I’ve stuttered since age five. I cannot think of one moment over the past 20 years when I would have refused a magic pill for stuttering.
I would have taken the pill in the second grade, when it felt like I was choking in front of the entire class while trying to read out loud. I would have taken the pill when I interviewed for a promising job and failed to get out more than three coherent sentences. I would have taken the pill when struggling to say “my name is John” on the thousands of occasions I’ve been unable to identify myself.
I can understand non-stutterers wanting to imagine that stutterers would reject the pill.
With occasional exceptions, people like to be inspired when I’m telling them about my stutter. In these instances I become some noble example of triumph over adversity, of perseverance in the face of stacked odds, of authentic insight miraculously shining through an inarticulate surface, etc.
But in contrast to other stutterers, I cannot see that my stutter has added anything of value to my personality. It may have made me more inclined to read as a child. It certainly has pushed me toward introversion. Yet it’s as fair to say that it’s made me more anxious, violent, impatient, depressed, self-absorbed, and generally hard to live with than I otherwise might have been. Speech therapy has curbed the worst of my stuttering, but it is expensive and exhausting. So yes, I’ll take that imaginary pill.
Thanks for talking about this. You don’t see it come up to often, especially from stutterers themselves. And I’m not sure if you use names for this in Notes, but if you do, mine is John Herrick.
We post reader emails anonymously by default, just to be safe, but if you would like us to include your name, we’re happy to do so. The address to use is firstname.lastname@example.org. Another reader to use his name is Hanan Hurwitz:
Regarding the remark about “cognitive dissonance” by Chris Constantino and similar statements: I don’t see any dissonance between accepting stuttering on the one hand, and looking for a cure on the other hand. So many children, youth, and adults who stutter also suffer terribly. Most have never heard about the National Stuttering Association and won’t have the opportunity to join this wonderfully supportive community. A cure can save people from years of misery, so why not.
I am not looking for a cure for myself, but I don’t deny the awful misery I went through because of stuttering, and certainly I want to save others from the same experiences. So there is no contradiction. And Erin Schick is wrong; most, if not all speech language pathologists whom I have met at the NSA do NOT think that it would be better if we did not stutter at all. I would be happy to make the introductions myself.
Here’s a popular video of Schick doing a poetry reading:
Dramatic performance also helped this reader:
If there isn’t a cure, then what would one call what happened to me?
I had such a debilitating stutter that I could not answer a question in class, even though I knew the answer. (And it got even worse on those rare occasions when I dared to talk to girls.) But my literature teacher, who insisted that all plays and poems be read aloud in class, noticed that I was able to read aloud clearly and affectingly, while my non-stuttering classmates (for reasons that still baffle me) became horribly, amusingly, and/or boringly disfluent.
So she suggested I join the drama club. I thought this was insane, but I did it … and it turned out that, so long as I knew my lines, I never stuttered.
I then trained myself to think before speaking and to visualize the words I wanted to say before I spoke them, so speaking became simply another form of reading aloud. When I explain this, some people think it very strange and difficult, but it’s really no different from writing.
Update from another reader:
Hi, my name is Joshua St. Pierre, a co-founder of the Did I Stutter project with Erin Schick (and Zach Richter). Would I take the pill? A few years ago I decided the answer was no. In fact, saying “no” to this hypothetical pill was really important for me becoming empowered by a disability rights perspective. But I have come to find this whole discussion of whether stuttering is a gift or a wound (or both) bizarre.
In the first place, there is no pill. Secondly, people talk about cures as if they are a choice rather than imposed non-consensually at an early age. Third, we have already seen in some of the other communities mentioned in Jillian Kumagai’s note that the question of hypothetical “cures” is used to distract and turn disabled communities against each other and police people’s relationship to their own disability. Lines are drawn in the sand about a “cure” that doesn’t even exist. Fourth, why don’t we talk instead about our compulsive need to ask this question—about the fact that society assumes and pressures us to say yes to the pill, and why that is, and why we aren’t doing more to change it?
And lastly, people talk about the magic pill as though learning to say no to it and accept your stutter as a gift is the endgame, instead of a catalyst for making structural/social change, fighting ableist discrimination, and creating a better world for all stutterers.
