Longform’s Picks of the Week
The best stories from around the world.
Every weekend, Longform highlights its favorite international articles of the week. For daily picks of new and classic nonfiction, check outLongform or follow @longform on Twitter. Have an iPad? Download Longform’s new app and read all of the latest in-depth stories from dozens of magazines, including Foreign Policy.
“The Lonely Fight Against Belize’s Antigay Laws” by Julia Scott, the New York Times Magazine.
Can one challenge to a statute criminalizing sodomy create a domino effect in the Caribbean?
“In Belize, church leaders are granted deference in the press and by lawmakers on social issues. But in large part, the ecclesiastical focus has always been on the spiritual rather than the political realm. So Orozco was blindsided by the announcement, soon after the suit was filed, that the Roman Catholic Church of Belize, the Belize Evangelical Association of Churches and the Anglican Church had together joined the case on the government’s side as an ‘interested party,’ a legal distinction that allowed them to hire lawyers, file motions and be heard during the trial. More than 400 church leaders and ministries came together to mobilize their adherents in the name of public morality. In another first for Belize, church leaders founded a nationwide activist campaign, Belize Action, and began drawing thousands of believers to rallies that denounced the ‘homosexual agenda.'”
“What Makes the Lion Whisperer Roar?” by Susan Orlean, Smithsonian Magazine.
He’s famous for getting dangerously close to his fearsome charges, but what can Kevin Richardson teach us about ethical conservation — and ourselves?
“The first time I saw one of Richardson’s videos, I was transfixed. After all, every fiber in our being tells us not to cozy up with animals as dangerous as lions. When someone defies that instinct, it seizes our attention like a tightrope walker without a net. I was puzzled by how Richardson managed it, but just as much by why. Was he a daredevil with a higher threshold for fear and danger than most people? That might explain it if he were dashing in and out of a lion’s den on a dare, performing a version of seeing how long you can hold your hand in a flame. But it’s clear that Richardson’s lions don’t plan to eat him, and that his encounters aren’t desperate scrambles to stay a step ahead of their claws. They snuggle up to him, as lazy as house cats. They nap in a pile with him. They aren’t tame—he is the only person they tolerate peaceably. They simply seem to have accepted him in some way, as if he were an odd, furless, human-shaped lion.”
“The Inexplicable” by Karl Ove Knaussgard, the New Yorker.
Inside the mind of a mass killer.
“After the shock of the first few days, and the sorrow of the following weeks, the events of July 22nd have shuttered themselves. The most striking aspect of the ten-week trial—which took place a year later, and at which we were given our first glimpse of Breivik, and his entire life and his every environment were documented and analyzed—was how normalized both the perpetrator and the crime had become. It was as if the fact that he was a human being like us, who defended his point of view, subsumed the incomprehensible: suddenly, Breivik was the measure, not his crime. One of Breivik’s victims called him “a jerk” in the newspaper; numerous commentators described him as small, petty, pathetic. Some devoted themselves to finding the holes in his arguments; others described his missteps and his misconceptions. This reduction of the perpetrator, the act of making him seem less dangerous, is understandable, because a person in and of himself is small, but that does not mean we understand any more about how this act of terror was possible. On the contrary, in the wake of the trial, it is as if the two entities, the unimaginable crime and the man who committed it, were irreconcilable.”
“A Liberator, But Never Free” by Steve Friess, the New Republic.
An Army doctor helped free the Dachau concentration camp in 1945, meticulously documenting his experiences in letters home to his wife. Hidden for the remainder of his life, the letters have resurfaced, and with them, questions about the G.I.’s we know only as heroes.
“The Wilsey cache of letters is invaluable, and perhaps even unprecedented, because of its volume—hundreds of letters, sent over a span of nearly five years—and the bluntness of its depictions of the war. Along with the executions of SS soldiers, the letters described instances of heroism (‘trying to save a good-looking German eight-year-old who had stepped on a mine with resultant nine holes in his intestines, half a foot off, and hundreds of minor fragments in his upper legs, arms and face’); withering criticism of Wilsey’s commanding officers (‘such incompetent, unqualified, mentally inferior people’); racial bigotry (‘the colored boys have been accepted ‘whole-heartedly’ (if not ravenously) by women-across-the-Atlantic’); and widespread looting of Nazi possessions, much of it, in all likelihood, previously looted by the Germans from their Untermensch victims across the continent.”
“Mission Unstoppable” by Seán Naylor and Yochi Dreazen, Foreign Policy.
From drone strikes to prison torture, the CIA has been pulling the strings of U.S. foreign policy since 9/11. And if history is a guide, the agency will be calling the shots in the Middle East for years to come.
“Today, the CIA is the tip of the spear of the administration’s growing effort to beat back the Islamic State, which controls broad stretches of Iraq and Syria. CIA officers in small bases along the Turkish and Jordanian borders have helped to find, vet, and train members of the so-called moderate Syrian opposition so they can fight to dislodge the Islamic State and, ultimately, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus. In addition, the agency is responsible for helping to funnel weapons and other supplies to rebels. Meanwhile, the Pentagon, which dwarfs the CIA in size, resources, and congressional backing, is dispatching Special Forces personnel to the region to carry out basically the same training mission. But if the two pillars of the national security establishment were to collide over Iraq and Syria, it would be a mistake to assume that the CIA would lose out. For better—and sometimes for worse—the CIA has been winning just these types of fights since the war on terror began 14 long years ago.”
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images; GUENTER SCHIFFMANN/AFP/Getty Images; ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images; David Silverman/Getty Images; MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images; Paula Bronstein/Getty Images