A photo of President Trump, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi placing their hands on a glowing orb went viral this week, drawing comparisons online with comic-book villains and the Palantír from The Lord of the Rings. So we asked our Politics & Policy Daily readers to share the most memorable moments from trips taken by past presidents. Here’s what they said:
Several of you pointed to the infamous dinner when President George H. W. Bush vomited on the lap of Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, and then fainted. Reader Anna Bucciarelli felt for him: “I remember it so well and felt such empathy with the president. It had to have been the most embarrassing moment of his entire life.”
On June 26, 1963, former President John F. Kennedy said “Ich bin ein Berliner,” in an attempt to show support to West Germany after the construction of the Berlin Wall. Reader Peter Bonde wrote that “nothing Trump has said or done shows that he is emotionally or intellectually capable of such a gesture.”
Others, like Viane, remember the speech differently: “We Americans were impressed that [Kennedy] greeted the crowd with a German phrase, until we learned that he had told them, ‘I am a donut.’” Actually, he didn’t. But it is a common misconception that the president accidentally changed the meaning of the phrase by including the indefinite article “ein.”
Reader Brian Moore brought up another memorable diplomatic misspeak that happened in Poland in 1977, when a translator for President Jimmy Carter incorrectly translated Carter’s innocuous message to something more … sexual.
Howard Cohen said he vividly remembers the criticism President Reagan received in 1985, when he visited a military cemetery in Bitburg, Germany, that contained the graves of some SS troops. The visit, Howard noted, also drew public criticism from Elie Wiesel, the late Holocaust survivor and author.
And finally, another reader remembered that this photo of former President Obama taking a selfie with then-British Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt at Nelson Mandela’s funeral stuck out.
I am a white, American-born woman many years younger than Alex and thus my experiences are very different from his, yet I relate to his story in a way that I have not seen addressed: I grew up in an abusive household and live every day with the guilt of not doing more to rectify my parents’ transgressions.
It must be acknowledged that exposing a child to domestic violence is a form of abuse with lifelong effects; Alex witnessed Lola’s mistreatment as a constant presence in his youth, and clearly struggled with that legacy for the rest of his life. Although he did not recognize himself as such in “My Family’s Slave,” he too deserves our sympathy as victim. A child has no choice but to comply with their parents’ abusive behavior—must comply in order to survive. That normalization of and forced complicity with violence creates a sense of self-doubt and helplessness which does not magically vanish in adulthood. The criticisms of Alex’s decisions have not acknowledged this crucial dynamic, and it’s not something easily understood unless one has lived it.
Bruce gives a wrenching account of what he and his mother lived through:
Like Alex, I grew up with domestic violence. It began even before I could even remember. My mother told me that one time, my dad had her on the ground, and was standing over her, whipping her with his belt. My twin brother and I were cowering in a corner crying, and when my dad left, I crawled over to her and caressed her face. I hadn’t learnt to talk yet.
I remember waking up one night to sounds of my father yelling and my mother whimpering. My brother was too scared to go outside of our bedroom. I did and saw my father on top of my mother, pulling out her hair and ripping her nightgown. I yelled out at my dad, asking him what was going on. When he turned around, he warned me not to come closer or he might do something he would regret. I was probably in fourth grade at the time. He would bring knives out and say he may have to kill our entire family in order to somehow “protect” us, and often he would tell my brother and I to yell at my mother, so that he wouldn’t have to. He was conditioning me to abuse my mother, and I meekly complied because of the fear I had of him.
One time when I was about 17, my father made my mother kneel in front of him, and when he slapped her across the face, I pushed him away and yelled at him to never touch her again. I was physically stronger than my father at that point, but still paralyzed by the ingrained fear I had of him until he physically hurt her. It was the first time I physically and verbally confronted him.
As an immigrant and a minority in Australia, I was accustomed to hiding things from my white peers about my family. From the food we ate, to the customs we observed and did not observe, and to the language we spoke. This sort of home life was almost another natural secret I had to observe to fit in. This is not an excuse for my cowardice, but perhaps a contributing factor as to why I didn’t fight back. Hiding things, including my volatile home life, was normal to me.
With this personal background, I did not see Alex’s essay as an apology for slaveowners, but a sincere effort to recount the most profoundly affecting piece of his life as it was. To me, Alex’s story is of a poor minority child and his mother, and a powerlessness when seeing his mother beaten and humiliated from his earliest consciousness. Sarah Jeong’s commentary alluded to this well, and I believe Alex saw Lola as his mother, and loved her as such. Alex’s later understanding of his biological mother was not an apology for her behavior, but understanding the complexity of human beings. I’ve also come to understand my father not just as the monster that I knew, but as someone who came from abuse and homelessness. Nobody exists in a vacuum.
Today I am a 30-year-old man, a medical scientist, and a combat engineer in the Australian Army Reserve. I am still coming to terms with how my childhood affected and continues to affect my brother and I. It’s easy to be quick to judge others, but takes much contemplation to be able to walk in their shoes. In the military, it is compulsory for us to watch videos every year on domestic violence, and many of my brothers- and sisters-in-arms cannot understand how victims of domestic violence can allow themselves to be so. I hope that my story can perhaps put into context Alex’s experience when trying to understanding this multi-generational tragedy.
I am glad Alex was able to tell Lola’s story before he passed.
Amy Lowell’s legacy, as represented in the pages of The Atlantic and in the broader poetic landscape, is a spare and neglected one. Though she was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1926, she never quite reached the heights of literary acclaim or recognition that her relatives James Russell Lowell and Robert Lowell did. And her poetry hasn’t attracted the same level of praise or popular readership as that of some of her contemporaries, like Ezra Pound, who both influenced and criticized her work, or Robert Frost, who she supported and encouraged in the early years of his career.
But in “Castles in Spain,” published in our August 1918 issue—just months before the end of World War I—she spoke powerfully to the resilience of her own work in the face of war, violence, and the passage of time:
Bombs and bullets cannot menace me,
Who have no substance to be overthrown.
Cathedrals crash to rubbish, but my towers,
Carved in the whirling and enduring brain,
Fade, and persist, and rise again, like flowers.
Many of Lowell’s towers endure, beautiful and evocative, in our archives, a testament to that resilience. You can find some of them—including her very first published work—here.
As numerous readers have written, one of the most moving aspects of “My Family’s Slave” is that Alex Tizon was able to honor Eudocia Tomas Pulido, whom he knew as Lola, by telling her story—while one of the tragedies is that Pulido was never able to tell it herself. My colleague Vann writes:
Tizon doesn’t know her desires, fears, attachments, or even very much about her own story. He attempts to learn these things, but doesn’t get very far, and we never learn whether the failure is due simply to Pulido’s reticence or to the fact that years of servitude had minimized her story even in her own mind.
