had been living like roommates for years. We told our two adult kids a few days later. We remained friends of a sort; we continued to live in the same house and share the marital bed (as roommates) for another year before I moved out.

For close to 20 years we have had several couple-friends whom we befriended after our children became friends. A couple of months after the Discussion, our college-age daughter told me that one of our friends said, “Don’t worry. We’ll support your mom.”

Since then, none of the friends has spoken or written a word to me, with the exception of one couple I went to dinner with.

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This email was written by Shan Wang. Questions, suggestions, typos? Write to swang@theatlantic.com.

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