Another stutterer among our readers, Roisin McManus, emails hello@:
This is in response to the question of “the magic pill”—a topic debated in our stuttering community for years, sometimes usefully, sometimes not. Thank you for the forum!
I began stuttering when I was three, when I began speaking. I have never stopped stuttering. I have never spoke fluently without the constant word switching and willful silences that so many stutterers know.
After all this time, I believe that this is my innate way of speaking, my language. It is not unique, because 1-2 percent of the world speaks this language—across centuries, ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses. I suspect there will be no magic pill to absolve any of us from our innate way of speaking, the same way there is no magic pill to absolve a man of his innate way of loving, or a black woman of her melanin. Instead, there are ways to change the way we view each other, and allow for diversity of speaking, appearance, sexuality, and opinion.
I’m sick of the magic pill question. I would rather talk about why a kid who stutters does not feel comfortable in the world.
And another reader, Yasmine Amin, sends probably the most eloquent email yet (followed by a note from Emma Alpern, whose piece sparked this whole thread):
For a long time I felt as though my stutter was robbing me of the person I wanted to be. I was the shy girl who didn’t really say much, which in today’s world is somehow synonymous with not knowing much, and I was always viewed as less capable.
My stutter has accompanied me throughout every inch of my life. It never gave me a break. I chose my food at restaurants based on what I could say during that specific moment. I spelled out words sometimes because I couldn’t think of a different way to say something (this got me some questionable looks). I became so used to hearing the infamous, “Oh it’s just nerves, I also stutter sometimes.” This frustrated me because people didn’t realize is that there is a huge difference between fluent speakers who stumble sometimes due to nerves or anxiety, and those who stutter on a daily basis—even when speaking with a sibling or parent.
Although I do have some resentment towards my stutter and the hard time it continues to give me, it is actually something I have come to view as a blessing.
My stutter made me wise. When you stutter you tend to speak only when completely necessary and that has its perks. All the times I spent silent, I was observing the world. As a result, I was always more wise than most people my age.
My stutter made me a better listener. By learning how to control the urge to speak, I have naturally become more interested in what others have to say. This has increased my curiosity and expanded my knowledge. Susan Cain puts it perfectly, “We have two ears and one mouth and we should use them proportionally.”
My stutter made me a better writer. Whenever I couldn’t speak, my journal was my best friend. I wrote and wrote and wrote, until I had nothing left to say. There’s something about putting your words down on paper that makes you grow, both as a writer and a person.
My stutter made me more understanding. Whenever I see anyone struggling, I sympathize with them because I struggle every day. I know what it feels like to give it your all and fail, I know what it feels like to get bullied, and I know what it feels like to be misunderstood. Helping people feel less alone has always been rewarding.
My stutter has expanded my vocabulary. I’m a walking thesaurus, since I am forced to replace certain words I can’t say during a conversation with other words.
But above all, my stutter taught me the importance of proving people wrong through actions rather than words. People have always viewed me as less capable because of my stutter and I used that as a catalyst to prove them wrong. I couldn’t tell them that I was capable. So instead, I showed them. Through this I have learned the most important lesson: Let your actions speak for you.
My stutter has given me more than it has taken away. I hope everyone who stutters can get to a point where they can confidently say that.
Here’s Alpern with a final note:
The magic pill question is interesting to think about, but I worry that it divides us into camps. And such a pill is just not a reality, and stuttering is complex enough that it probably never will be.
So what now? Luckily, there are lots of other ways that we can go about changing the experiences of people who stutter at this moment. How can we become more comfortable with the way we talk? How can we better support each other? How can we advocate for our voices? How can we reach stutterers who feel alone?
I think it’s really interesting that some readers brought up inspiration. I agree that I’m not here to inspire people with a story about overcoming OR accepting my stutter. Hopefully “embracing” stuttering can mean more than that, for those who choose to go that route. For me, at least, it was liberating to run toward stuttering after trying to get it out of my speech for so long.