After reading Alex’s essay and some of the criticism on social media, this reader wrote to us with the subject line, “On Eudocia, from someone who went through it”:
For half my childhood, I was indentured. I was born in Canada, went to school in this country, and it still happened to me. I’m incredibly thankful that I got to grow out of it, but trauma hurts the most in its resonance.
Listening to those claiming to seek justice for Eudocia has felt like a scab opening over and over again. Please, do not take actions on behalf of indentured and enslaved people without consulting them. Do not seek reparations for us without asking. Those in the disability rights movement say, “Nothing about us, without us.” I think this mindset applies to those of us who have gone through forced servitude. We don’t want what you think is best for ourselves.
For my own situation, finding peace and healing after escaping took precedent over any vengeance or confrontation. I would have hated to become a hashtag.
Several other readers also wrote in to say that Eudocia’s experiences reminded them of their own—including Juliet, whose mother came from Tarlac, the same province in the Philippines where Eudocia was born:
I may have accidentally found this article for a reason. I myself was a slave given to live with family members I didn’t even know. I had to wake up in a hard cold cement area under the stairway. Like a cold dog, I’d be woken up with harsh words and a kick on the rib cage jolting my teenage body. Sad to find out Lola didn’t get an education. I persevered to go to school at night when I was done with all my housework.
I ran away when things got worse and taught myself in a lot of ways to survive. But I don’t feel completely free. It becomes a codependency—it’s hard to explain, but it’s there, a learned trait. Part of life as a slave is interweaving survival and seeking freedom. You never know what freedom is because you have become immune.
Another reader writes:
This essay has brought me to tears as it reminded me of my childhood.
I was brought to the city by my grandparents to study at a Catholic school back in the Philippines. That was in 1980. My parents were left in the province, as they had their jobs there.
My grandparents and my mother’s brothers and sisters would ask us to do errands, household chores, and wash their laundry while our cousins just sat down in the living room playing or chatting. When I was in elementary, I used to clean my aunt’s house during the weekends to be able to read my cousin’s fairy tale books in her library. This I did secretly.
There was no snack when we went to school, as my grandmother would constantly complain of having no money while we eat our meals. We were also prevented from eating anything from the fridge. Our parents were sending money, but it seems that it was not enough for them.
Finally, J. shares the long and painful story of her own escape:
I was brought to America from Korea when I was 6, and raised by my dad and a woman who I thought was my mother. I found out when I was 11 that she was my stepmother and that my real mother was the lady I was taught to believe was my temporary babysitter.
From age 6 to 14, I was a butt of every type of abuse this woman could throw at me. Words can not describe the cunning cruelty of this woman, who learned the most peculiar punishments from heaven knows where and decided they were appropriate to dole it out on me to get back at my dad for messing around behind her back. She used me as bait, calling my father to come home and “rescue” his daughter telling him that I would be punished until he raced back home from his mistress’s place. I was responsible for pleasing her by keeping a clean house, massaging her back and shoulders for hours after she finished work, and taking care of the dog she loved so dearly, all the while making sure to bring home straight As from school.
Everyone knew I was abused. Everyone saw it, pitied me, but no one did anything. Once I went to school with a giant, visible bruise and when the teacher asked what happened, I nonchalantly said that my mom hit me with the Barbie as punishment. Social services was called and my stepmom was hauled away to jail, but not before I came home and she beat everything out of me while my father stood by idly as he always did. My friends all knew, their parents knew, but no one did anything. They thought it wasn’t their business.
My dad did one thing that was in my favor—he sent me away every summer to his sister, who lived a very comfortable life in Canada with her husband and son. She taught me things about homemaking, took me on trips, gave me attention, and was a mother figure to me. And when I was 16, he sent me away to her for good. He said it was just for a year, but it wound up being much, much longer than that.
My second “Lola” story began there. I was now her burden, and my father did not give her any support to take care of me. She had lost her husband suddenly to a brain aneurysm three years prior and she was alone with a son in his teenage years and trying to manage a donut store that was failing against its fierce big-brand competitors.
From 16 to 17 when I graduated high school, I worked every day after school and weekend, sometimes into the wee hours of the night and morning because it was a 24-hour joint. And when I tried to leave to move back to NYC, she begged me to stay—after all, who was there for me all these years?
We all moved to another part of Toronto and we opened up a bagel store. For two years, I worked from crack of dawn until close, with no days off—96 hours a week while she golfed and dealt with her depression and anger issues. Never was a given a single dollar for work—never one penny. When push came to shove, I told her I needed to go to college. She agreed to let me go under two conditions—that my mother (whom I’d reconnected with) pay for it and that I continue to work for her, for free.
For four more years, I busted my ass morning and night. I took Civil Engineering and was offered paid internships—which she made me turn down, because who would run the store for her? I was broke, trapped and broken.
I understand Lola—she could have run away, she could have revolted, but in her way, she loved her owners. And she was scared to make waves. It was up to her to keep the peace in the family, her responsibility and burden to keep things going.
During my last semester, my aunt and my entire family moved to NYC and left me to fend for myself without a penny. I quickly found a job as a cashier in downtown Toronto restaurant and got my first pay in years. It was an amazing feeling. Within weeks, I got a promotion and within a year, I was a manager making excellent money.
That was 10 years ago. Today, I run two departments in a tech company. I travel the world, meet all kinds of people, and coordinate donations and volunteer activities with several charitable organizations that my steering committee and I select every quarter.
My “Lola” story is one with a happy ending. I am loved, I am strong, I am able to empathize with others, and I am able to give. Tragic events don’t have to remain that way. Cowardly people don’t have to remain that way either. And we all have the power to rise above.
Thanks for listening to my story.
If you would like to share a similar experience, please email us at email@example.com. Update from another reader, who was born in Korea:
When I was 12, my mom passed away suddenly and my brother and I were sent to my father’s sister’s family in Dallas. She and her husband were and are a well-respected deacon family running a dry cleaners. They demanded green card fees and money from my family for the trouble of taking care of us.
I was woken up every morning at 5:30 to make breakfast for everyone while my aunt and her husband went to morning prayers and to work. My brother and I were never given lunch money, so we would have to bring something from home while our cousins of similar ages were paid for. We had to walk to and from school under hot Texas sun, while our cousins were picked up. They bad-mouthed us to our family back in Korea, as if we were partying and failing school while we were doing great. They made us write sobbing letters to home so the family would feel sorry for us and send more money, while we had to work at the dry cleaners on the weekend and during summer. I cleaned my aunt’s closets full of clothes and name-brand bags. I cleaned their bathrooms and made meals. I felt sorry for my brother, who is two years younger than me, so I would save up small coins I got from working at the store and gave it to him so he could buy something sweet at the school cafeteria. I was only 12, so I didn’t know how else to protect him. When my older cousin gave me an old shirt of hers, my aunt slapped me asking me if I had lost my mind. I prayed to God to take my life away in my sleep or wake me up from this horrible dream.
