Sympathy for transgender people cannot trump objective reality.
Last week, a member of my Orthodox Jewish congregation approached me at synagogue to tell me a story. Many of the women in the congregation exercise at a females-only gym for modesty purposes. The gym is successful; its main constituency is religious women who don’t wish to be stared at by men, or to see men in various states of undress.
According to the congregation member, this month, a transgender woman — a biological male who suffers from gender dysphoria — came to the gym. This man, who retains his male biological characteristics, then entered the locker room and proceeded to disrobe. When told by management that he could use a private dressing room, he refused, announcing that he was a woman and could disrobe in front of all the other women.
The predictable result: Many of the actual biological women began cancelling their memberships. When the management asked people higher in the chain, they were simply told that to require the man to use a private dressing room or to reject his membership would subject the company to litigation and possible boycott. So the gym will simply have to lose its chief clientele because a man with a mental disorder believes he has the right to disrobe in front of women.
As it turns out, there are indeed public-policy consequences to the question of transgender pronouns. Those public-policy questions all revolve around a central issue: Can subjective perception trump objective observation? If the answer is yes, tyranny of the individual becomes the order of the day. We all must bow before the subjective wants, needs, and desires of people who require special protection from life’s realities. We must reeducate generations of people to ignore science in favor of feelings. We must strong-arm individuals into abandoning central planks of their morality in the name of sensitivity.
Meanwhile, Twitter announced this week that it would seek to ban those who “misgender” or “deadname” transgender people. In other words, if you note that Chelsea Manning or Caitlyn Jenner is a man, or if you use the names “Bradley” or “Bruce” with regard to the aforementioned transgender people, Twitter could ban you for “repeated and/or non-consensual slurs.” So you will abide by subjective self-definition, or you will be censored. Twitter recently banned a leftist feminist for merely noting that sex is biological and that men cannot become women.
It doesn’t stop there. As Walt Heyer of The Federalist reports, a Texas divorce case now pits a mother who dresses her six-year-old male child, James, as a girl and calls him “Luna” against James’s father, whom she is accusing of child abuse for refusing to treat James as a girl. Heyer reports, “She is also seeking to require him to pay for the child’s visits to a transgender-affirming therapist and transgender medical alterations, which may include hormonal sterilization starting at age eight.” James, as it turns out, prefers being called James and being treated as a boy by his father. That’s not stopping Mom. Refusing to abide by the judgment of a six-year-old — or in this case, a six-year-old’s mom — could mean losing your child in a world where we treat sex as malleable.
There are real-world consequences to the deliberate rewriting of basic biology, and the substitution of subjectivity for objectivity. It means rewriting business operation, school curricula, medical treatment standards, censorship rules, and even parenting. Sympathy for those who suffer from gender dysphoria is obviously proper — no one wants transgender people harmed or targeted. But sympathy for a mental disorder should not trump either objective reality or competing priorities based on those objective realities. “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is not a story about the wonderful sensitivity of a population educated on the subjective desires of a ruler ensconced in sartorial self-definition. Falsehood crumbles in the light of day, no matter how sympathetic we are to those who wish to perpetuate it — unless force becomes the order of the day.
I just finished reading Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It by Charlamagne tha God née Lenard Larry McKelvey the straight-shooting radio personality. I found the book raw and to the point on success and life.
Charlamagne is a stoic and a realist in a good way. Every young person needs the reality check he lays out on fame and careers.
However, he made a statement in the book which I find disturbing, “80% of white people are evil.”
Now before I respond I want to mention my past. From 1978 to 1980 I marched in thirteen civil rights marches from Boston to Raleigh.
I was seriously injured in four of those marches – I am proud to have bled for the cause.
Charlamagne people – all people – have issues. But your statement about the 80% is fueled not by logic but by your reading and praise for a hateful and vile person named Louis Farrakhan.
Black Nationalism contradicts the many good things you wrote in your book. This type of angry illogical thinking hurts African Americans.
Charlamagne I know you like straight talk so here it is. Racism for black people is not about color. I have observed that Africans’ and Caribbean black people who come to the U.S. do not suffer the same racism as African Americans. How do you explain that?
Even after decades of living in this country numerous people from the African continent and the countries of the Caribbean find great success and few racists issues.
So, the issue is in my professional opinon is cultural not based on skin color. I am a lecturer at Howard University and I have proffered this idea to the students and most agreed with me, well let me clarify, those who have grown up in upper income families agreed.
Is rampant rape the price Finnish women must pay for giving asylum to migrants? Finland, now, has become “one of the least safe countries in Europe for women,” according to Finland’s leading newspaper.
Crimes committed by asylum seekers have increased dramatically. Swedish-language asked a criminologist who says having an immigrant background doesn’t explain criminality and that the issue is more complicated than that.
Finland’s biggest daily newspaper devoted many column inches to the issue of rape. The topic of rape and violence against women has come to the forefront of discussion in Finnish media since highly-publicised incidents of rape committed by asylum seekers in recent weeks.
Only one in four rapes reported to police In the year 2000, HS displayed on a graph, 488 rapes were reported and in 2014 that number was 940 reported rapes. So far this year (from January to October) the figure stands at 864 reported rapes.
Finland is one of the top countries in the EU for incidents of violence against women. Using figures from the European Agency for Fundamental Rights, some 47 percent of women in Finland have experienced violence at some point in their lives since the age of 15.
The only other country in the EU with a higher percentage is Denmark, with 52 percent. Among the lowest percentages of violence against women were in Hungary (21 percent), Ireland (15 percent) and Austria (13 percent).
Citing Helsinki University’s Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy figures, the paper writes that incidents of reported rapes by immigrants were about eight times higher than that of native Finns.The paper also writes that the most reported rapes were committed by people from the Middle East and Northern Africa.
The evening tabloid Ilta-Sanomat featured a blazing headline on page four’s “Refugee Crisis” feature with a headline that reads: “Suspected crimes increase.”
