Memorials, Public Health, and Empathy

Here’s what was important this week…

The museum memorializing the victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks opened this week. Steve Kandell wrote about visiting it: The Worst Day of My Life is Now New York’s Hottest Tourist Attraction. The photographer and people-person-extraordinaire behind Humans of New York spoke to someone who also went through the museum. It opened early for survivors and family members of victims. Everyone agreed that the gift shop was in bad taste.

One of my favorite blog of odds and ends, Futility Closet, had two posts recently that speak to the difficulty of colonizing a country. When the Spanish conquered the West Indies, the conditions they imposed on the natives were so poor that they were committing suicide in great numbers. So great, in fact, that:

 “In the end the Spaniards, faced with an embarrassing labor shortage, put a stop to the epidemic of suicides by persuading the Indians that they, too, would kill themselves in order to pursue them in the next world with even harsher cruelties.”

In Puritan New England, conditions were so bad for the conquerors (I mean settlers…) that children who were captured by Native Americans often didn’t want to come back. This was a somewhat popular theme for historical fiction novels like Calico Captive (which I read when I was younger). One possible reason for this, mentioned in the post, is that “The Mohawks were much more indulgent of children than the colonists, and women were counted equal to men and played an integral role in society and politics.”

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Journalism, Networks, and Grief

Here’s what was important this week….

Felix Salmon, a formers Reuters journalist, wrote a screed about why publishing news with the readers in mind is more valuable than breaking news.

As he puts it, “when journalists start caring about scoops and exclusives, that’s a clear sign that they’re publishing mainly for the benefit of other journalists, rather than for their readers. “

Even more clearly, and something that I can relate to easily, is the idea that:

“Readers come first, and all decent publications have their own readership: they shouldn’t be so meek as to assume that their readers will have invariably found the same news elsewhere, just because someone else’s version arrived a little earlier.”

When you spend most of your time on the Internet surrounded by, to borrow his phrase, media navel-gazers who lives on Twitter, everything starts to seem like unimportant, old news. But thankfully, when you talk to others outside of that arena, it is easy to remember that news that seems everywhere and overdone in one circle could be totally absent in another.

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Life, Living, and Death

Here’s what was important this week…

I killed a six day old tamagotchi today. I wasn’t attentive enough, and the next time I checked on him there was just an angel floating on the screen, instead of an adorable duck waddling back and forth. The experience reminded me that I’m too busy for a pet, and as my coworkers tell me often, that children are even more work than a pet.

I’m privileged to live in an age and country where having children is a choice, but with that choice comes its own rationality–or lack thereof.

“I didn’t choose to have a child. Not if “choosing” means something rational—weighing pros and cons, coming to a conclusion. I tried that process but ran away from it because, even though I wanted a child, it seemed to me that creating a whole new person was such an enormity that no one could rationally decide to do such a thing. There is so much at stake, and so little certainty about the outcome.”

“Choosing to have a child involves a leap of faith, not a carefully calibrated rational choice. “

Even after you choose to have a child, if you use enhanced fertility methods like in vitro fertilization, a choice becomes even more powerful:

“The embryos are our responsibility, but not our possessions. Fatherhood and motherhood happen in the space, the gaps, between these children and me. I mean this literally: The motion of a spoon from bowl to mouth and back again; pushing toy cars around on the floor; saying no and snatching a small hand away from a cat’s tail; saying no and pulling a child back from the other child she’s hitting; saying no and listening to sobs of protest as I close the dishwasher; but most of all, saying yes. That is how they got here, these children. Because we kept saying yes.”

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