This continued until eventually money ran out and they sent us back with our expired passports. Even though they claimed that they paid for lawyers to get us green cards, there wasn’t such a thing. I begged my aunt to at least keep my younger brother so he could study in the U.S.—I would send money from working at a factory or something when I went back to Korea. They sent us back anyway because we were useless now.
I did well for myself. I had a good career. But I will never forgive and forget the life I went through and the trauma I had to get over because of them.
This morning I had the privilege of giving the commencement address at the University of Vermont—UVM, home of the Catamounts, in Burlington. My wife Deb and I, and our colleague John Tierney, visited UVM several years ago and wrote about it in our American Futures series, notably with John’s piece about the school’s emergence as a “public Ivy.”
Seven Days, the financially-and-journalistically successful weekly based in Burlington (which I’ve also written about), has a story about today’s commencement, here. The University’s story is here. Since the talk drew on various themes that recur in this “American Futures” thread, I’m attaching the text, below.
* * *
University of Vermont
May 21, 2017
President Sullivan, Governor Scott, honorary degree recipients, faculty and staff, friends and family, people of Vermont and beyond, and above all members of the class of 2017 — greetings, and congratulations!
On behalf of your parents and grandparents, your brothers and sisters, and all the known and unknown supporters who have cheered and aided your journey to this glorious day, I salute you on your achievement. And I am glad as well to use the words I heard at my own college commencement many years ago, and officially “welcome you to the company of educated men and women.”
Every one of you realizes that not a one of you made this journey entirely on your own. Thus I’d like you to take a moment to stand and turn around, and look for a face of one of those crucial supporters in the crowd —or to envision an absent one in your mind—and express with cheers and applause your gratitude for what they have done.
I’ve just completed the first part of my job, which is to celebrate this moment. I turn now to the second part, which is to be brief.
In these next few minutes I’m going to try to convince you to feel good—energized, confident, important—about this very uncertain-seeming world onto which you’re about to make your mark. I’m going to argue that the generations ahead of you, including people like your parents and grandparents, and me, and those that will follow you, like the children and grandchildren you will someday have, need you to feel as if you can change the world, and to get busy doing so by putting your UVM training to maximum use.
Let’s go into that case. What’s most worth noticing about the circumstances in which we meet — right here, right now, as you begin your post-college life?
One answer would obviously be the splendor of the environment, natural and cultural alike, in which you have spent these years of study — and where, if past evidence is any guide, many of you will do your best to stay, as you start your families and build your lives. Vermonters think theirs is an exceptional place, and they are right.
Another might be the nature of this institution — supportive and adaptive, both innovative and traditional, strong in the liberal arts and the sciences — to which you should always feel indebted in more than the obvious ways, and that you, and I, should always feel proud to call alma mater.
But what I hope you’ll focus on are the times in which we meet. The times of our 45th president. Of challenges to liberal democracies and open societies all around the world. Of contested news, and siloed news, “fake news,” and ever-emergent real news. Times of imperiled science—when science matters more than ever. Of social and economic divisions, as technology unites us and drives us apart. Of increasingly urgent global threats, starting with sustainability in all forms and extending to disease and disorder and terrorism and forced migration, at a time of increasingly frayed global ability to focus on what matters and cooperate.
And the message I have about this era, your era, is that it is a terrible time—and a wonderful time, and that only by keeping that dual reality constantly in mind will you be prepared to contain what’s worst and foster what’s best. I even have specific suggestions of steps you can take toward that end.
* * *
The idea of good and bad coexisting — of triumph and tragedy, of hope and despair — is as old as American history, as old as the Bible, as old as human beings grappling with our own fallibility.
The most famous opening lines in English literature may be “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” which as all UVM grads know is from A Tale of Two Cities. When I was attending my own commencement ceremony, a young historian named Michael Kammen was about to win the Pulitzer Prize for a book called People of Paradox. It was about the coexistence at every moment of U.S. history of the very best and the near-worst of the human enterprise: America as arena for unprecedented opportunity, but also of slavery and attacks on a native population and centuries of excess and strife. What I consider the most important essay about American self-governance, “The Moral Equivalent of War” by William James in 1910, explores why the greatest American disaster, the Civil War, brought forth its greatest presidential leadership and countless acts of selfless behavior.
Because we know that the United States has survived its past eras of turmoil and failure, we are naturally tempted to think it was destined to do so, and that the previous eras’ challenges could not have been, or felt, as serious as our own.
But I think back to my own graduation, in 1970, in what we now consider a stylistically embarrassing era but a time of middle class prosperity. Yet I remember that in those times hundreds of Americans and thousands of Vietnamese were dying each week in combat; and that the world environmental crisis was dawning; and that discrimination of kinds you would find incredible was still enshrined by custom and law; and that many American cities were literally in flames.
It was a terrible time, which felt more on-the-edge even than the world does to you now; yet because of the social and environmental reforms, and the scientific and technical breakthroughs, that flowed from it, was a wonderful time as well.
I could think back to my father’s graduation from college, in the era we now revere for the “Greatest Generation” coherence of American society. Except, he never had a graduation, since he was rushed through college in two years for training as a Navy doctor as part of the all-out effort to save the world from Nazism and fascism. A terrible time, which brought out wonderful traits in people.
Or I could go back a generation more to my grandfather’s graduation, during the early-1900s flowering of American innovation and expansion that laid down much of the physical look of the country today. Except that he, like 99 per cent of the American population at the time, never went to college — and was unusual even for finishing high school, which barely a tenth of Americans did.
My point is not that things used to be tougher – this is not a “kids today!”
speech -- but that they have always been challenging, even in this overall most favored of lands. And that in the moment our forebears felt as troubled and uncertain about national prospects as many of you do now.
More fundamentally I am suggesting that remembering the travails of the past helps us be precise about what is distinctively challenging in this time, which will be your time. To me the precise statement of America’s problem in your times involves national level politics, which are in stark contrast to most of the rest of American life.
* * *
Let me explain. National policy and politics matters, obviously — this is how the United States won its wars, expanded its frontiers, invested in technologies, supported universities and advanced social equality. But national politics and policy — the ability to address collective problems in a reasonable, compromise-minded, fact-based, and future-oriented way — are the major failure of national life right now. It’s not as bad as during the Civil War, but by any other standard we’re at a low ebb.
Each of you has an illustration of what you like, and don’t, in the national politics of the moment. For me, personally, the main point of pain is the rejection of the thing I most love about my country. My wife Deb – who one year ago was an honorary-degree recipient (at the University of Redlands) -- and I have spent many years of our life outside the United States. And the experience of living elsewhere has reinforced the idea that what is noblest and more powerful about this country is precisely its openness to talent from around the world. My America is a place that gives immigrants and “the wretched refuse” of the world — the words on the Statue of Liberty — a chance to make this arena for their dreams and ambitions, despite all the difficulties of adjustment. My America is not the one that builds a wall. Many of you have seen that process of absorption underway here in Burlington; some of you have lived it in your own lives.