Last Saturday night, a Fox News contributor named Kat Timpf was at a bar in Brooklyn. As she recounted the incident to National Review, a man asked her where she worked. A while later, she said, a woman began “screaming at me to get out.” Timpf walked away, but the woman followed her around the bar while other patrons laughed. Fearing physical attack, Timpf left. She told National Review and The Hill that it was the third time she has been harassed since 2017. A few months earlier, a woman yelled at her during dinner at a Manhattan restaurant. The year before, while she was about to give a speech, a man dumped water on her head.
Protests like these, that target people’s private lives, are wrong. They violate fundamental principles of civil disobedience, as understood by its most eminent practitioners and theorists. And they threaten the very norms of human decency that Trump and his supporters have done so much to erode.
Unfortunately, they seem to be spreading. The Wednesday before Timpf’s experience at the Brooklyn bar, a dozen or so protesters associated with an anti-fascist group called Smash Racism DC assembled in front of the Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s home. While some of what transpired is disputed, this much is not. The protesters chanted, among other things, “We know where you sleep at night.” One of them knocked three times on the Carlsons’ door. Carlson himself was not home, but his wife locked herself in the pantry and called 911. A protester also spray-painted an anarchist symbol on the Carlsons’ driveway. In a now-deleted tweet, Smash Racism declared that Carlson had “spread fear into our homes” and that “tonight, we remind you that you are not safe either.”
In June, roughly a dozen protesters chanted “shame” and “End family separation” at Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen while she ate dinner with a companion at a Washington restaurant. Later that week, health-care protesters confronted Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi after she left a movie in Tampa Bay. In August, according to the conservative activist Candace Owens, protesters began “harassing and throwing things” at her and a fellow conservative activist, Charlie Kirk, while they ate breakfast in a restaurant in Philadelphia. In September, demonstrators chanting “We believe survivors” chased Ted Cruz and his wife from an Italian restaurant near the Senate. In a recent interview, Carlson said that he can’t go to restaurants anymore because “I get yelled at” and “it just wrecks your meal.”
Conservatives, of course, aren’t the only ones who endure intimidation in their personal lives. Since Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Brett Kavanaugh, harassment has forced her family to move four times, prevented her from returning to work, and required her to hire private security. In October, a Donald Trump supporter sent pipe bombs to the homes of George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Robert De Niro, along with other targets. In June, conservatives grew irate after Representative Maxine Waters told a crowd that “if you see anybody from [Trump’s] cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd, and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” But while Waters urged progressives to intrude upon the private lives of their political opponents, she did not endorse physical attacks, something Trump has done repeatedly.
And the people who scream at Tucker Carlson or Kirstjen Nielsen or Ted Cruz have good reason to be angry. The president of the United States is a bigot. He spreads conspiracy theories; he treats the rule of law with contempt. His policies, whether in Yemen, in Puerto Rico, or on America’s southern border, leave vulnerable people brutalized or dead. Carlson, Nielsen, and Cruz are all—in different ways—Trump’s agents. Nothing they have endured remotely compares to the suffering that they have helped to inflict.
But whatever the merits of the causes they promote, they are embracing methods that are deeply corrosive. It matters how activists oppose a government. When they prevail, the approaches they embraced in opposition to power deeply shape how they exercise it themselves. And the protesters harassing prominent conservatives during their private lives have crossed a dangerous line.
The term civil disobedience was invented by Henry David Thoreau, popularized by Mahatma Gandhi, and defined—most prominently—by the philosopher John Rawls. Rawls called it the “public, non-violent and conscientious breach of law undertaken with the aim of bringing about a change in laws or government policies.”
The recent protests at homes, bars, and restaurants meet some aspects of Rawls’s test, but fail in one key respect. Some have violated the law, while others have skirted its boundaries. And, as Rawls demands, the recent demonstrations have also been largely nonviolent.
The problem is that they are not sufficiently “public” and “conscientious.” By public, Rawls meant that civil disobedience is a form of political argument. Normal criminals try to break the law without anyone knowing about it. People who commit civil disobedience, by contrast, publicize their infractions to dramatize the injustice they seek to change. For civil-rights activists, furtively sneaking a hamburger at a segregated lunch counter served no purpose. The point was to demand service openly, accept arrest, and thus communicate with the public. In his “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty.” In so doing, they “arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice.”
There is a place for private protest. People have the right to quietly refuse to participate in actions they consider immoral—serving in war, for instance—so long as they, too, accept the consequences. Philosophers call this “conscientious objection.” By this standard, Stephanie Wilkinson, who owns the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, was entirely justified in refusing to serve White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders this summer.
But the people who protested outside Carlson’s home, or hounded Nielsen and Cruz in restaurants and Timpf at a bar, were not conscientious objectors. They were not seeking to avoid being implicated in an immoral action. They were seeking to impede people whose actions they consider immoral from conducting their normal lives. Yet they fell short of meeting the standards of civil disobedience. The woman who screamed at Timpf, and the man who doused her with water, communicated no public message at all. The people who protested Carlson at his home, and Nielsen and Cruz at restaurants, did convey a message. They filmed videos and posted social-media statements that conveyed their objections to Carlson’s views on race, Nielsen’s policies towards migrants, and Cruz’s support for Kavanaugh. But they failed in another respect: By obscuring their identities, they refused to take individual responsibility for their actions. When people tried to film them, the demonstrators outside Carlson’s house covered their faces.
Protesting without revealing your identity—even after the fact—is like savaging someone in an anonymous op-ed. You can’t foster honest and meaningful communication with the society you wish to change if you don’t allow people to respond. Showing your face at a protest, like affixing your name on an op-ed, creates a measure of accountability. People think harder about their actions when they know they’ll be forced to answer for them. By protesting openly, King and his supporters took upon themselves a moral rigor that the anti-fascists of the Trump era spurn.
In addition to being insufficiently “public,” the recent protests are insufficiently “conscientious.” They don’t convey what the University of Warwick philosopher Kimberley Brownlee calls a “principled outlook.”