I can’t emphasize enough how great it is to know other people who stutter after years of knowing no one. The connections I’ve made almost put the thought of a magic pill out of my mind. The National Stuttering Association, Did I Stutter, FRIENDS (an organization for young people who stutter), and SAY (the Stuttering Association for the Young) are all great places to start.
About four years ago, I was interviewing for a PR internship at a non-profit organization. I disclosed the fact that I stutter—which is something I normally do at interviews. But this time, the employer’s reaction shocked me.
“I actually stutter too,” he said.
When only one percent of the world’s population stutters, the odds of sitting across the table from someone who also stutters are incredulous (unless you’re at a National Stuttering Association conference). The interview turned into a 40-minute conversation about stuttering. Later that afternoon, he emailed me. I got the internship.
I asked myself that famous magic pill question and talked about it with others many times. Stutterers, like those with other disorders, are splintered into many ‘camps.’
There are those who seek ways to manage their stuttering; there are those who are ‘covert,’ who try to hide their stuttering; and there are those who simply stutter openly and actually embrace it. I’ve honestly embraced my stuttering.
However, if you asked me when I was a teenager, I would’ve accepted the magic pill in a heartbeat. At the time, I wasn’t as open about my stuttering. On the contrary, it was dreadful. Among the plethora of issues I was dealing with while growing up—puberty, acne and others—the last thing I needed was to talk funny.
In my fifth grade class, we took turns reading aloud. I would count the number of spots ahead of me, dreading my turn to read—and praying I would be given a short paragraph. Participating in class was equally as agonizing. I would rarely raise my hand to answer a question, even if I knew the answer.
Outside the classroom, stuttering continued to affect me. Picking up the telephone was kryptonite. For most of my teens and early 20s, I avoided parties and most social gatherings. I was shy because I stuttered, not the other way around.
As I got older, I realized something: stuttering is only a disability if we let it be one. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. Dr. Mitchell Trichon, assistant professor of communication disorders at La Salle University in Philadelphia and a stutterer too, once said that “so much of stuttering is the way you think about it.”
In other words, the issue may not be the fact that we stutter, but our feelings and perceptions about it—the avoidance, the anxieties, the shame and the fear of people’s reactions. Those were the issues, not the stuttering itself.
In summer of 2011, the way I thought about my stuttering changed. I ventured to Fort Worth, Texas for the NSA conference. It was the first time I met anyone else who stutters. I met so many people who have thrived despite their speech issues—actors, lawyers, fellow journalists. They were stuttering openly and didn’t care. They were proud to stutter. That’s when I learned to embrace it too.
While I used to see my stuttering as a disability, now I see it as something I just happen to do. It’s a characteristic. I have brown hair, I’m left-handed and I stutter. I don’t talk weirdly, just differently. And it has its benefits. It makes us compassionate and unique, and it motivates us to become great communicators and the best version of ourselves. And, such as the case of my interview-turned-stuttering chat, it can make us memorable. It really can enrich our lives.
“Recent data and my own personal experience suggest it’s time to start thinking of autism as an advantage in some spheres, not a cross to bear,” Dr. Mottron wrote. “…Most [people with autism] are willing and capable of making sophisticated contributions to society, if they have the right environment.”
I was truly inspired by the thread on stuttering, which I have struggled with my entire life. I finally put everything down and wrote about it. The feedback has been incredible thus far, so I thought I’d share it with your readers. Thank you again!
Thanks to Jillian for one of the best threads in Notes thus far. Update: Okay, one more reader:
A common thread in the “I wouldn’t take the pill” group is that stuttering is a part of their identity, and they can’t imagine parting with such an integral piece of who they are. Well, for me—a covert stutterer ever since I started speaking—stuttering is an unfortunate part of my life and not a part of my identity I’d mind parting with.
In fact, I feel nearly the opposite; in situations where I am perfectly fluent, I finally feel like my true self. The biggest conflict I have on a day-to-day basis is not simply that I can’t say what I want to say, but that I know the version of myself that I’m showing to the world is not my true self. The true self is the one freed from the neuro-psycho-socio-emotional confines of the stutter, and the stutter is an obstacle between my true self and the rest of the world.