I’m sure some of you see this differently from me. Some may be pleased with the national direction; some are more concerned about other questions, from climate to health care to criminal justice or drug abuse to a dozen others within the United States and worldwide. But whatever your views, whatever your loyalties, I am here to say that this is as promising a time as it is challenging, and we need you to stay engaged where the promise exists — which for the foreseeable future is not at the national but the local level of American life.
How can I say this about local possibilities? I’ll try with a test. How many of you think of UVM and Burlington and Vermont as special places? As places that are exceptions to the national trend? That are moving forward?
I bet many of you do. And you have better grounds than most. But having spent several years traveling around parts of the country less obviously special than this, I can tell you that in much of the country people feel just the same way about where they are from. They feel that they are doing better, in the part of the country within their own experience, than what they hear about the country as a whole. They say that in Mississippi, with all its burdens. They say it in South Dakota. They say it in Arizona and Oregon and South Carolina and rustbelt Michigan and Pennsylvania. Everyone in this country is aware of the nation’s problems. But most places, most people feel that the greatest possibilities are through local involvement, and that they are moving ahead rather than falling behind.
They’re local in their emphasis on new manufacturing models. New models of conservation and sustainability. New ways of matching underemployed talent with decently paying opportunities. New accommodation for refugees and immigrants. New practicality in politics and health care and education and law enforcement— which is what Deb and I have been chronicling in our travels around today’s United States.
Local solutions can never fully substitute for national or global approaches. But for now they are what’s possible, and for the long run they are the fabric from which larger solutions are woven.
At the time of my graduation, the saying was: think global, act local. That’s one of the few 1970s mottos that has held up well. Local economics, local politics, local schools, local communities — that’s what the world, and the country, needs from you. Historians tell the story of America’s great post-Gilded Age reform through the tale of presidents, from Teddy Roosevelt at the beginning to his distant cousin Franklin at the end. But what those presidents did would never have been possible without labor activists in the midwest and far west, women’s rights activists, environmental activists, black activists, muckrakers and civic reformers and community organizers and a thousand illustrations more. Theirs is the example we need you to follow.
Which means, in particular, what? Here are some illustrations.
* * *
First and always, vote. It sounds simple and stupid and pointless, but you have to do it every time, and crucially for every office. School boards have a tremendous say over our nation’s future. Vote for them. Mayors have more control over local environment and livability than most US Senators. Vote for them. After the next census state legislatures will determine whether our politics continue in a dysfunctionally gerrymandered system. Vote for ones who will fix that. Control of the House and Senate next year will have ramifications for decades. Vote.
Second, run for office. No joke—as soon as you’re old enough, of course. We need you. In the late 1800s, the aristocratic Theodore Roosevelt shocked his social set by deciding to join the squalid hurly-burly of asking the public’s support. You may not all be aristocrats. But you can make a difference as he did then. Someone will hold these offices. Let it be you — at the city and county and state and congressional level. If you don’t run, work for and give money to people who do.
Third, subscribe — to a newspaper, a magazine (like the Atlantic!), to the sources of news that will keep us free. Independent information has never been more important, and it’s rarely been under more serious economic challenge. Even if you don’t think you have time for a given publication, even if you disagree with parts of its outlook, even if you can get it for free, vote with your dollars, for your future, and subscribe.
Fourth, engage — in anything. Join. Participate. Meet. Go out of your way not to cocoon but to build and maintain face-to-face connections wherever you end up. Join the library board, a dance group, sports leagues, the YMCA, a church or synagogue or mosque. To put it differently, serve. The United States will not again have mandatory conscription, and today’s military is so small that barely one percent of the population has served during all of our current long wars. But consider joining the reserves or going on active duty; make a point of knowing people who have served.
When public life is going well, we have the luxury of not thinking about it. It’s like going to a restaurant, rather than having to shop and make dinner yourself. We’re all needed in the kitchen now— starting with the freshest and brightest and most idealistic among us, by which I mean you.
* * *
There are other lessons-of-life I would love to give you, but for which there is no time. I will say that when in doubt, please call your parents to say hi, especially your mom. In your own role as mothers or fathers, spend more time with your children than you think reasonable. You will never regret it, and you will regret doing anything else.
Your habits become your life, so pay attention to them. Get in the habit of sports and exercise Get in the habit of being happy. Get in the habit of being excited. It’s a big world, with no excuse for being bored.
And get in the habit of engagement. We are counting on you, and on this day we celebrate what the University of Vermont has done to prepare you, for the service we need from you, starting right now.#
I am stunned by Alex’s story. Alex sat at a desk right beside mine for six months when we were both reporters at The Seattle Times. He was immensely talented and well-liked as well as respected.
When I learned his story would be on the cover of the magazine I was proud. Now, my feelings are mixed.
On the one hand, Alex was a dogged reporter, a talented writer, a friendly colleague. He certainly did a good job writing this story. I am sorry for the loss of a good journalist who was my co-worker.
But on the other hand, I’m embarrassed (I wonder: Why does any of this rub off on me?) that he did not do much more, much sooner to improve her life. Knowing what he did, why did he allow his mother to continue to “own” this woman? And why did he want The Seattle Times to publish an obituary after Lola’s death that failed to recognize the most significant fact of her life?
Several other readers also pointed out that obituary, in which Alex had described Lola to a reporter as a devoted grandmother figure who devoted her life to “cooking, cleaning and caring for three generations [and] asked for nothing in return.” The newspaper’s response to The Atlantic’s story is here.
Of the hundreds of emails we’ve received in response to Alex’s essay, nearly all express being moved by the story. Katrina Langford calls it a masterpiece: “I can only imagine how difficult this journey was to make as a writer.” Frank Daniels calls it “an amazing article, by an amazing and compassionate man.” Ruby Moon calls it a love letter: “It touched me to the point that it made me cry.” Many describe intense emotional reactions: tears, shaking hands, sweaty palms, and an inability to stop reading. They write about reading and weeping at work, in class, or in the middle of the night, as if Lola and Alex had entered their lives. From Magdalena Chudzinska:
I’ve just read the article “My Family’s Slave” by Alex Tizon. I cannot thank him, but I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to read such a beautiful story. I’ve been reading it for three days, during my little pauses at work. Couldn’t have finished it at one blow, because was always starting to cry and my team was asking me if everything was fine. I’m puzzled and cracked inside after this story … but that’s good.
However, Rob Byron, another reader, points out the limits of that point of view:
Jeffrey Goldberg hedges in his editor’s note by saying Alex Tizon’s piece is “the sort of journalism The Atlantic has practiced since its inception.” Respectfully, I would ask Mr. Goldberg to prove it. It’s straight memoir, soup to nuts, and the editorial decision to print it without any further reporting to prop it up seems dubious. Readers are left with too many questions: Was the point to raise awareness about the plight of unpaid or underpaid domestic workers in the U.S.? Was it to exorcise family guilt?
