Newsletter #171: Leaving Barrio 18


Happy Thursday, loyal readers! Today’s issue includes insightful pieces on the horrors of gang life in El Salvador, the absurdities of online life in the United States, the effects of systemic racism on Black people, and the challenges of first-year teachers in Great Britain. If you have time to read just one article, I recommend the second one, “Nothing On This Page Is Real.” It’s brilliant and disturbing, and if you’re still on Facebook (despite its many problems), it might convince you to quit. Please enjoy!

HHH #8 is one week away, and already, 20 loyal readers have bought their free tickets. I look forward to seeing you all there! If you’re a maybe, get over that hump and join us. You’ll like it.

Leaving Barrio 18

Benjamin joined Barrio 18 in El Salvador when he was 12. To join the gang, he had to kill another boy. Now it’s a decade later, and after killing dozens of his MS-13 rivals, Benjamin wants out. For most of the 60,000 gang members in El Salvador, this isn’t option. But Benjamin is lucky — that is, until he finds out that life outside the gang isn’t any better than it is inside. Lonely and ostracized, Benjamin spends his days smoking weed, looking for work, mostly staying indoors, and always watching his back. (29 min)   

Nothing On This Page Is Real: How Lies Become Truth in Online America

Christopher Blair is a 46-year-old liberal who sits at his computer all day and makes a good living writing fake news stories on Facebook to anger and hoodwink conservatives. Shirley Chapian is a 76-year-old conservative who spends most of her day reading and liking stories she reads on Facebook, keeping watch over the travesties happening in our country. This article incisively captures who we are as Americans right now. (It’s not pretty.) (15 min)

+ What do you think? Is there any silver lining here, any space for empathy? Would your feelings be different if Christopher were conservative? Or if Shirley were younger? Hit reply and let me know.

On Privilege, Power, And Race: A Conversation with Ijeoma Oluo

I like Ijeoma Oluo because she speaks plainly and unapologetically to white liberals. If you’re white and you haven’t read So You Want to Talk About Race, please do so. In this interview, Ms. Oluo thoughtfully explores a number of topics, including tone policingmicroaggressionsintersectionalityaffirmative action, and how racism “isn’t just Nazis marching in the street.” (41 min)

The Challenges of First-Year Teachers

If you’re not a teacher, or if you’ve taught for a long time, it’s impossible to appreciate how incredibly demanding it is to survive your first year. (M&M’sgot me through.) This British TV show follows six young teachers in London trying to find their way. In particular, the scenes with Charles and his 15-year-old student Caleb are cringeworthy — and immediately familiar. (64 min)

+ New Subscriber Contest Update: I’m happy to announce that Erin is the champion of this year’s competition! She’ll receive her magnificent grand prize at HHH next Thursday. I am grateful to everyone who encouraged their friends and family to join our community. We’re 50 loyal readers stronger now!

Thank you for reading this week’s issue of The Highlighter. Please hit reply or use the thumbs below to tell me what you thought. Also, let’s welcome this week’s new subscribers Kevin, Jad, Catalin, and 7 others, who joined via Stoop, a great new app for people who love newsletters but hate email. If you value The Highlighter, please:

I really appreciate your support. On the other hand, if you don’t look forward to this newsletter, please unsubscribe. I’ll see you back here next Thursday at 9:10 am. Have a great week!