Part of being “conscientious” is ensuring, as much as possible, that protests occur where the injustices are perpetrated. That principle isn’t absolute. It may make sense for NFL players to take a knee before games—rather than in front of police stations—given the massive audience those games enjoy. But there’s no good argument for protesting outside Carlson’s home rather than in front of Fox News, or at a restaurant where Nielsen is eating rather than immigrant-detention centers or the Department of Homeland Security. For one thing, it clouds the message. When sexual-assault survivors descended on the Senate, they were targeting the people empowered to confirm Brett Kavanaugh in the place where they would do it. Their location highlighted their moral appeal. But Ted Cruz doesn’t confirm judges while eating dinner with his wife.
What’s more, protesting in private and semiprivate spaces increases the risk of collateral damage. It’s one thing to inconvenience and embarrass Cruz and his staffers or Carlson and his employees, who have chosen to participate in his public actions. It’s another to inconvenience and embarrass their families. The Smash Racism DC protesters didn’t even make sure Carlson would be home when they gathered outside his house. So their most immediate victim was his wife.
Most importantly, trespassing upon someone’s personal life is, by its nature, intimidating. It threatens the zone of privacy upon which people deeply rely. The protesters know that. In an essay written for ThinkProgress, one of the people at the Carlson protest, Alan Pyke, acknowledges that its point was to make Carlson and his family experience some of the fear that they help inflict upon “marginalized communities.” Pyke writes that “the point … is to unsettle and frighten—and I certainly would have been frightened had it been me in that house.”
The principle is: Turn your enemies’ misdeeds upon them; fight fire with fire. That’s a far cry from King’s insistence, in his Birmingham-jail letter, “that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek.” Or Gandhi’s declaration that “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” Underlying the process that King called “self-purification” is a recognition—which King may have gleaned from Reinhold Niebuhr, a theologian he admired—that everyone is corrupted by self-interest and the lust for power. People aren’t as morally pure as they believe themselves to be. Acknowledging that means accepting limits on the power we assume over others. It means resisting the seductive claim that because our motives are virtuous, we can take liberties we would never grant our adversaries. Because King took pains to ensure that his methods were consistent with his goals, he didn’t have to fear that others might employ those methods as well.
There are, after all, conservatives who sincerely believe that liberals are behaving as monstrously as the Smash Racism DC protesters believe Carlson is behaving. And not all of them are bigots. In evaluating the protests against Carlson, Cruz, Nielsen, and Timpf, liberals should consider the anti-abortion movement. Americans can tolerate a society in which anti-abortionists march and pray in front of abortion clinics. We cannot tolerate a society in which they knock on the door of abortion doctors and tell their families that “we know where you sleep.” We cannot tolerate a society in which anti-abortion demonstrators make it impossible for Rachel Maddow, Elizabeth Warren, and the leaders of Planned Parenthood to go out with their families to eat. Because King sought to convince rather than intimidate, and because his methods reflected a basic respect for the humanity of his political adversaries, we can universalize his protests. We can’t universalize Smash Racism DC’s.
And if liberals and leftists are not moved by appeals to principle or pragmatism, perhaps they will listen to narrow self-interest. If anti-fascists grow accustomed to invading the personal space of Trump’s supporters, they will also invade the personal space of liberals who they do not believe are opposing Trump and his policies vehemently enough. This isn’t a hypothetical concern. In 2017, anti-fascists in Portland camped out in front of the house of Mayor Ted Wheeler, a liberal Democrat. They scattered trash on his lawn and hurled obscenities at his wife and kids. Their objection: Portland had not divested from companies that support the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Anti-fascists might object that the legitimacy of a protest cannot be evaluated in the abstract. The more extreme the injustice, the more extreme the measures that people can take to resist it. There’s something to this. Americans lionize Nelson Mandela, who endorsed armed struggle, because he argued that in apartheid South Africa—which, unlike the United States, made no pretense to racial equality in its founding documents—civil disobedience alone was not enough. Rawls himself argues in A Theory of Justice that his definition of civil disobedience applies to a “more or less democratic state” which “is well-ordered for the most part but in which some serious violations of justice nevertheless do occur.”
Is Trump’s America such a place? That question underlies the debate over the protests targeted at people like Tucker Carlson. But it’s worth remembering that King accepted the restraints of Rawlsian civil disobedience in a segregated south that was, by any reasonable measure, less just and less democratic than America is today. Gandhi did so in colonial India, where he was not even a citizen of the British empire that dominated his life. King and Gandhi’s tactics proved effective, and they shaped the political forces—the Congress Party in India; the Democratic Party in the United States—that they helped bring to power. It is in part because of them that India and the United States are multicultural democracies today.
The people protesting Trump and his allies should remember that. The methods they use now will not only prove more or less effective in checking Trump’s actions. They will help define the progressive alternatives that emerge in his wake. George Kennan once said, “There is a little bit of totalitarian buried somewhere, way down deep, in each and every one of us.” The more power we liberals amass in the years to come, the more we must remember that Kennan’s warning doesn’t only apply to Tucker Carlson. It also applies to the people standing on his lawn.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is condemning a high school band for a football halftime performance that he said was “unacceptable in a civilized society.”
Many are saying the performance Friday night by the band from Forest Hill High School depicted students dressed as doctors and nurses pointing toy guns at SWAT team members prone on the ground, WLBT-TV reported.
Bryant issued his condemnation Saturday in a tweet.
The performance was held at the high school in Brookhaven where two police officers were killed in the line of duty Sept. 29 responding to a call of shots fired, the station reported
Brookhaven’s mayor said the band director was placed on administrative leave, the station reported.
Reports said the performance was based loosely on the movie “John Q,” in which a father played by Denzel Washington takes patients at a hospital hostage in order to secure treatment for his son.
“The band’s performance does not depict the values and people in our community, and was incredibly insensitive to the students, families, law enforcement officials and the entire Brookhaven community,” Jackson superintendent Errick Greene said.
Community outraged over Forest Hill’s “insensitive” band performance at Brookhaven High School
Pictures of the Forest Hill High School halftime band performance during their game against Brookhaven High School are going viral on social media.
He also apologized.
The mayor of Jackson Chokwe Lumumba also released a statement.
“I offer my sincerest regrets to the Brookhaven community for the insensitivity portrayed during the Friday evening halftime show. There is an active investigation into the circumstances that led to this performance,” he said, according to the station.