I’d go further and say that accepting stuttering as an integral part of who you are rather than something that you happen to do is a huge, potentially insurmountable block to overcoming one’s stutter. Perhaps letting go of that “part of your identity” is exactly what needs to be done.
This is in no way meant to take away from the messages of acceptance and understanding that the NSA conference seemed to be pushing. Obviously, clearly, unambiguously, society could do a hell of a better job showing empathy and understanding for stutterers. And despite my different view from what seems to be the central theme of that conference, I am filled with empathy for my fellow stutterers; I literally know exactly what they feel like.
So anyway, would I take the pill? Well, that magic pill would have to cure all the myriad and interconnected causes at the true root of my stuttering problem. If taking it would do that, and leave me imbued with all the knowledge that came from it (not least so I can validate some of my own theories about the causes and treatment of stuttering), hell yeah, I’d take it.
Here’s a new email on an old thread, from reader Alyssa Epstein:
I can recall the exact moment in time when I realized I was different from everyone else, but most particularly (and importantly) from my classmates. My fifth class was sitting in a circle taking turns reading from a book, and as the book was passed to me and I read my passage, something strange had occurred. I knew what I wanted to say, and I could feel myself trying to form the words, but instead, every word came out in a spitfire struggle.
My voice no longer sounded like a normal seamless transition of one word after another, with emotion and inflection intertwined into each syllable. Instead, each word came out like an explosion from a canon.
While that passage was only four or five sentences, I remember wishing it was one. I distinctly recall darting my eyes around the page, silently willing myself to be able to finish the paragraph faster than I knew was possible. What’s more, I can still remember what it felt like after I finished and passed the book to my classmate sitting next to me, how hot my cheeks felt and how tears had welled in my eyes and, without looking, feeling every set of eyes in the room on me.
It’s been 18 years since then, and I have often wondered what life would be like if I was a different person, a person who didn’t stutter. No one has ever asked me what it feels like to stutter, but I already have an answer should that day come: I’d tell them to imagine that their vocal cords have been ripped out, their lips sewn shut. They’d want to scream out into the world but nothing would happen.
The physical energy of actively trying and straining their own body to keep up with how fast their mind was working would exhaust them to the point where they’d have to stop and catch their breath. Words wouldn’t form no matter how hard they willed it, and eventually they would get to the point where it was easier not to try and have a conversation at all.
I have thought that perhaps a cure would be found, a device surgically implanted, or even a magic pill swallowed, that would allow me the freedom of expression I have always yearned for. Would I have spent the last 18 years of my life ordering food I didn’t want, holding myself back from activities, pretending to lose my train of thought during sentences, and hiding behind and internalizing the shame I felt on a daily basis? These moments of defeat have made me a prisoner in my own body, and there was a time in my life where I would have given anything to escape it.
But, on some days, it’s a piece of my soul I would feel empty without. I can proudly say that stuttering has helped me become the young woman I am today, and I often wonder how different I may be without it.
I am quick-witted and sarcastic. Being made to feel so small and insignificant for so long has allowed me a space in my heart for compassion, something so few individuals possess. Internalizing my thoughts and emotions, and only speaking when spoken to, has taught me the importance of listening when others speak.
It has also made me a strong writer, since being unable to communicate verbally fueled my ability to communicate on paper, and my love for reading has left me with a vast vocabulary that I’m quite proud of. I am a source of unrelenting surprise, since I’m smarter, deeper, and more cunning than a shy girl ought to be.
But, most importantly, I stopped pleasing others simply because I felt as though I owed it to them, that I was somehow atoning for the shortcomings I thought I possessed.
For the first time in my life, my answer to “would you take a magic pill to cure your stutter?” would be no. I have finally realized that my life is no less beautiful, no less full of love, and no less important simply because I stutter.
Update from yet another reader to come out of the woodwork:
As a lifelong stutterer, I’ve appreciated the occasional revisiting of the thread on stuttering. As an adult, I’ve been able to keep my speech mostly under control, though I go through phases where I get really thrown off and descend into very depressing low points.
