Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.


Why We Need Poets

The most poignant and searing reporting I have read on the Islamic State’s treatment of hostages was written by a poet. Rukmini Callimachi is a Romanian-American poet and journalist who has covered the aftermath of Katrina, hunger in West Africa and al-Qaeda. Yesterday The New York Times published her article on the two-year ordeal and last days of James Foley – and the other 22 hostages held by ISIS in Syria. In it, Callimachi transcends the video pornography of much current Middle East reporting to focus on the human tragedy of the hostages. In doing so, she confronts the absolute evil of ISIS. This is why we need poets. It is remarkable to see the hostages, who often have only their suffering in common, build a community and tell stories to survive under the most awful conditions – as humans have done over and over again in the face of evil. For there is no other word to describe ISIS. This is not about cultural differences or historical grievances. It is an assault on our definition of humanity – infinitely more so when we realize that films of good people being beheaded have become tools for enlisting fighters from across the globe. Almost all those kidnapped have been aid workers and journalists, people who came to help the afflicted and inform the world. Some say they shouldn’t be there, that they are pawns in a deadly game. I think they embody the human kindness and courage that ISIS seeks to destroy.

Partying in Pyongyang

Affirming Life