It was the beginning of just another day in one of the world’s most murderous places.
Cristian Sabino was sitting on a plastic chair by this beach resort’s central market when a gunman walked up and shot him five times. As the 22-year-old dropped to the ground, the assailant fired a final bullet to the head and walked away.
Six more people would be killed that day in Acapulco, including a cabdriver who was hacked to pieces. Death is so much part of the landscape that once police cordoned off the area around Mr. Sabino’s body, some patrons at a nearby rotisserie chicken restaurant stayed to finish their meals.
Acapulco’s days as a tourist resort with a touch of Hollywood glamour seem long ago. In a city of 800,000, 953 people were violently killed last year, more than in Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Portugal and the Netherlands put together.
There were more than 900 murders in Acapulco last year. Violence is so pervasive in this city, once a premier Mexican tourist destination, that criminology has become a thriving new profession. Photo/Video: Jake Nicol/The Wall Street Journal
It’s not just Mexico. There is a murder crisis across much of Latin America and the Caribbean, which today is the world’s most violent region. Every day, more than 400 people are murdered there, a yearly tally of about 145,000 dead.
Nearly one in every four murders around the world takes place in just four countries: Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia. Last year, a record 63,808 people were murdered in Brazil. Mexico also set a record at 31,174, with murders so far this year up another 20%.
The 2016 tally in China, according to the U.N.: 8,634. For the entire European Union: 5,351. The United States: 17,250.
Violent deaths by firearms in 2016
(per 100,000 people)
and Middle East
Note: Deaths resulted from Forces of nature, conflict and terrorism, and executions and police conflict are not included in the calculations.
Source: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington
Crime slows development and spurs migration to the U.S. Violence costs Latin America 3% of annual economic output, on average, twice the level of developed countries, according to a 2016 study by the Inter-American Development Bank. The price tag for crime, which the bank put at between $115 billion and $261 billion, is comparable to the total regional spending on infrastructure, or the income of the poorest third of Latin Americans.
In recent years, growing numbers of families from Central America, including women and children, have fled to the U.S. because of horrific violence. Gangs such as MS-13 and Barrio 18 enforce a reign of terror, dictating even where people can go to school or get medical care. El Salvador’s murder rate of 83 per 100,000 people in 2016—the world’s highest—was nearly 17 times that of the U.S.
A new study by Vanderbilt University shows that the strongest factor in predicting whether someone emigrates from Honduras and El Salvador isn’t age, gender or economic situation, but whether they had been victimized by crime multiple times in the past year. A World Bank study found that nearly a quarter of children in one Honduran municipality suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder due to violence.
At the Acapulco morgue, bodies pile up faster than workers can process them. The morning after Mr. Sabino’s murder, there were already three new victims lying on gurneys awaiting autopsy. A few feet away, 356 bodies that remain unclaimed or unidentified were stuffed into five refrigeration units. The smell of death hung in the air.
A resident of Acapulco’s Primero de Mayo neighborhood eats breakfast while Mexican soldiers and police guard a severed head left on the street.
“We never catch up,” says Ben Yehuda Martínez, the top forensic official for the state of Guerrero, where Acapulco is located. “While we’re trying to clear the first set of bodies, another set of bodies arrives.”
Just this week, Mr. Martínez’s counterpart in the state of Jalisco was fired after it emerged that two trailer trucks filled with more than 150 cadavers each were roaming Mexico’s second-largest city of Guadalajara for days because the local morgue was too full. Officials admitted the trucks contained corpses after neighbors complained of the smell and dripping blood.
Mr. Martínez, 60, has seen it all. His very first case as a young forensic specialist in the nearby city of Iguala was the 1997 autopsy of two doctors who had botched a plastic surgery operation, accidentally killing drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes. Their bodies, encased in cement, were found on the side of the Mexico City-to-Acapulco highway. Mr. Martínez’s verdict: They were both asphyxiated with a tourniquet.
Mr. Martínez says he hasn’t ever become used to seeing children killed. “Before, criminals never killed kids. But now I do autopsies on 7- or 8-year-olds,” he says. He teaches chemistry and biology at a local college. “I’ve had the shock of having to autopsy quite a few of my former students.”
Up to 10% of the cadavers that arrive are never claimed. No one files a police report or bothers to pick up the body. Other times, there is no way to identify a corpse: “We sometimes get only a leg or a head to work with,” he says.
Latin America accounts for 43 of the 50 most murderous cities, including the entire top 10, according to the Igarapé Institute, a Brazilian think tank that focuses on violence. South Africa and the U.S.—where St. Louis ranks No. 19—are the only countries outside Latin America that crack the top 50.
Mexican soldiers and police guard a severed head which was left as a message between rival drug cartels.
At current murder rates, if you live in Acapulco (or Caracas, Venezuela, or San Salvador) for 70 years, there is a roughly 1-in-10 chance you will get murdered.
Between 2000 and 2017, roughly 2.5 million people were murdered in Latin America and the Caribbean, as if Chicago were wiped out. That compares with about 900,000 killed in the armed conflicts of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan combined, according to U.N. figures and estimates by groups like Iraq Body Count.
During that same period, all the world’s terrorist attacks killed 243,000 people, according to the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database.
“Large swaths of Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and Venezuela are experiencing a war in all but name,” says Robert Muggah, head of the Igarapé Institute.
The vast majority of victims and perpetrators are young men, killed mostly by gunshot. A vital Twitter feed in Rio de Janeiro is “Onde Tem Tiroteo,” or “Where’s the Shootout?” which tells motorists which parts of the city to avoid. Some recent entries: “A grenade was thrown on the pedestrian bridge near Zuzu Angel Tunnel.” “Shots on 2nd Street in Rocinha, police base under shooting attack.”
Shockingly, 1,379 babies under one year of age died violently in Brazil between 2000 and 2015, according to government statistics. Nearly 30,000 victims in Brazil were over 60 years old.
Gabriela Victoria’s daughter Erica was kidnapped and murdered by long-time acquaintances from her Acapulco neighborhood.
Six-year-old Elias Victoria with a photo of his older sister Erica.