But it’s nothing compared to when I was young and had an average 80 interruptions per minute. During speech therapy in middle school, I had to recite O. Henry stories because of the abundant use of multi-syllabic words. I hate “The Gift of the Magi.” I hate O. Henry.
I descended into my own strange world where I sat around memorizing and drawing maps all day. But it’s knowledge I still have today; I have strange mnemonic navigation skills. And if I didn’t have my stutter, I wouldn’t be surprised if I lacked those strange geography skills. I certainly wouldn’t be able to drive across the country without a map (which I’ve done before).
So would I take a pill to cure my stuttering? Probably not.
Compared to many stutterers, I’m pretty fortunate that I can keep my interruptions mostly in the shadows. In fact, I do an OK job in front of the camera for events I moderate. I have my tricks to forecast trouble spots, avoid certain words and phrases I know that are going to trip me up.
But oddly enough, I’ve been criticized by a former manager that my precise use of language was a sign that I’m hiding my true thoughts and opinions. My methods to avoid stuttering were apparently a sign of workplace deceit. (I could write a lot on this subject.)
I’ve found that D.C. can be a fairly unforgiving place if you have a speech impediment, especially if you’re interacting with Type A personalities, strong debaters, and bold personalities who like to skate circles around those who are not in command of the conversation.
Anyhow, I'm rambling now. Thanks again for the thread.
Thanks again to everyone for their smart, engaging emails on the subject (and for being so amenable to my edits). Reader notes like these don’t get much traffic compared to the professionally crafted pieces for the Facebook masses, but their stories really strike a chord with a subset of readers, and to me that’s immensely rewarding.
Update from yet another reader, Michael Ivan:
Yes. Yes, I would take the magic pill.
I feel a bit ashamed typing that, considering my stutter as a child from 8 - 16 was severe but now is 95 percent manageable, whereas other stutterers still endure much worse. One step further, if you had to pick between a stutter knowingly or a mystery condition behind door no. 1, 2 or 3; you probably wouldn't take on that risk and stick with the stutter.
I am thankful everyday for my health. But that five percent figure I plucked from thin air, those few instances where I get blocked by a word or letter at the worst imaginable time stays with you in a not so positive way. To make matters more interesting, I am a sales representative / account manager tasked with calling, speaking to, meeting with, taking out, presenting, and pitching existing or prospective clients five days and couple nights a week. I embark on so much of my professional life with a little side of worry.
As a child, I experienced what many of the other readers had. In a nutshell: a complete and utter fear of speaking aloud to a group or in public and use all the tricks in the book to be excused to avoid having to read aloud. If a plot to escape failed, doom casts upon you. There is nothing worse than making a complete mess of speaking or reading aloud. Those damn words that start with “w” or “h”—damn them. Stumbling, stammering, stuttering, breathing awkwardly through a passage. When you finish, thankfully, some peers snicker, the teacher mouths “it's okay,” but worst, some of your peers can't even look you in the eye out of some mutual embarrassment.
I was lucky to have many friends through the course of my bad stuttering years stick up for me to the others who poked fun. I had other friends genuinely and curiously ask why? Which I think is pretty neat looking back. From outside perspective stutterers I think are beloved and endeared for. But personally, the anxiety can be crippling, because for god’s sake, why is this happening to me? I’d much prefer it not to.
You can pound the proud stuttering drum, citing famous people of history who also grew up with or had stutters through adult life. But even in it’s pride, you are acknowledging an apparent difference to others. If someone has to say "it’s okay." Does it make it unequivocally so?
I will keep an eye out on The Atlantic for when this fantasy pill passes FDA trials. I won’t mind taking it, even if I stutter just 5 percent of the time.
American culture is becoming more and more preoccupied with nature. What if all the celebrations of the wild world are actually manifestations of grief?
It started, as so many of life’s journeys do, at IKEA. We went one day a few years ago to get bookshelves. We left with some Hemnes and a leafy impulse buy: a giant Dracaena fragrans. A couple of months later, delighted that we had managed to keep it alive, we brought in a spritely little ponytail palm. And then an ivy. A visiting friend brought us a gorgeous snake plant. I bought a Monstera online because it was cheap and I was curious. It arrived in perfect condition, in a big box with several warning labels: perishable: live plants.
