The haunting reason these sculptures were designed to sink slowly into the mud.

This ghostly statue marks the site of a often overlooked, but devastating natural disaster — one that is sadly still ongoing.

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.


In 2006, steaming hot mud erupted, without warning, from a rice paddy in eastern Java, Indonesia, sweeping through a dozen nearby villages.

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

20 people were killed, and thousands more were forced to flee their homes permanently.

Footprints in a house overwhelmed by the mud flow. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

The statues were erected by sculptor Dadang Christanto in 2014 to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the tragedy.

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

Since they were installed, the sculptures have have been sinking slowly — by design.

"They were not in mud when they started," Christanto told Australia's Saturday Paper in 2015. "And in one year they are nearly submerged. They will disappear. It is not just the environmental disaster but the social disaster."

May 30, 2016, marked the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the deadly mud flow.

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

While there have been no more fatalities, mud continues to pour out of the volcano to this day.

There's also strong evidence that the disaster was manmade.

Activists stage a protest on the fifth anniversary of the disaster. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

A 2015 report published in Nature argues that the gas needed to trigger the eruption could only have been unearthed by a nearby oil and gas drilling operation.

"We're now 99 percent confident that the drilling hypothesis is valid," Mark Tingay, the paper's lead author, told The New York Times.

(Other experts continue to disagree, arguing that the mud flow could have been caused by an earthquake.)

Like the Deepwater Horizon spill, this eruption demonstrates how lack of attention to the potential side effects of drilling can have disastrous consequences.

The nearly 40,000 Java residents who were forced to flee their homes have endured an often painful resettlement process. Many initially took shelter wherever they could find it — often in local markets.

"We couldn't shower, we couldn't wash our clothes," Sadli, a factory worker who was displaced by the mud flow, told the Chicago Tribune. "For every toilet, there were dozens of people constantly in line."

Some victims were eventually compensated. Others are still waiting.

When Lapindo, the company in charge of the drill operation allegedly responsible for the eruption, proposed installing two new wells near the site of the disaster, protests erupted and shut down the project.

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

That isn't to say we should stop drilling for oil and gas altogether.

Icky as oil can be, we need it for the time being, and natural gas can be an alternative to far dirtier sources of power.

But the statues serve as a kind of warning: When we mess with nature without taking the proper precautions, we don't just put our environment at risk.

An artist paints at the site of the sinking statues. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

We put ourselves at risk too.

Photo by Brian Wertheim on Unsplash

Politics has always been a mixed bag of genuine discussions about governance, inane partisan bickering, and ongoing struggles for power. As much as I wish we could engage in the first more often, it feels like politics in America has become far more of the latter.

Within those partisan power struggles, the language of politics gets skewed and molded to fit specific purposes. Sometimes, phrases are used as dog whistles calling on people's prejudices. Far too often, the manipulation of words and their meanings—political rhetoric—renders certain terms meaningless as they get tossed around without nuance or context. Ultimately, the repeated use of certain terminology ends up destroying discourse instead of adding to it.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are 10 terms I'd love to see us flush from American political discussions:

1. "Real Americans"

There's no excuse for anyone ever using this term. To call certain people "real Americans" implies some kind of defining characteristic that some Americans have and some don't, which is the complete opposite of the country's diverse reality. And who would get to determine that definition, anyway? Do we go by majority? A full 82% of Americans live in urban areas. Does that mean city people are "real Americans" and the rural minority are not? Obviously, that's ludicrous—just as ludicrous as the idea that Americans in diners talking about the Bible are "real Americans." There's simply no such thing.

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After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

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via wakaflockafloccar / TikTok

It's amazing to consider just how quickly the world has changed over the past 11 months. If you were to have told someone in February 2020 that the entire country would be on some form of lockdown, nearly everyone would be wearing a mask, and half a million people were going to die due to a virus, no one would have believed you.

Yet, here we are.

PPE masks were the last thing on Leah Holland of Georgetown, Kentucky's mind on March 4, 2020, when she got a tattoo inspired by the words of a close friend.

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When your party and its leader are plagued by accusations that they support white supremacists, it's probably best to avoid staging large events with symbols reminiscent of those used by the Third Reich.

The Republican Party failed to do that at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last weekend. Instead, the main stage at the event was in the shape of the othala rune, a symbol used interchangeably with the swastika in Nazi Germany.

The conference was held at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, Florida.

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