Mexico’s murder tally may be underreported because many victims are tossed into unmarked graves, burned or put through sugar-cane grinders. In Tijuana, Santiago Meza confessed to dissolving more than 300 people in acid for a local cartel, earning the nickname “Pozolero,” or soup maker. The state of Coahuila, once under the control of the hyperviolent Zetas drug cartel, holds some 103,000 bone fragments belonging to unidentified bodies.
The sheer number of the missing could outnumber better-known cases of “disappeared” in Latin America’s sometimes bloody history, including Argentina’s Dirty War against leftists in the late 1970s.
Mexico has become a nation of unmarked graves where a small army of grieving mothers financed by bake sales search for their missing children. Their technology: They hire construction workers to hammer steel rods 6 feet into the ground, and then sniff the ends. If it smells of death, then it’s probably an unmarked grave. The government gives little support.
“It’s an interminable search,” says Guadalupe Contreras, one such searcher. “Today you find 20. Tomorrow, they bury another 20 somewhere else.” This month, the state of Veracruz discovered a mass grave with 168 skulls.
While murder rates are falling in most of the world, in Latin America the number of murders has grown about 3.7% a year since 2000, three times faster than the population, according to the Igarapé Institute. The region’s murder rate, at about 24 per 100,000 right now, will hit 35 per 100,000 by 2030 if the trend isn’t reversed.
Crime affects everyday life. About half of respondents in Latin America said they stopped going out at night, while more than 1-in-10 said they had moved due to the fear of violence, according to a survey from the U.N. Considering Latin America’s population, that’s more than 62 million people who felt the need to change homes.
Once the party spot of choice for the wealthy and famous, Acapulco has descended into disrepair and despair.
How did it get this bad?
Latin America was colonized violently and had bloody wars of independence. It has the world’s biggest gap between rich and poor, fueling resentment. Large parts of the economy are “informal,” street markets and family-run businesses that operate outside government control and pay no taxes, creating a culture of skirting the law. It has powerful groups of organized crime like Mexican drug cartels, and weak states riddled with corruption.
Demographics play a role: Latin America has more young people than most other regions, making for too many young men chasing too few quality jobs. And it has weak educational systems. Only 27% of Brazilians aged 25 or older have completed high school, according to government figures.
Much of Latin America also urbanized rapidly without services such as schooling and policing, creating belts of excluded groups around cities. Migration may have made matters worse. The percentage of single-parent homes in Mexico and Central America has grown rapidly over the past 20 years.
Latin America is also awash in guns, most of them held illegally. Nearly 78% of murders in Central America between 2000 and 2015 were caused by guns, compared with a global average of 32%, according to the Igarapé Institute. (In the U.S., it is around 73%.)
Latin America’s share of global population and homicides
Source: Igarape Institute
These factors create vicious cycles. Laura Chioda, a researcher at the World Bank, found that as many as 40% of young people in Honduras suffer from some form of depression due to the violence. “Now, imagine them at school,” she asks. “Can you teach calculus to someone with that level of trauma?” Many drop out and join the informal economy, where they won’t have a salary, training or career prospects. “Once there, they find this parallel structure of crime that provides jobs, services and an identity,” she says.
Marcelo Bergman, a sociologist who runs the Latin America Violence Research Center in Buenos Aires, thinks the informal economy plays a role. He says much of rising income at a time of economic growth among the region’s poor since 2000 went to consumption in the informal economy, creating more demand for stolen car parts, knockoff clothing and pirated movies. That gave more power to the mafias that supply them.
Latin America’s powerful mafias come from two accidents of geography: One is sitting next to the world’s biggest market for illegal drugs, the U.S., and the other is being the only region in the world to grow the coca plant, the main ingredient in cocaine, which remains among the world’s most profitable drugs. Organized crime accounts for about two-thirds of Mexico’s murders, experts say.
Mexico’s Independence Day celebrations on the night of Sept. 15 were marred when gunmen dressed as mariachi singers entered the city’s fabled Garibaldi plaza and gunned down five people, allegedly in a dispute over local drug sales.
Organized crime doesn’t explain all the violence, however. In Colombia, for instance, it accounts for anywhere from a quarter to half of crimes, government officials estimate. Latin America also has high rates of interpersonal and family violence. Colombian officials say the most murderous day of every year in Colombia is Mother’s Day, when revelers get drunk. Next on the list: New Year’s and Christmas.
Mexican state police stop cars to search for firearms after cartel members fired on a taxi stop.
Latin America wasn’t always the most murderous region in the world. In the 1950s, Singapore and Caracas had very similar murder rates, between 6 to 10 per 100,000 residents, according to Manuel Eisner, who studies historical levels of violence at the Violence Research Centre in Cambridge, U.K.
At the time, Singapore suffered from gangs, prostitution, drug trafficking and corruption. But after independence in 1962, authoritarian Lee Kwan Yew enforced rule of law, boosted education, and created a culture of working hard and achievement, and ensured social integration. “It wasn’t all coercion—there was a caring element,” says Mr. Eisner.
Nowadays, Singapore’s murder rate is 0.4 per 100,000 residents. In Caracas, the government doesn’t bother to count. The nongovernmental Venezuelan Violence Observatory estimates the country’s murder rate is roughly 110 per 100,000—about 34,000 a year.
Not all of Latin America has this problem. Chile’s murder rate of 3.6 per 100,000 sits well below the U.S. The state of Yucatán in Mexico has a similarly low murder rate. Even within cities, crime is concentrated: Half of all crime in Bogotá, Colombia, takes place in just 2% of the city. That makes good policing crucial to lowering violence.
But with some exceptions such as Chile, and increasingly Colombia, Latin America has largely failed to build strong legal institutions. Less than 20% of homicides in the region are solved. In Mexico, the figure is below 10%. Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office, the country’s version of the FBI, investigated more than 600 murder cases linked to organized crime in the past eight years. It won a guilty verdict in just two. That kind of impunity literally means that you can get away with murder.
When impunity is high, people take justice into their own hands. In mid-May, locals in the town of Miravalle in southern Mexico grabbed three men accused of holding up an elderly woman and burned them alive. No arrests were made in the case, state officials say.