Where is the line between “Oh, they have some plants” and “Whoa, they are plant people”? I’m not quite sure, but I am sure that we long ago crossed it. I would read the periodic news articles about Millennials and their houseplants and feel the soft shame of being seen. But I cherished our little garden. Potted plants have a quiet poetry to them, a whirl of wildness and constraint; they make the planet personal. I loved caring for ours. I loved noticing, over time, the way they stretched and flattened and curled and changed. I still do.
A new message proves too toxic for the Republican Party.
Last week, far-right Republican Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar distanced themselves from a proposal to create an America First Caucus, after a document bearing the group’s name made reference to “Anglo-Saxon political traditions.”
Both Greene and Gosar told the press that they hadn’t seen the document and did not endorse its sentiments, after House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy condemned the effort, saying that America “isn’t built on identity, race, or religion,” and rejecting “nativist dog whistles.”
If seeing the party of Donald Trump distance itself from nativism is strange, it helps to understand that “Anglo-Saxon” is what you say when “whites only” is simply too inclusive.
Governments need to give Americans an off-ramp to the post-pandemic world. Ending outdoor mask requirements would be a good place to start.
Last week, I covered my nose and mouth with close-fitting fabric like a good citizen and walked to a restaurant in Washington, D.C., where I de-masked at a patio table to greet a friend. I sat with my chair facing the entrance and watched dozens of people perform the same ritual, removing a mask they’d worn outside and alone. It seemed like the most normal thing in the world. Until, suddenly, it seemed very weird.
The coronavirus is most transmissible in poorly ventilated indoor spaces, where the aerosolized virus can linger in the air before latching onto our nasal or bronchial cells. In outdoor areas, the viral spray is more likely to disperse. One systematic overview of COVID-19 case studies concluded that the risk of transmission was 19 times higher indoors than outside. That’s why wearing a mask is so important in, say, a CVS, but less crucial in, say, the park.
He says he’s bisexual, but I’m worried he’s actually gay.
My boyfriend of a year says he is bisexual. I knew this from the beginning because we met on a dating app and he had that clearly stated in his profile. However, what I am concerned about is that he is using me as a stepping stone to acknowledging to himself that he is gay, or that he wants to be in a heterosexual relationship in order to reap the social benefits (having kids, generally being accepted in society, etc.).
I’m worried because (a) he’s never been with a man before and being with me means he won't get that experience (assuming he doesn't cheat) and (b) he comes from an extremely religious family in the South who would likely not be able to accept his homosexuality (or even bisexuality). I once asked him when we first started dating if he was with me to appease his family, whom he's very close with, and he said "Kind of" but that he still found me attractive.
The former Minneapolis police officer was found guilty on all three counts he faced—but his trial was a demonstration of how difficult efforts at accountability remain.
Updated on April 20 at 8:26 p.m.
Jurors in Minnesota took barely 10 hours to convict Derek Chauvin in the May 2020 death of George Floyd on all three charges against him, offering a quick and decisive verdict in the most-watched police-misconduct case in years.
The speedy result, announced in a Minneapolis courtroom this afternoon, is a sign of how unusual the case is. The verdict is a victory for justice and a relief to people, politicians, and police in Minnesota and beyond, who had braced for unrest if Chauvin had been found not guilty. But the trial also demonstrates why the courts will remain a challenging venue to reform law enforcement in the United States.
“It was a murder in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see,” President Joe Biden said this evening. “For so many, it feels like it took all of that for the judicial system to deliver just basic accountability.”
Black and brown people’s defiance is not the problem. Our compliance is not the solution.
Chicago Police Officer Eric E. Stillman chased a boy down an alleyway.
It was the early morning of March 29. In Minnesota, opening statements in the Derek Chauvin trial were coming in a few hours. Stillman had responded to reports of gunshots in Little Village, a predominantly Latino community on Chicago’s West Side.
“Stop right now!” the officer yelled at Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old seventh grader at Gary Elementary School. “Hands. Show me your hands. Drop it. Drop it.”
