Turn a wall on its side, and you have a bridge. Of course, as Miller knows too well after covering border issues for 15 years, it’s not that simple. The world is suffering from a severe case of “wall sickness,” which fuels and is fueled by nationalism and xenophobia, afflicts nearly everyone whether they work or live near a border or not, diverts resources from, for instance, fighting climate change, to criminalizing climate refugees, and has caused the number of border walls worldwide since 1989 to grow from 15 to 70-plus. Focusing on Southwest desert crossings, Miller draws on a wide range of statistics, analysis, and, most powerfully, interviews with border agents, activists, refugees, and their families to examine arguments for and against open borders. Offering water to a dehydrated man, listening to a father’s anguish over a missing daughter, and recounting an agent’s epiphany when he watched an injured teenager die, Miller argues for the value of our common humanity, showing how we could reinvent the world by replacing competition with cooperation; as with Covid, to heal the ills of discrimination and division, we need to work together for everyone’s benefit.
We often use the word "cancer" as a metaphor for society's greatest ills, for deep-seated perils invisible to the naked eye. But what of cancer itself? If you know where to look, so-called "cancer clusters" are as pervasive and permeative in vulnerable populations as the tumors of poverty, classism, environmental injustice, racism, corruption, etc...The evils are cumulative, just like the toxins that are silently spreading into our watersheds, ecosystems, food chains, blood streams, and bloodlines. In this long-overdue biopsy, Arsenault blends investigative journalism, personal narrative, memoir, history, scientific research, and political commentary in a haunting diagnosis of our malignant future.
Small is an anthropologist, but her revealing examination of the lives of the homeless is less an objective study of “them” than an effort to “open windows of clarity and compassion” and so enable people to work together to find solutions to a problem that affects and implicates everyone. Making the rounds of shelters, pawnshops, government services offices, and food pantries with Ross, a former homeless military vet she got to know in the eponymous dog park, Small sees first-hand the travails of “the human fallout of our economic system,” and comes to understand homelessness as not “an aberration” due to individual circumstances and decisions but the “product” of the way we—all of us—live today.