A 10-year study of murder cases in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte found that police investigations lasted an average of 500 days, the average trial lasted 10 years and in a quarter of the cases the statute of limitations ran out—allowing the suspect to go free. Some 7% of suspects were slain before their sentence was handed out, in many cases by families of victims tired of waiting for justice.
Latin American prisons, the most overcrowded in the world, breed violence. Wardens have little control. The murder rate in Latin American prisons is 16 per 100,000—by far the world’s highest, according to U.N. figures. In two of the most chaotic prison systems—in Venezuela and Brazil—hundreds of prisoners die in gang fights each year and warlord inmates run vast drug-trafficking outfits that, on the outside, control swaths of territory.
The prison system is so weak that Colombia’s Pablo Escobar was allowed to build his own jail in the early 1990s, and Mexican kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman escaped twice from a maximum-security prison.
The spread of democracy in the 1990s across the region has had a perverse effect. Authoritarian states have an easier time controlling organized crime and violence. Many parts of Latin America got democracy before the rule of law; parts of Asia got the rule of law without democracy. Cuba, the hemisphere’s lone communist state, has a homicide rate estimated at about 4 per 100,000 residents.
Democracy in places such as Mexico disrupted existing arrangements between governments and organized crime that allowed for a pax mafiosa, says Eduardo Guerrero, a Mexican violence researcher. State governors would allow drug gangs to ferry narcotics to the U.S. in exchange for money and a promise to keep violence in check, not sell drugs near schools and reinvest some of the profits locally. The marketplace for votes upset those arrangements.
“None of these governors had bothered to build capable police forces because they relied on these arrangements,” he says. “But when the arrangements broke apart, they didn’t have any way to control the violence.”
In many ways, Acapulco is a perfect metaphor for Latin America’s broader failures. It is a place of stunning beauty spoiled by the same factors that fuel violence across the region: inequality, rapid and unplanned urbanization, lack of good institutions from education to police, deeply rooted corruption and an anything-goes attitude to the law.
Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra and John Wayne were regulars here during the resort’s heyday in the 1940s and 1950s. Two American presidents—John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton—made it their honeymoon destination. Later on, for more daring tourists, Acapulco was the place they could do what they couldn’t back home. Marijuana and cocaine were easily available at discos and from taxi drivers, and prostitution thrived, with brothels sitting just a block from the main strip.
“Acapulco was a place where tourists were allowed to do anything. So it’s not that surprising that locals also began to view the place as a city where there were no rules,” says Elisabet Sabartes, a Spanish journalist who is writing a book on the city’s violence. During the four years she has lived there, five acquaintances have been murdered.
A mural depicting a more prosperous time in Acapulco at a now-empty beach.
As the drug war escalated, the tourist-dependent economy of Acapulco quickly declined and many large construction projects were left unfinished or abandoned.
Despite opium fields in the nearby mountains, violence here only took off in 2006, when the drug gang that controlled Guerrero split into two rival groups. It got worse in 2011, when Mexican marines killed kingpin Arturo Beltran Leyva, prompting further splits. Nowadays, more than two dozen rival gangs fight for control of the city’s criminal market.
Many no longer have the clout to carry out big drug deals, so they turn to other activities such as extortion. Practically every business in Acapulco pays. Father Jesus Mendoza, a priest, says some of his colleagues get extorted, and gangs have stolen church bells from some parishes to sell for the copper. The effect on business has been predictably bad. No new hotel has been built in more than a decade.
“The only thriving businesses around here are funeral homes,” says Laura Caballero, the head of a shopkeeper association. She closed her eight shops along the city’s main beachfront avenue three years ago due to monthly extortion demands that reached $800 per store. She says several fellow shopkeepers who refused to pay were killed.
The police have been incapable of stopping the violence. In 2014, most members of Acapulco’s police force were given a battery of tests to see if they were honest, including psychological profiles and lie-detector tests. Some 700 out of 1,100 failed.
When the Acapulco mayor at the time tried to fire the cops who failed, the entire police force walked off the job for 11 months. He backtracked. During the walkout, crime actually fell slightly. Scores of police who failed the test are still on the job, say security experts and former policemen.
In 2014, Mexico was outraged when local police in Iguala, another city in the same state, handed over 43 college kids to a drug gang, who are believed to have incinerated the teens. Most experts think the students accidentally commandeered a passenger bus that had heroin on it heading for the U.S., and police, in the pay of a local drug gang, thought the kids belonged to a rival cartel.
Acapulco’s police chief, Max Sedano, failed his recent lie-detector test, according to a local opposition-party congressman, Ricardo Mejia. Mr. Sedano, who remains in his post, told local journalists he didn’t know if he failed the test. The tests, usually done by federal officials, are confidential, and by law only the municipalities can fire their own officials. Mr. Sedano declined to be interviewed for this article.
“It’s not right that the police here aren’t in charge. The cartels are in charge,” says a 17-year veteran of Acapulco’s police force who quit in disgust last year.
Lesly Mariana Reyes sits on her mother Penelope’s childhood bed on a visit to see her grandmother. Penelope disappeared without a trace after a shift at her work as a manager of a local bank.
Fliers and family pictures of Penelope Elizabeth Reyes.
There is a saying in Acapulco: If you want to be an old cop, look the other way.
In the hours after Mr. Sabino was murdered in Acapulco’s market recently, a local detective turned up, wearing a crocodile-skin belt and dark glasses. He asked no questions of witnesses. After the body was picked up by a forensic team, the detective left.
The violence in Acapulco has created a dystopia where social norms have broken down. Growing numbers of children drop out of school. Fewer go to church. Many hit men and teens worship La Santa Muerte, the cult of death represented by a grim reaper. A less toxic version is St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes. Mr. Sabino’s body had a tattoo of St. Jude, according to the autopsy report.
Perhaps the most notorious crime in Acapulco in recent years was the kidnap and murder of at least 10 teenagers by a gang of students who attended a local university. The gang targeted acquaintances, including classmates and friends from high school. One gang member had his own girlfriend abducted and killed. Members of the gang, after collecting ransom money and still killing their hostages, would even go to their victims’ funerals and mourn with the parents.
