Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles good for slow consumption over a cup of coffee (or tea, if that's your pleasure). Settle in for a while; we saved you a seat. You can also look through the archives.
Dawson, MN, welcomed Dr. Ayaz Virji — its first Muslim resident — with open arms when he and his family arrived three years ago. Then his town joined the majority in Minnesota that voted to put Donald Trump into office. Ayaz became a reluctant spokesperson for his religion, and an increasingly reluctant resident of the community that used to feel like home.
“Hey there,” Ayaz said, snapping out of his thoughts to greet his neighbor.
“Hiya,” said the neighbor, who worked in security.
He had heard from his wife about the talk in Granite Falls and, wanting to be helpful, had offered to lend Ayaz his bulletproof vest for the evening, and here it was, in the duffle bag he was slinging through the ornate front door. He set it down on a chair in the doctor’s study and pulled out the vest. Ayaz looked at it. He began taking off his suit jacket and tie to try it on.
What’s it like to be on the other side of the airport security experience, especially right now? To work in job where ideological decisions come down to eye contact between a tired traveler and the agent calling you over for a pat-down? Edward Schwarzschild, for reasons barely known even to himself, took a break from his university job and career as a writer to find out.
The lines around me at divestiture were backing up; suddenly there were two passengers in wheelchairs, another two passengers requesting pat-downs to avoid the scanner, and a young woman with a Siamese cat in a small carry-on. I struggled to recall the SOP for pets. I had to keep the lines moving. I needed to continue repeating my script about liquids, gels, aerosols, jackets, and laptops. As TSOs, we were supposed to Create Calm and demonstrate Command Presence, but I was starting to sweat and my voice didn’t sound confident to me and I wasn’t sure exactly what I should be saying into my walkie-talkie.
In a highly amusing essay (hopefully not only to this fellow worrier), Irish novelist Donal Ryan traces the bloodlines of worry in his family and finds a quantum solution, only to be defeated by a faulty sensor on a plane from New York to Shannon.
A brilliant idea occurred to me, a way of allowing me to worry in an infinitely efficient manner. Instead of worrying in a haphazard and time-eating way about whatever happened to present itself to my consciousness at any given moment, and unless I had a specific and urgent worry to contend with, I’d restrict myself to worrying about gluons, the tiniest of the known particles of matter.
We are turning the stories of our lives over to our devices, and especially to the social media channels — Facebook, Instagram — where our memories are preserved, ostensibly for the consumption of others, but ultimately for our own. Molly Sauter asks about the consequences of moving our memories into crisp digital vaults where they remain ageless while we wither.
[P]hysical evocations age, and their value and veracity as objects of testimony ages with them and us. They date, they fade, they display their distance from the events they are connected to and their distance from us. Digital memory objects, on the other hand, although they might abruptly obsolesce, do not age in the same way. They remain flatly, shinily omni-accessible, represented to us cleanly both in the everlasting ret-conned context of their creation and consumption. The user interface of Facebook doesn’t time-machine itself to the design it had when you composed whatever memory it is showing you from 10 years ago.
In a love letter to the German language, John Le Carre suggests how clarity and simplicity can help lead us through the treacherous linguistic waters of international (and our own national) politics in 2017.
Clear language — lucid, rational language — to a man at war with both truth and reason, is an existential threat. Clear language to such a man is a direct assault on his obfuscations, contradictions and lies. To him, it is the voice of the enemy. To him, it is fake news. Because he knows, if only intuitively, what we know to our cost: that without clear language, there is no standard of truth.
And that’s what language means to a linguist. Those who teach language, those who cherish its accuracy and meaning and beauty, are the custodians of truth in a dangerous age.