A friend of mine who’s a respected editor and colleague had this to say: “Hopefully some talented journalist will pick up the thread and report from [Lola’s] hometown about the slave system still in place there or dig deeper into slavery in the U.S. I’d like to see that journalism.”
So would I.
We’ll be publishing several articles to follow Alex’s essay, situating his story in a broader cultural and economic context. The first, by Ai-jen Poo, discusses the persistence of modern-day slavery in the U.S. We’ll also be publishing the personal stories of readers like Claudia, who experienced conditions similar to those Lola did. If you would like to share your story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org; let us know where you’re writing from, and whether you’d like to remain anonymous.
Jonathon Bernard also criticizes the editor’s note:
At the least, Alex Tizon aided and abetted slaveowners, and The Atlantic links to an uncritical memorial to him before telling the story of the slave. The note should acknowledge the author’s role in his own story as much as his skill in writing about it and how “thrilled” The Atlantic was to run it.
But Kimberly McAllister writes:
I just saw the memo detailing the backlash to the story. I wrote in earlier praising the piece, and I just want to add that I didn’t get the sense at all that he was condoning what his family had done. He was horrified by his family’s treatment of Lola. To expect a young Alex to turn them in or criticize him for enabling their behavior is to lay the blame at the wrong person’s feet. It also foolishly ignores how complicated family relationships are. Just an additional thought.
Rarely are the narrators of the world’s most necessary or impactful stories blameless. I cannot help but agree that Tizon’s complacence over the years—especially as he grew older—amounts to an offense. Nevertheless, I do not agree that self-righteous indignation constitutes the appropriate response to this story or to Tizon’s actions. I doubt that many people would be brave enough to cut ties with their family (or at the very least, to seriously shake the foundations of their family relationships), even for such a good reason as the liberation of a slave.
Indifference to injustice also comes at a heavy cost, one that Tizon no doubt paid and continued to pay after Lola died. But I sympathize with him even while I lament his failures and those of his family. His story cannot compensate Lola’s suffering, but it reminds readers of the dangers of looking the other way.
Dana Marterella was upset by the article: “To make a disturbing story even worse, the ‘caring surrogate mother/servant’ trope is a highly problematic and tired cliché.” But a Filipina reader, Jewel Jumangit, explains the broader cultural context of that relationship:
An important note to this is that kasambahay or katulong culture is a socially accepted norm in the Philippines that dates way back. Now, our maids and yayas (nannies) who classify as kasambahay or katulong are protected by laws to make sure they are paid the minimum wage and are given benefits by the families they work for. Our kasambahays and katulongs become a part of our family, just like Lola was a member of the Tizon family despite being a slave.
I was raised with the help of yayas from the moment I was born, up until I left for college. When I go back home, they are still there waiting for me. I’ve had a number of yayas over the years, all of whom I have loved for the care they gave me, and not once has it crossed my mind to ask myself if my family treated them right until this article.
I know for a fact that my family has always paid them enough, gave them their own private room, did not deprive them of food or leisure, and covered their medical needs when needed. Yet that still does not erase the fact that there is something inherently problematic with this kasambahay culture that is laden with social inequality.
Another Filipina reader says the article “opened up conversations”:
I was so moved by the essay, but a bit put out by the instant condemnation it has gathered, especially by Western readers. While the abuse (and the Tizon family’s seems to be an extreme case) can in no way be forgiven or tolerated, taking in helpers is a deeply rooted practice in Philippine society. Poverty is rampant; it’s what leads Lola and countless others to submit themselves to serving richer people who live in the cities. Each relationship is different, with some looking like Lola’s and the Tizons’ and others a proper employer-employee relationship with employee benefits. I wouldn’t be as quick to call the modern-day helpers “slaves,” but it is definitely dehumanizing, even in the best relationships.
A lot of the culture comes into play. For example, there’s the concept of utang na loob, this sense of gratitude people expect their helpers to have, for even taking them in and giving them a job when so many others don’t have that. Our kasambahays raised us, but we’re always taught that we’re above them and that we will achieve better things than them. It’s drilled into our heads and something that even our kasambahays subscribe to. In Alex Tizon’s home, I bet it was difficult for Lola to even sit on that couch. She had been conditioned to think that it was simply not her place.
Poverty does this to people. And it’s common. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s accepted.
It is so easy to call “My Family’s Slave” a simple slaveowners’ story. But these characters, told from Mr. Tizon’s POV only, are definitely multidimensional. A lot of people have made bad moral decisions throughout their lifetime, and while I’m definitely not excusing Mr. Tizon’s, I read the regret into it. The conversations he has opened are his legacy, and I’m thankful and hopeful. I hope our kasambahay laws will be improved and that we create a friendlier, more humanizing environment for the people who raised us and continue to raise our families.
And Edgie writes:
I think that the responses to this essay give credence to the author’s ability to tell a story, and it was a lovely (almost poetic) ending [to his life] to publish this essay. All the hate, awe, and marvel at his account of Lola is a testament to just how many have been touched by his piece.
With sadness, I know that the noise for eradicating modern slavery will die down, and people will forget as they always do. At best, I hope that there will be some progress for this cause.
But I believe that the real power of this story is giving a face and name to humanity’s propensity for sacrifice, forgiveness, and love despite deplorable conditions. The tragedy of people like Lola—whom people pity and admire at the same time—or any other great human being without a voice is that their stories are never known. For me, this was Tizon’s gift and redemption.
This time of year always reminds me of days spent hiking in the California mountains with my family when I was younger—something about the sunlight and the sudden, abundant greenness of everything, about the way the natural world feels more present and alive even in the middle of the city.
Though it was written about a place thousands of miles distant from the ones I explored as a child, Maxine Kumin’s “The Word” reminds me of those days, too. In the poem, Kumin captures a familiar quiet wonder and the feeling of being close to, but not quite a part of, nature as she describes interacting with wildlife around her New Hampshire home. Here are the first few lines:
We ride up softly to the hidden
oval in the woods, a plateau rimmed
with wavy stands of gray birch and white pine,
my horse thinking his thoughts, happy
in the October dapple, and I thinking
mine-and-his, which is my prerogative,
both of us just in time to see a big doe
loft up over the four-foot fence
Read the full poem here, and find more of Kumin’s work for The Atlantic here.
This week, we published Alex Tizon’s essay “My Family’s Slave,” about the woman he knew as Lola: Eudocia Tomas Pulido, who was enslaved and treated cruelly by his family, and who raised him and whom he loved.
It’s a deeply complicated personal narrative, and the response from readers has been overwhelming. Scores of your emails and comments have expressed being deeply moved by the piece—“feeling sadness, anger, frustration, hope, and relief,” as one reader, Naziat Adnan, put it. At the same time, manyothers have criticized Alex, who died in March, and The Atlantic’s treatment of the story as an excuse for slaveowners. One reader wrote: “The author aided and abetted in slavery. His pathetic efforts to ease her situation in the last few years of her life were not enough.”