“What kinds of people do these things?” asked Elsa Ceballos, whose 19-year-old son was strangled by the kidnap gang.
At an Acapulco criminology college called Centro Forense, nearly every student in a ballistics class raises their hand when asked if they have been affected by violence. Conin Pascual’s father was killed. Luis Rodríguez’s cousin, a cabdriver, was hacked to pieces.
Carlos Kevin, 19, saw his first dead bodies at age 13, when he arrived at his middle school and there were two mangled bodies on the street.
“There are no cops in our neighborhoods and when there is a killing, they don’t want to investigate,” said Anitxa Gutierrez, who was 14 when a shootout left bullet holes in her family’s living room.
Santiago García, an eighth-grade teacher, says he tries to teach the students values in a society where social norms are breaking down. He also teaches them boxing so they can manage their anger.
Santiago García teaches his students boxing to give them an outlet for their frustrations.
“In the past, when kids got a failing grade, parents would ask how they could help. Now, I’ve had parents threaten to kill me or hire a hit man if I don’t pass their children,” he says.
Mr. García says between 30 and 40 kids didn’t return for this school year, in large part because their parents were threatened, a family member had already been killed, or the kids were being forced by gangs to sell drugs at the school. In many cases, the families simply left Acapulco.
Across the street from Mr. García’s middle school stands a pink house that was used by a gang to hold hostages. One day, during school hours, it was raided by marines, who pulled out several human remains. On another recent morning, a sixth-grader entered school crying, saying he had just found his uncle’s dead body outside the school gates.
“We ask the kids, where do you see yourselves in 20 years, and some say, ‘Carrying an AK-47!’ ” says Mr. García. Locals share videos of killings posted by local gangs. One recent video showed a teen being sliced open and his beating heart taken out.
Javier Morlett is an Acapulco native who knows the city better than anyone. His father was mayor in the 1960s and Mr. Morlett ran both the city’s airport and port at various stages in his career. In 2012, his 21-year-old daughter, who was studying at Mexico’s leading public university in Mexico City, was abducted. After an agonizing two-year search, he found her remains. The crime was never solved.
“I don’t think we can solve this,” he says of the violence. “This place was paradise, but we’ve turned it into an inferno.”
Historically an area where wealthy Americans would have their yachts repaired, Playa Manzanillo has now become known for the bodies that wash up on its shores, victims of Mexico’s drug violence.
In two instances, “school officials did not follow the requirements of Florida statute or federal laws governing students with disabilities”
Following the Parkland shooting that left 17 people dead, the Broward County School District commissioned an independent review. The review, conducted by the Collaborative Educational Network of Tallahassee, found that the shooter was inappropriately denied special needs accommodations at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
In the year leading up to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killer Nikolas Cruz was stripped of the therapeutic services disabled students need, leaving him to navigate his schooling as a regular student despite mounds of evidence that he wasn’t.
When he asked to return to a special education campus, school officials fumbled his request.
Those conclusions were revealed Friday in a consultant’s report commissioned by the Broward public school system. Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer ordered that the report be released publicly, but with nearly two-thirds of the content blacked out.
The school district said the alterations were needed to comply with the shooter’s privacy rights, but the method the district used to conceal the text failed. The blacked-out text became visible when pasted into another computer file.
The consultant found two specific instances of failure by the school officials.
The Sun Sentinel continues:
Without directly criticizing the schools, the consultant, the Collaborative Educational Network of Tallahassee, recommended that the district reconsider how cases like Cruz’s are handled. The recommendations suggest that Cruz could have been offered more help in his final two years in high school, leading up to the Feb. 14 shooting.
Whether that would have changed the outcome is impossible to know.
The consultant found that the district largely followed the laws, providing special education to the shooter starting when he was 3 years old and had already been kicked out of day care. But “two specific instances were identified,” the report says, where school officials did not follow the requirements of Florida statute or federal laws governing students with disabilities.
— School officials misstated Cruz’s options when he was faced with being removed from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School his junior year, leading him to refuse special education services.
— When Cruz asked to return to the therapeutic environment of Cross Creek School for special education students, the district “did not follow through,” the report reveals.
The school’s misstatement regarding Cruz’s options resulted in his having no special needs care for over year before his deadly rampage. Even classified as a general admission student, however, he should have had access to school counseling and related mental health services.
School officials misstated Cruz’s options when he was faced with removal from the Florida high school his junior, which led him to refuse special education services, according to the report.
When Cruz was asked to return to the therapeutic environment of Cross Creek School for special education students, the district “did not follow through,” the report said.
“Upon entering the room and seeing the Cross Creek representatives, the student immediately became upset and verbally aggressive. He refused to sit at the table, angrily repeating that he would not go back to Cross Creek and that he wanted only to stay at Stoneman. He intended to graduate from the school,” the report said, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
. . . Three days after he was forced by the district to withdraw from Stoneman Douglas High, he purchased an AR-15 rifle. Then, a year after his ejection from the school, he returned for the mass shooting.
The district treated him “like a general education student” for his final two years, but even those students should have access to counseling and mental health services, the report said.
The shooter’s attorneys call the report an attempt to “whitewash” the failings of the school and of the school district.
Fox News continues:
But Cruz’s attorneys called the report a “whitewash” commissioned by the district to absolve it of responsibility for its handling of Cruz’s psychological problems, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
“I think that the report is an attempt by the school board to absolve itself of any liability or responsibility for all the missed opportunities that they had in this matter,” said Gordon Weekes, the chief assistant public defender.
Ask anyone who has worked in some of America’s failing public schools and nearly all of them will tell you the same thing: The biggest problem isn’t the quality of the teachers. It’s the behavior of the kids; angry, disruptive, disrespectful kids whose behavior is out of control. This is true not only in the poor schools in the inner cities, but in schools in the largely white rural parts of the US as well. The kids themselves are only partly to blame — students, after all, are what adults make them.
