The week of Oct. 2 was a difficult one across America, with the worst mass shooting in US history leaving the country heartbroken and eager for answers. When combined with the vicious churn of a neverending presidential news cycle, it's hard to look beyond the bad news that lays before us.
But now that we're on the verge of the weekend, we're ready to settle in with some coffee — not to mention a lot more uninterrupted focus — and spend time with some of the worthy deep reads the sad news of this week may have overshadowed. We imagine many of you plan to do the same, so we've rounded up some of the best of the best writing we spotted online in the past seven days. And stay tuned as we continue to shine a spotlight on the pieces we think truly cannot be missed . . . but may have been.
Two Dark American Truths From Las Vegas
By James Fallows, The Atlantic
The identity of the shooter doesn't affect how many people are dead or how grievously their families and communities are wounded. But we know that everything about the news coverage and political response would be different, depending on whether the killer turns out to be "merely" a white American man with a non-immigrant-sounding name.
Fallows lets the rage and despondency so many of us felt in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting breathe in this potent, no-holds-barred piece. In refusing to let our country off the hook for the racism and indifference he sees embedded in this massacre and so many others like it, Fallows doesn't strive for consolation — instead, he demands a national reckoning. — Lindsay Miller, director, News and Culture
Death at a Penn State Fraternity
By Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic
Every year or so brings another such death, another healthy young college man a victim of hazing at the hands of one of the nation's storied social fraternities. And with each new death, the various stakeholders perform in ways that are so ritualized, it's almost as though they are completing the second half of the same hazing rite that killed the boy.
Flanagan doesn't hold back any details in this incredibly thorough, well-researched story that tracks the death of a young college student and the ripple effect it has on his friends, family, and the authority figures who are meant to prevent this sort of thing from happening. It's an astonishing read — Flanagan was able to get so thoroughly entrenched in the world that it almost feels like fiction — and will leave you stunned. — Chelsea Hassler, senior editor, News and Culture
Regarding the Pain of Trump
By Rebecca Chace, Los Angeles Review of Books
Images of suffering and atrocity now have unparalleled access to our most intimate spaces. Most of us keep that connection open in our pockets or in the palm of our hands. . . . We have to manage more information through images than ever before, and this makes our relationship to the compassion, rage, and sense of powerlessness aroused by these images ever more complex.
Sontag's essay collection, On Regarding the Pain of Others, is one of my favorite books. Though it was published in 2003, it feels exceptionally relevant in our current political and social climate. Chace distills some of Sontag's most compelling arguments about the power (or lack thereof) images have to spark our empathy and compassion, all interpreted in the era of a reality-TV president. — LM
Preet Bharara Is Now in the Trump-Opposition Business
By Andrew Rice, New York Magazine
Bharara often says that there are three political parties in America: Democratic, Republican, and federal prosecutor. The first two are in disarray, but the prosecutors still stand as a serious threat to the president.
For the first time since his notorious firing earlier this year, Preet Bharara is making moves, and this is the ultimate account of what those moves are. And I have to say — spoiler alert — the very last line is quite possibly my favorite that's been published all year. — CH
Why This Senator Has Hope For Tackling Gun Violence — Even After Sandy Hook
By Matt Laslo, Rolling Stone
The idea that there should be a waiting period to talk about policy after a mass shooting is a device employed by the gun industry.
Sen. Chris Murphy made headlines the morning after the Las Vegas shooting for demanding that Congress "get off its ass" and really, finally do something about gun control. The cause is deeply personal for Murphy. He is the junior senator in Connecticut, the state where the Sandy Hook shooting took place in 2012. This interview offers a worthy counterpoint to Fallows's relative hopelessness in The Atlantic. Because despite the repetition and agony of gun violence in America, Murphy refuses to give up the fight against it — and he thinks it's one he can win. — LM
An Oral History of the Trump Administration
By Clio Chang, The New Republic
What emerges from this anonymous stew is an ongoing record of the Republican failure to speak up in public, while the president wreaks havoc both here and abroad. It is a story about a rotting GOP, as told by the greatest cowards of the Trump era.
If you want to read something that you inherently know and understand but will still leave you with your jaw on the floor, this is the story for you. Even if you can't stomach it all in one sitting — it's a tough reminder of where we're at right now — it's a must read. — CH
I Want My 2.3 Bonus Years
By Mona Chalabi, New York Times Sunday Magazine
We are socialized into thinking that men are like wine, they get better with time. Whereas women are like cheese, they get blue veins and start to stink.
The average age difference between a man and woman in straight couples is 2.3 years. (It should come as no surprise to you that the men, here, are the older ones.) What do women give up by marrying earlier, having children earlier, and worrying about all of that earlier, Chalabi wonders? In this alternately amusing and forceful piece, she examines the social and personal impact that 28-month-ish gap can make . . . and ponders if it's time for straight women to rethink the men they seek out for the sake of equality.
We Snuck Into Seattle's Super Secret White Nationalist Convention
By David Lewis, The Stranger
Thanks to the internet, it only took me about an hour to change my identity from David Lewis, Seattle historian, to Dave Lewis, Neo-Nazi film editor and aspiring book critic from Charlottesville, currently living in Los Angeles. This Dave Lewis has never been to Seattle, but has always wanted to attend Northwest Forum.
This witty and brilliantly reported account of one writer's experience at a downright abhorrent gathering is one of those stories you'll keep remembering lines from in everyday conversation and feel the need to revisit all over again. — CH