The Filipino magazine Scout published a response to the backlash, noting that “a lot of the international outrage is coming from a place where they don’t fully understand the culture the story is set in. ” (The article was soon revised “to reinforce the fact that the author and Scout don’t condone the Filipino culture of indentured/forced servitude in any way.”)
For my part, I found the story haunting, both for its painful subject matter and by coincidence: I’m half-Filipina, and grew up in the Pacific Northwest where Alex did, so that I could picture the places and landscapes he mentions in the background of Lola’s story. Though he doesn’t explain it in the article, Lola is the Tagalog honorific for “grandmother.” As a child, I didn’t realize this; I thought Lola was simply my grandmother’s name.
We’ll be publishing a number of responses to “My Family’s Slave” in the next few weeks, outlining the economic, cultural, and historical context for Alex and Lola’s personal story. We’ll also be publishing your own personal stories in Notes. From Claudia:
I wept so much while reading Lola’s story because in a way it reminds me of my life. I was also brought to this country when I was a child, lived with my uncle and aunt, and was responsible for taking care of their three kids, cleaning, cooking, and working in their stores (laundromat/salon/pharmacy) for free. This went on for years, except I was lucky enough to go to school.
I was not allowed to discuss the goings-on at the house with anyone. Once, I made the mistake of sharing what was going on at home to my school counselor. The counselor called my uncle to try to setup a time to discuss with them what I told them. When I got home, I got a beating that I never dared to mention it to anyone.
I was luckier than Lola because I was able to leave while in my 20s. I am so sad that Lola never got to live her life, get married or have kids. Thank you for taking care of her and making sure that her last few years, she was free. May her soul rest in peace.
If Lola’s situation resonates with you, or if you have another response to the article to share, please tell us your story: email@example.com.
Thanks to Professor Kwak for his 2017 article in The Atlantic entitled “The Curse of Econ 101.” We participated in a discussion of this article in a recent economics conference, and it served as an excellent launching pad for our reflections on the pros and cons of our Principles of Economics courses as currently taught.
Those in attendance teach Economics at research universities, liberal-arts colleges and community colleges, and we agreed that we did not recognize our Principles courses in the description of Economism advanced by Professor Kwak. He defines Economism as “the misleading application of basic lessons from Economics 101 to real-world problems, creating the illusion of consensus and reducing a complex topic to a simple, open-and-shut case.” While we do not count upon reaching consensus among our students, we do make every effort to give them a fundamental theoretical structure that they can extend as appropriate when evaluating real-world problems. We then present them with those real-world problems and demand that they analyze the specifics of those problems using the theoretical structure of economics.
The presentation of the minimum wage in our classes—Professor Kwak’s specific example—is a good example of the appropriate mix of theory and real-world experience in our classes. We do not ask our students to ignore empirical observations that seem to contradict our theory, but we use those observations as jumping-off points to consider appropriate extensions of the theory in that specific case. Professor Kwak cites a 1994 study by professors David Card and Alan Krueger as a reason to reject the insights of Economics 101 on the minimum wage; we see it and the many other empirical studies of the impact of the minimum wage as ways to engage students in extending their application of economic theory to the real world.
We enjoyed Professor Kwak’s point of view, and look forward to reading his book. In the meantime, we hope that he’ll sit through a semester of Econ 101 on his campus. We think he’ll find that the class challenges the students to extend their thinking to embrace complex economic phenomena rather than encouraging them to treat each phenomenon as a “simple, open-and-shut case.”
Patrick Conway Professor, Department of Economics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
William Alpert Emeritus Professor, Department of Economics, University of Connecticut
Carlos J. Asarta Director, Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship, University of Delaware
Steven Cobb Director, Center for Economic Education, University of North Texas
William Goffe Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics, Penn State University
Michael A. MacDowell Managing Director, Calvin K. Kazanjian Economics Foundation, Inc.
Michael Salemi Emeritus Professor, Department of Economics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Wendy Stock Professor, Agricultural Economics and Economics Departments, Montana State University
John Swinton Professor, Department of Economics, Georgia College
James Kwak replies:
I appreciate your reading the article (which is an excerpt of my book Economism), and I’m honored that your group chose to discuss it.
I am sure you are correct that most first-year economics classes do not blindly apply the competitive market model to complex issues. In the article and the book, my focus was not on first-year economics classes themselves, but rather on a broader social phenomenon: the unreflective way that the competitive market model is used to justify certain policy and political positions (often with a ritual invocation of “Economics 101”) without asking whether the model accurately describes the real world. My book is concerned less with how economics is actually taught than with our media and political landscape and the caricature of Economics 101 that, in my opinion, has become disproportionately influential today. When it comes to the minimum wage, my main point was not to say that Dube is right and Neumark and Wascher are wrong, but to say that there is a serious empirical debate about these issues; the people who are wrong are the politicians who say with certainty that a higher minimum wage must increase unemployment, and they are the ones who claim that “economics” is on their side.
Last week, Jim Fallows, who covered the fallout from the Watergate scandal 45 years ago, wrote about five reasons why President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey may pose an even greater challenge to the American system. In response, Stephen W.—a reader who was then a “young, idealistic college grad” working in Massachusetts politics—shared his own memory of the Saturday Night Massacre:
On the Saturday evening of October 20, 1973, I received a phone call from a mentor, Tom O’Donnell, a partner at Archibald Cox’s Boston law firm. I had heard the news earlier in the day: the firing of Cox, and the resignations of Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus. Tom asked me if I could perform a favor. AG Richardson was about to land at Logan Airport and needed a ride to his home in Cohasset.
As I pulled up to the terminal curbside, I saw the tall, horn-rim–spectacled figure standing alone in the faint light. I greeted him softly, “Welcome home, sir,” and took his buckled valise from his hand to place it in the trunk. As we made our way down the Southeast Expressway toward the south-shore enclaves of Yankee Brahmins, the night seemed particularly dark and gloomy. Very few people were out and about. I distinctly remember feeling the weight of the moment.
I feel the same weight today as I watch the Trump family tragedy play out. But I also remember the quiet countenance of Mr. Richardson. It was a profile of a patriot, putting country before party or self-interest. His expression was calm and deeply reflective as he sat in the front seat next to me, without a hint of anger or upset. There were no words of any import exchanged between us. It didn’t seem appropriate to intrude on his thoughts.
We exchanged a simple “thank you and good night,” as I passed his only bag back to him. As I pulled out of the long driveway of the dark and secluded home, the encounter left me with a deep impression of the significance of integrity and reputation in the course of all human affairs.
Your article triggers my memory—a very personal memory of the import of our solemn duties and responsibilities exercised for the preservation and protection of those exceptional ideals of democracy, against those who would suborn the rule of law.