One kid called me an “Urkel-looking motherf–ker.” That part was the kid’s fault (or maybe that of his parents). But what happened next wasn’t. I called the hall monitor and had him taken to the principal’s office. But soon after, he came back into my class with a note that read, “Okay to return to class.” There was no apology, no detention, no one called at home. He didn’t have to write a letter explaining why he’d erupted so angrily, and he most certainly wasn’t suspended.
This was the fault of the adults in the school. In the course of a generation, this behavior from kids — coupled with either no reaction or an overreaction by adults — has gotten worse.
It wasn’t always thus.
After a particularly difficult day, a teacher who had also attended the school as a teenager remarked to me, “This school was always tough, but we used to fight each other; [now] they fight the teacher.”
What happened between the time that teacher (and I) were kids to now to mark such a dramatic shift? I spent a year trying to unlock that mystery.
One culprit is the United Nations, and the notion of children’s rights.
My first encounter with the idea of children’s rights was at a middle school where the students were so unruly that at least a half-dozen teachers had quit from exhaustion, including the one for whom I was substituting. A group of kids was roughhousing and cursing as others were trying to complete work. Because of one student’s foul language and because he’d launched an eraser in my general direction, I threatened to hold him in for recess — a punishment teachers have been doling out to kids since recess was invented.
But he and his friends, none more than 5 feet tall, told me that I couldn’t do that because they “have a right to play.” Having schooled me to their satisfaction, they promptly went back to swinging from the rafters and ignoring anything else I said that day.
I thought it was a joke until the assistant principal reprimanded me when I tried to make good on my threat.
An international treaty called the Convention of the Rights of the Child, which was adopted in 1989, defined the notion of what a child is and is not entitled to. It would become the most ratified treaty in UN history. The treaty is smart and wise in many ways, insisting that children have a right to shelter and the right to be protected in war. My favorite part states that children have a right to a name. That’s both beautiful and sad: Imagine what it must be like to be a child and have never been given a name.
But it doesn’t end there.
The UN treaty insists that young people be given the right to freedom of speech and the right to practice their own religion or no religion as they see fit. (I shudder to think what would have happened had I told my preacher father that I had a right not to go to church when he was dragging me out of bed on Sunday mornings.)
Maybe you think that 30-year international law — which, by the way, the US never ratified — has had no impact on America’s public schools. Think again. Article 31 says, “State Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child.” There it is: the right to play. Schools have taken it upon themselves to spread to these students that they have inalienable right to play, even when they misbehave — and the kids have taken it up with gusto.
Legislators in California have been trying to pass a children’s rights bill similar to the UN treaty, enshrining at the state level what Congress refused to do 30 years ago.
In another instance, I tried to send a kid to the office for being disruptive. Surely that wasn’t outlawed? Wrong again. An administrator chastised me that they don’t allow teachers to send disruptive students to the office. Instead, they “let the students decide when they want to take a break,” because, according to her, sending students to the office takes away the student’s autonomy.
The policy was specific to that school, not a politically organized desire to follow the convention, but the effect was powerful nonetheless — and poorly reasoned. Since when has a middle-schooler who is having the time of his life with his friends and ignoring everything a teacher says, suddenly stopped and thought, “You know what, let me step outside on a break and then go back in and focus on the homework I didn’t do last night”?
I don’t want to overstate the issue. There are more factors at play than just a UN charter — including the rise of charter schools and the elimination of basic forms of discipline like detention and suspension.
The adolescent chaos that comes from economically depressed communities has many sources. We are all rightly horrified by the extreme punishments meted out to students by aggressive adults: a kid thrown to the ground by a cop simply because she refused to surrender her phone, another kid put in juvenile detention for four days because of a dress-code violation. But going too far in the other direction — allowing kids greater freedoms without thinking of the unintended consequences — makes them into adults before they are ready to think and behave as adults.
This is surely what led former dean of Harvard Law School Martha Minow to write that “advocates of children’s rights use the same rights . . . to place them in the same legal category as adults.” Turning kids into adults in this way, and allowing them to behave however they choose without reasonable consequences for those actions, turns children into slaves of their impulses. This is the opposite of freedom.
One New Jersey charter school’s decision to turn away students on the first day of classes for seemingly minor dress code violations has outraged many, both within and beyond the school community.
On August 27, reportedly “half” of the high schoolers enrolled at Marion P. Thomas Charter School in Newark were dismissed upon arrival for their first day of classes for being out of uniform, NJ.com reports.
As the students proceeded to gather at a nearby park, local basketball coach Ma’at Mys spotted the group and paused the youth basketball camp he was running to investigate what happened.
“Marion P Thomas locked their doors to students who don’t have belts or all black shoes,” Mys wrote in a Facebook post with footage he captured at the time of conversations between himself and the Thomas students. “This is how charter schools help high risk children. If you have a child at the school, reach out to them.”
The clip has since gone viral with over 121,000 views and sparked great debate on the social platform.
While some Facebook commenters voiced support for the teens’ dismissal over the uniform abuses, others were furious that the students were refused entry – on the first day of classes – and were effectively locked out of the building.
Meanwhile, Interim Chief School Administrator Misha Simmonds told NJ.com that parents were immediately contacted if their child had been dismissed, and that school officials soon acknowledged that “turning students away wasn’t the best approach for student safety.”
School administrators issued a letter next day that did not apologize for the incident but explained the logic behind the controversial decision.
“Since its inception, Marion P. Thomas Charter School has had a uniform policy. The policy is intended to help our school promote a more effective learning environment, foster school unity and bridge socioeconomic differences between children. Wearing a uniform teaches students appropriate dress and decorum in school, helps to improve student conduct and discipline and prepares them for their future workplace,” the statement read.
“Our high school team wanted to ensure our students complied with this policy, for all of the reasons aforementioned. Their best intentions led to some students being asked to return home. We have communicated with our families who were impacted by this decision.
“While we realize school policies are important, we recognize that our students’ well-being is our utmost importance. Therefore, we have implemented a process that will not compromise the safety of our high school students.”
Moving forward, the Thomas school has launched a fundraiser to gather regulation uniforms, footwear and accessories to “stock an emergency closet for our students.” In addition, Thomas students have been provided black tape to conceal any white detailing on their school shoes, Yahoo Lifestyle reports.