Editor's Note — July 10, 2014, 1:05 pm

Introducing the August 2014 Issue

Jessica Bruder on the end of retirement, Mary Gordon on the new Vatican, Laura Kipnis on narcissism, and more

Harper's Magazine, August 2014Middle-class Americans have taken it for granted that they will be able to stop working in their mid-sixties and enjoy a tranquil retirement. But as Jessica Bruder reports in the cover story of our August 2014 issue, they can no longer count on this. Many would-be retirees lost their jobs, their houses, and their life savings in the recession of 2008, and some have taken to the road in RVs, crisscrossing the country in search of temporary work. Depending on the time of year, they sort products in mammoth Amazon warehouses, sell Fourth of July fireworks, flip burgers at baseball games, or assist in sugar-beet harvests. They also staff many of the country’s campgrounds, trailer parks, and other tourist locations. These geriatric migrants are, Bruder writes, the “Okies of the Great Recession.”

For her first Easy Chair column, Rebecca Solnit writes about Stanford University, tracing its history and ties to the tech industries of Silicon Valley. Solnit exposes the self-glorifying libertarian roots of the university, which was founded with money from Leland Stanford’s government-subsidized railroad empire and relied on the same octopus-like networks still active in the Valley today.

Negar Azimi visited Cairo last fall, around the time Egypt’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted after only a year in office and put in detention; the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood were either jailed or had gone into hiding; and General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was poised to take over the government. Azimi describes an Egyptian populace both suspicious of the Brotherhood as a political entity and wildly enthusiastic about their latest strongman. They seemed to have forgotten that Sisi had served as Hosni Mubarak’s head of military intelligence and had ordered bloody raids on sit-ins by Morsi’s supporters just last year. Now the country’s pro-Morsi and anti-Morsi blocs are at war with each other. And Sisi, who, to no one’s surprise, was overwhelmingly elected Egypt’s new president, is likely to join the region’s disheartening roster of despots.

I think I can say with certainty that Francis I is the first pope to have been named Time magazine’s Person of the Year and to have made the cover of Rolling Stone. He is celebrated by progressives both inside and outside the Catholic Church for his seemingly liberal views. Yet as Mary Gordon reports, one group has been disappointed in him so far: American nuns. Exemplified by Sister Simone Campbell and her lobbying group, Network, these women are at the forefront of social action in the United States. But their positions on the Affordable Care Act, abortion, and gay marriage have put them at odds with the Catholic hierarchy. In “Francis and the Nuns: Is the new Vatican all talk?” Gordon describes this ecclesiastical clash and criticizes the supposedly populist pontiff for supporting the wrong side.

In this month’s Annotation, Jenna Krajeski examines video evidence from a night of rioting against the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Security cameras have been placed all over Turkey (by 2010, 4,000 cameras had been installed in Istanbul alone), and on the night of September 10, 2013, cameras in Antakya, a city in southern Turkey near the Syrian border, recorded the death of Ahmet Atakan, the sixth protester to have died during antigovernment demonstrations. Krajeski pieces together various bits of footage — including clips recorded by cell phones — to determine how and why Atakan died.

Also in this issue: Frederic Morton on why the world went to war in 1914; William Pfaff on the rise of American militarism; new fiction by Diane Cook; Laura Kipnis on narcissism; Christopher Tayler on the letters of Malcolm Cowley; and Joshua Cohen on Dave Eggers and Joan Rivers.

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More from Ellen Rosenbush:

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

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 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

Artwork by Imre Kinszki © Imre Kinszki Estate
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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

Photograph (detail) by Balazs Gardi
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"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
Photograph (detail) by Lara Shipley

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