Dozens of other readers wrote in to share their thoughts about those duties and responsibilities, as exercised by government officials and private citizens in Nixon’s era and ours. Fallows passed the emails on to me, and I’ve collected a number of them here. From Dan Kimmel:
Excellent article, but, like many, it glosses over the role of Robert Bork in the Saturday Night Massacre. I was no fan of Bork and was glad he never made it to the Supreme Court, but when he became acting head of the Justice Department, he told Richardson and Ruckelshaus he would fire Cox because he believed that the president had the authority to so order, but then he would resign in protest as well. Richardson and Ruckelshaus prevailed on him NOT to resign because there was serious doubt as who, if anyone, was legitimately next in line at the Justice Department. It fits the later narrative of the right-wing Bork to depict him as a willing Nixon stooge, but that was not the case.
According to The New York Times’s 1987 account of those events, Bork apparently considered the firing of Cox to be a question of legal authority, whereas Richardson and Ruckelshaus resigned because of moral, not legal, concerns. But as another reader, Randy, points out, acting on principle can also be good politics:
As a follow-up to this article, I would suggest an article about what happens to politicians that bite the bullet and do what’s right for the country, not their party. Howard Baker and others, for example, became heroes. Did any of the Republicans that turned on Nixon lose?
I think it’s very clear that Rod Rosenstein is now an important figure in history. If he stays silent and things go south for Trump, he’s a co-conspirator, possibly, but if he does the right thing, he could become famous. It’s not too late. He could simply appoint a special prosecutor, resign, get rich in the private sector.
I think the personal loyalty oath [that Trump reportedly asked of Comey] is a huge deal. If that’s true, how can any FBI director pursue the Russian case?
Bill Popik likewise fears conflicting loyalties within the administration:
Early on in Trump’s administration (imagine—it’s actually still early, but it seems like an eternity ago) I thought that what might save us were the career bureaucrats three or four levels down in the government who would simply figure out ways to drag their feet to ensure that the most onerous dictates of this administration didn’t come to fruition. Now, I’m not so sure. We are seeing that Trump insists on loyalty, not to the Constitution, but to him and his causes above all else, and that he’ll enforce that through the appointment of loyalists who will drive fealty down through the agencies they lead.
Jay, on the other hand, is “unconcerned at this time”:
I think Fallows exaggerates Trump’s failings and Comey’s probity. We have too soon forgotten the evils of J. Edgar Hoover, a too-independent and too-powerful FBI chief. Comey was going Hoover on us with his dissing of Lynch and Trump. If he “lost confidence” in Lynch, imagine what little respect he would give to Sessions. It seemed clear to me, and I thought everyone else, that Comey’s days were numbered, and Trump only waited until he had an attorney general confirmed to can Comey.
Anyway, Clinton, Inc. and the Democratic Party present an immediate and serious threat to my rights and liberties under the 1st and 2nd Amendments. They also present the same danger to some freedoms I enjoy but that are not protected by the Constitution, such as sport hunting. It is for that reason I have a high tolerance for Trump’s shenanigans.
Jack was alive to remember Watergate, but writes, “I just do not think it has come to that—yet”:
Trump is many things, but not evil. Just a stumbling guy who stumbled upon a huge part of America that hated the Republican and Democratic/Academic/Media/Entertainment class that heretofore has controlled our political discourse and political system. He spoke to their concerns. That part of America elected him. You really should get used to it.
Stephen B. voted for Gary Johnson, but he’s also skeptical that the Watergate-Comey comparison may be overblown by partisanship:
We have been in a tit-for-tat race to the bottom since Watergate. A good percentage of Americans are simply playing a team sport. And like football, the brain damage is starting to accumulate to our society.
Whether you agree with the Watergate comparison or not, the reaction to the dismissal of Comey highlights the extent to which many Americans have lost trust—in government, in the media, or in their fellow citizens. And those accumulated losses could pose a very real threat. As Michael writes:
I just wanted to quibble with one statement made in the post:
At worst, such efforts [at interference by the Russian government] might actually have changed the election results. At least, they were meant to destroy trust in democracy.
I would argue that this is exactly backwards: The results of an election are a one-time thing, for the most part. (Brexit is an exception.) But I believe the Russian endgame is more about the latter than the former; I think it’s well documented that their MO is to sow confusion and uncertainty—even to the point of supporting both sides of a conflict—simply to render an opponent unable to act effectively.
In short, getting Trump elected was a nice-to-have; the real point was to weaken faith in democracy as an institution. This is the potential lasting damage.
Angela Merkel has served formal notice that she will lead the German wandering away from the American alliance.
Seven years after the end of the Second World War, on the 10th of March 1952, the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the newly established Federal Republic of Germany received an astounding note from the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union offered to withdraw the troops that then occupied eastern Germany and to end its rule over the occupied zone. Germany would be reunited under a constitution that allowed the country freedom to choose its own social system. Germany would even be allowed to rebuild its military, and all Germans except those convicted of war crimes would regain their political rights. In return, the Allied troops in western Germany would also be withdrawn—and reunited Germany would be forbidden to join the new NATO alliance.
Should you drink more coffee? Should you take melatonin? Can you train yourself to need less sleep? A physician’s guide to sleep in a stressful age.
During residency, Iworked hospital shifts that could last 36 hours, without sleep, often without breaks of more than a few minutes. Even writing this now, it sounds to me like I’m bragging or laying claim to some fortitude of character. I can’t think of another type of self-injury that might be similarly lauded, except maybe binge drinking. Technically the shifts were 30 hours, the mandatory limit imposed by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, but we stayed longer because people kept getting sick. Being a doctor is supposed to be about putting other people’s needs before your own. Our job was to power through.
The shifts usually felt shorter than they were, because they were so hectic. There was always a new patient in the emergency room who needed to be admitted, or a staff member on the eighth floor (which was full of late-stage terminally ill people) who needed me to fill out a death certificate. Sleep deprivation manifested as bouts of anger and despair mixed in with some euphoria, along with other sensations I’ve not had before or since. I remember once sitting with the family of a patient in critical condition, discussing an advance directive—the terms defining what the patient would want done were his heart to stop, which seemed likely to happen at any minute. Would he want to have chest compressions, electrical shocks, a breathing tube? In the middle of this, I had to look straight down at the chart in my lap, because I was laughing. This was the least funny scenario possible. I was experiencing a physical reaction unrelated to anything I knew to be happening in my mind. There is a type of seizure, called a gelastic seizure, during which the seizing person appears to be laughing—but I don’t think that was it. I think it was plain old delirium. It was mortifying, though no one seemed to notice.
What's the healthiest way to keep everyone caffeinated?
