Inside the September Issue
Garret Keizer on organized labor post-Janus; Rohini Mohan on religious conflict in India; Katie Booth on doctors learning how to treat Deaf patients; Micah Hauser on scams targeting the undocumented; and more
“In the United States, the right to strike is on shakier ground than the right to own an assault rifle or distribute hardcore porn,” writes Harper’s contributing editor Garret Keizer in the magazine’s September cover story. Recent Supreme Court decisions regarding class-action lawsuits and whether public employees can be compelled to pay union dues have made it abundantly clear that the principles of collective action, from which labor unions derive, are under attack in Trump’s America. Keizer speaks to those in and around the labor movement to try and assess the prospects of the working class as widening income inequality keeps steady pace with declining union membership. The many passionate and informed voices Keizer encounters reaffirm the importance of a vital labor movement as a cornerstone of social justice.
“With the fall and another election season upon us, the one thing we can count on is a renewal of Donald Trump’s war on football,” writes Kevin Baker in September’s Easy Chair, his first for the magazine. “This has become an annual tradition for the president, one that showcases his true political talent—that is, his almost uncanny ability to align his own resentments and fantasies with those of his followers.” We can all look forward to another flurry of tweets and a steadily escalating war of words between the president and the players, most of whom are black. And lest you think the president’s outrage has anything to do with racism, rest assured, he “likes Mike,” as he recently tweeted, referring to Michael Jordan, whose warm place in Trump’s heart surely has something to do with Jordan’s active years, that simpler time when Trump didn’t have to take such an athletic approach to styling his hair.
Rohini Mohan travels to a small village in Uttar Pradesh, India where “politically legitimized, intolerance has become a fact of everyday life.” There she attends the funeral of Mohammed Akhlaq, one of the few Muslims in the majority-Hindu village, who was murdered by a mob of his neighbors for allegedly having beef in his home. Mohan writes about the Akhlaq family’s quest for justice, and the mission of the oldest son, Sartaj, to find a place for himself as a Muslim in a country where the Hindu right wing asserts more power and more control every day. This is a story of the murder of a man over a symbol, the sacred cow, and the way in which religious politics intensifies the struggle for modern India.
Katie Booth can hear, but her first language is American Sign Language. Many in her family are part of the Deaf community, thus she has witnessed firsthand the challenges and discrimination they encounter in seeking medical treatment. All doctors learn about the diseases of the ear, but receive little instruction in how to communicate with deaf patients, leaving those who cannot hear at a disadvantage when it comes to healthcare. One medical school—the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry—is trying to change this. By immersing students in a simulated environment where ASL is the primary mode of communication, the hearing doctors get an idea of the prejudice, condescention, and general disregard deaf patients regularly endure.
Teetering on Christian Louboutin heels, Jessica Alva, alongside her husband Eric, defrauded hundreds of undocumented immigrants held in detention centers along the southern border. Micah Hauser reports on the investigation that ultimately resulted in a meager prison sentence for a couple whose appetite for jewelry, cars and designer accessories was matched only by their willingness to exploit the most vulnerable. Hauser follows the case of Ana Duran, who is ecstatic when “Abogada Jessica,” agrees to take on her asylum case. Alva, who wasn’t a lawyer at all, asks for a thousand dollars to get started. Duran borrows the money from her brother but soon after she pays Jessica, Alva disappears. The Alvas defrauded hundreds of detained migrants under the false premise that they were providing legal representation. Instead, their “clients” were deported. Ever hardening US immigration policies will surely enable even more swindlers in the years to come.
Copper mining was once crucial to Arizona’s economy, but these days it takes a lot more than it gives in return. Two proposed mines—Rosemont, near Tucson, and Resolution, east of Phoenix—have been held in check for years by regulators, but may soon be realized, thanks largely to ties between the industry and the GOP. Both projects would devastate their surroundings, raising vast ranges of crushed-rock mountains around them, imperiling already scarce water supplies, and ravaging land sacred to Native Americans. Reporter Mort Rosenblum and photographer Samuel James travel across the state, chronicling the evolving opposition movements among conservationists and tribal leaders, and collect stories and stunning images of the landscapes and cultures now at risk.
“They Told Us Not To Say This” introduces a bold new voice in fiction, that of Jenn Alandy Trahan who writes powerfully of a teenage girl and her friends from a poor, Filipnio community in Vallejo, California. This is an energetic, funny, perceptive and poignant story, told in an original and striking vernacular. “The Fountain Pen,” a memoir by Lore Segal, recalls her time at a girl’s school and the struggle to fit in, in England where she lived as a refugee during the last year of World War II.