The story about Bessie Goldberg that I heard from my parents was that a nice old lady had been killed down the street and an innocent black man went to prison for the crime. Meanwhile–unknown to anyone–a violent psychopath named Al was working alone at our house all day and probably committed the murder. In our family this story eventually acquired the tidy symbolism of a folk tale. Roy Smith was a stand-in for everything that was decent but utterly defenseless. Albert DeSalvo, of course, was a stand-in for pure random evil.

Women tend to act heroically within their own moral universe, regardless of whether anyone else knows about it – donating more kidneys to nonrelatives than men do, for example. Men, on the other hand, are far more likely to risk their lives at a moment’s notice, and that reaction is particularly strong when others are watching, or when they are part of a group.

The human concern for others would seem to be the one story that, adequately told, no person can fully bear to hear. Joanna’s

humans have dragged a body with a long hominid history into an overfed, malnourished, sedentary, sunlight-deficient, sleep-deprived, competitive, inequitable, and socially-isolating environment with dire consequences.

A SOFT fall rain slips down through the trees and the smell of ocean is so strong that it can almost be licked off the air.

Gang shootings-as indiscriminate as they often are-still don’t have the nihilistic intent of rampages. Rather, they are rooted in an exceedingly strong sense of group loyalty and revenge, and bystanders sometimes get killed in the process.

The fight lasts ten or fifteen minutes and then the A-10s show up and tilt into their dives. Ninety rounds a second the size of beer cans unzipping the mountainsides with a sound like the sky ripping. The men look up and whoop when they hear it, a punishment so unnegotiable it might as well have come from God.

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