“I don't have one. They're kind of expensive to use,” John Sylvan told me frankly, of Keurig K-Cups, the single-serve brewing pods that have fundamentally changed the coffee experience in recent years. “Plus it’s not like drip coffee is tough to make.” Which would seem like a pretty banal sentiment, were Sylvan not the inventor of the K-Cup.
Almost one in three American homes now has a pod-based coffee machine, even though Sylvan never imagined they would be used outside of offices. Last year K-Cups accounted for most of Keurig Green Mountain’s $4.7 billion in revenue—more than five times what the company made five years prior. So even though he gets treated like a minor celebrity when he tells people he founded Keurig, Sylvan has some regrets about selling his share of the company in 1997 for $50,000. But that’s not what really upsets him.
She lived with us for 56 years. She raised me and my siblings without pay. I was 11, a typical American kid, before I realized who she was.
The ashes filled a black plastic box about the size of a toaster. It weighed three and a half pounds. I put it in a canvas tote bag and packed it in my suitcase this past July for the transpacific flight to Manila. From there I would travel by car to a rural village. When I arrived, I would hand over all that was left of the woman who had spent 56 years as a slave in my family’s household.
The condition has long been considered untreatable. Experts can spot it in a child as young as 3 or 4. But a new clinical approach offers hope.
This is a good day, Samantha tells me: 10 on a scale of 10. We’re sitting in a conference room at the San Marcos Treatment Center, just south of Austin, Texas, a space that has witnessed countless difficult conversations between troubled children, their worried parents, and clinical therapists. But today promises unalloyed joy. Samantha’s mother is visiting from Idaho, as she does every six weeks, which means lunch off campus and an excursion to Target. The girl needs supplies: new jeans, yoga pants, nail polish.
Listen to the audio version of this article:Download the Audm app for your iPhone to listen to more titles.
At 11, Samantha is just over 5 feet tall and has wavy black hair and a steady gaze. She flashes a smile when I ask about her favorite subject (history), and grimaces when I ask about her least favorite (math). She seems poised and cheerful, a normal preteen. But when we steer into uncomfortable territory—the events that led her to this juvenile-treatment facility nearly 2,000 miles from her family—Samantha hesitates and looks down at her hands. “I wanted the whole world to myself,” she says. “So I made a whole entire book about how to hurt people.”
The increasingly illiberal European country offers shelter to a growing number of international nationalists.
In February 2017, at the state of the nation address, Viktor Orbán, the prime minister of Hungary and the leader of the far-right, anti-immigrant Fidesz party, offered his vision for the country in the coming year. “We shall let in true refugees: Germans, Dutch, French, and Italians, terrified politicians and journalists who here in Hungary want to find the Europe they have lost in their homelands,” he proclaimed.
In reality, Orbán’s “refugees” have been moving to Hungary, and Budapest in particular, for years. A small clique of Identitarians, or aggrieved nationalists from Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, and elsewhere, all motivated by their disdain for their home countries’ commitment to liberal values, have found an ideological match in his Hungary, where two extreme far-right parties, the governing Fidesz and Jobbik, the largest opposition party, make up most of the National Assembly. Jobbik is the first European political party to champion a border wall. Its members frequently express open anti-Semitic and anti-Roma sentiments, and prioritize the preservation of “Hungary for the Hungarians.”
The permissiveness of Republican leaders who acquiesce to violence, collusion, and corruption is encouraging more of the same.
In the annals of the Trump era, May 25, 2017, will deserve a special mark. Four remarkable things happened on Thursday, each of which marks a way that this presidency is changing the nation.
The first remarkable thing was President Trump’s speech at the NATO summit in Brussels. Many European governments had hoped—which is a polite way to say that they had suggested and expected—that Trump would reaffirm the American commitment to defend NATO members if attacked. This is the point of the whole enterprise after all! Here’s how it was done by President Obama at the NATO summit after the Russian invasion of Crimea:
First and foremost, we have reaffirmed the central mission of the Alliance. Article 5 enshrines our solemn duty to each other—“an armed attack against one … shall be considered an attack against them all.” This is a binding, treaty obligation. It is non-negotiable. And here in Wales, we’ve left absolutely no doubt—we will defend every Ally.
Colleges are adjusting to increasing contact with adults who are more ingrained in their children’s lives than ever.
Stacy G.’s daughter was having a meltdown. Her daughter, a sophomore at a prestigious private college, wanted an internship at Boston Children’s Hospital, a plum job that would look great on her applications to graduate school. After four weeks of frantically waiting for the school to arrange for an interview at the hospital, Stacy called her daughter’s adviser at the internships office to complain.
“For $65,000 [in full attendance costs], you can bet your sweet ass that I’m calling that school ... If your children aren’t getting what they’ve been promised, colleges are going to get that phone call from parents,” Stacy said. “It’s my money. It’s a lot of money. We did try to have her handle it on her own, but when it didn’t work out, I called them.”
Today in shoesplaining: Until your career is at its height, ladies, maybe you should stick to flats.
It went like this. At a reverse-demo event in New York last night, Jorge Cortell, the CEO of the healthcare startup Kanteron Systems, noticed a female attendee wearing shoes. He snapped a picture of the shoes. He then tweeted the picture of the shoes. This is what he said:
Sexist! the people cried. No, it's not! Cortell responded. His #brainsnotrequired musings were merely protective, he explained, of the health of the shoe-wearer. And, by extension, of the health of us all. Heels are dangerous. Heels are dumb. High-heeled shoes are not, as it were, "sensible shoes."
Some firm handshakes, forced smiles, and awkward sword dances. In short, nothing.
Let’s hear it for the Rainbow Tour It’s been an incredible success
We weren’t quite sure, we had a few doubts
Will Evita win through?
But the answer is yes
There you are, I told you so
Makes no difference where she goes
The whole world over just the same
Just listen to them call her name
And who would underestimate the actress now?
—Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, Evita
Like Donald Trump, Juan and Eva Perón were populists. They seem to have shared Trump’s understanding of the purposes of philanthropy (for more, read up about the Eva Perón Foundation) and the importance of fiscal probity. And like Eva in 1947, Donald Trump has just completed a glitzy overseas trip.
It had ample farcical episodes: the Saudi king, the dictator of Egypt, and the president of the United States placing their hands on a glowing orb that evoked for some a lampoon of Lord of the Rings. The secretary of state assuring us that no one overseas was paying attention to Trump’s domestic troubles (palpably, indeed laughably, untrue) even as his spokesman excluded the American press from a briefing attended by the considerably more docile reporters of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The national-security adviser insisting, “The entire trip is about human rights, about all civilized people coming together to fight the hatred”—an odd remark to make in a country that lops the hands off thieves and the heads off apostates. The commerce secretary, in one of his more witlessly thuggish remarks, observing complacently about urban Riyadh: “There was not a single hint of a protester anywhere there during the whole time we were there.” And then there were the video clips: Melania flicking away her husband’s groping hand and the Leader of the Free World giving the prime minister of little Montenegro a good hard shove.