A video taken by Stillman’s body camera shows Toledo apparently complying.
He appears to drop something.
He turns around.
He shows his hands.
Stillman fires a single shot, killing Toledo.
Afterward, Stillman’s attorney insisted that the fatal shooting was justified. “The police officer was put in this split-second situation where he has to make a decision,” said Timothy Grace, a lawyer retained by the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago.
The postmaster general’s reform plan looks a lot better now that Donald Trump is no longer president.
For Democrats starving for a villain in post-Trump Washington, Louis DeJoy seemed like an ideal candidate for the role. As postmaster general, he’s the most powerful holdover from the previous administration—a Trump campaign donor and logistics executive hired to run the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service. When DeJoy moved last summer to slow the mail, his critics charged that he was carrying out a Trump plot to help steal the presidential election and degrade a beloved American institution.
DeJoy’s critics, however, were fretting about the wrong crisis. The Postal Service handled the deluge of ballots but not the crush of Christmas cards and packages that followed. The holiday season was a disaster for the agency, prompting many Democrats to renew their calls for his ouster. Yet as the fight turns to the future of the Postal Service, the party is divided over the leader it loves to hate, and some lawmakers are realizing that DeJoy’s vision is not radically different from their own.
Inequality has seemingly caused many American parents to jettison friendships and activities in order to invest more resources in their kids.
Over the past few decades, American parents have been pressured into making a costly wager: If they sacrifice their hobbies, interests, and friendships to devote as much time and as many resources as possible to parenting, they might be able to launch their children into a stable adulthood. While this gamble sometimes pays off, parents who give themselves over to this intensive form of child-rearing may find themselves at a loss when their children are grown and don’t need them as much.
Prior generations didn’t need to be as preoccupied with their children’s well-being or future. Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, in the 1960s, my brothers and I were as luxuriously removed from our parents’ minds as they were from ours. It was the gilded age of childhood freedom. My brothers and I consumed hours of television and ate staggering amounts of sugar—for breakfast. We vanished each summer morning, biked back for lunch, and then disappeared again ’til dusk. My parents also had a life. My mother played mah-jongg weekly with “the girls” and went out every weekend with my father without calling it “date night.” My dad played squash on weekends at the downtown YMCA and didn’t seem to worry about whether my brothers and I felt neglected.
Plans to form a breakaway tournament highlight a political moment.
When I was a teenager, my hometown football—soccer—team was bought by a local businessman who began his career as a safecracker, became friends with Donald Trump, and ended his days broke and in jail. George Reynolds, who died last week, lived an Englishman’s version of the American dream: He got rich, bought a local institution, then went bankrupt.
For a moment, his ownership sparked a kind of giddy hope among the club’s supporters, who were sold promises of the big time. Reynolds, who made his money selling chipboard kitchen worktops, had bought the club, Darlington F.C., on a whim and pledged to take it from a lower English-football division all the way to the top, to compete in the Premier League and the holy grail of European football: the Champions League. To do this, he sold the club’s tiny grounds in the town’s center and built a 30,000-seat stadium on its outskirts, which he named the Reynolds Arena. He would attend games in a knee-length fur coat, rising from his seat to wave to the fans chanting his name.
For weeks, Americans looked on as other countries grappled with case reports of rare, sometimes fatal blood abnormalities among those who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19. That vaccine has not yet been authorized by the FDA, so restrictions on its use throughout Europe did not get that much attention in the United States. But Americans experienced a rude awakening this week when public-health officials called for a pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, after a few cases of the same, unusual blood-clotting syndrome turned up among the millions of people in the country who have received it.
The world is now engaged in a vaccination program unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes, and with it, unprecedented scrutiny of ultra-rare but dangerous side effects. An estimated 852 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered across 154 countries, according to data collected by Bloomberg. Last week, the European Medicines Agency, which regulates medicines in the European Union, concluded that the unusual clotting events were indeed a side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine; by that point, more than 220 cases of dangerous blood abnormalities had been identified. Only half a dozen cases have been documented so far among Americans vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and a causal link has not yet been established. But the latest news suggests that the scope of this problem might be changing.