Editor's Note — June 16, 2016, 3:38 pm

Inside the July Issue

Tom Bissell on touring Israel with Christian Zionists, Joy Gordon on the Cuban embargo, Lawrence Jackson on Freddie Gray and the makings of an American uprising, a story by Paul Yoon, and more

HarpersWeb-Cover-July-302If your summer vacation is looking dull, consider bringing Tom Bissell along as your guide. In this month’s Folio, Bissell joins a group of Christian Zionists for a ten-day tour of Israel organized by the conservative radio host Dennis Prager. “I wanted to more fully understand why conservative politics had become synonymous with no-questions-asked support of Israel,” writes Bissell. The tour begins as right-wing propaganda, but soon turns into something far stranger. When a beloved tour guide named David gets fired mid-trip, Bissell’s group decides to revolt. Strategies are debated; a petition is circulated. Bissell and the pro-David faction interrogate anti-David travelers, hassle tour-company representatives to reinstate their guide, and eventually decide to occupy their bus. “It works for liberals!” one tourist tells Bissell. “Let’s make it work for us.”

For her Easy Chair column, Rebecca Solnit finds in the archetype of the American cowboy the modern conservative ethos of personal responsibility. “The loner taketh not, nor does he give; he scorneth the social and relies on himself alone,” she writes. It’s a dangerous and misguided view of the world. Never is this more apparent than in the case of climate change: “As the fact of climate change has become more and more difficult to deny, the ideologues of isolation deny instead our responsibility for the problem and the possibility that we are capable of acting collectively to do anything about it.”

In her Report from Cuba, Joy Gordon examines the United States’ embargo of Cuba, which since 1960 has denied Cubans access “to everything from electricity to video games to shoes.” Despite the fact that two thirds of Americans don’t support the embargo, Congress has given no sign of repealing it. In May, Barack Obama declared that his historic visit to the country—the first by a sitting U.S. president since Calvin Coolidge—marked a “new day” for the United States and Cuba; but so long as the country’s economy continues to struggle, Gordon remains skeptical. “For all the improvements in U.S.–Cuban relations over the past two years,” she writes, “that new day will not really come until the embargo is lifted in its entirety.”

In Lawrence Jackson’s Letter from Baltimore, he weaves the story of his family’s migration to the city with its brutal implementation of the broken-windows policing theory on its streets and in its schools. “Who doesn’t know,” Jackson asks, “that as American cities became blacker in the Fifties and Sixties, police departments felt fewer qualms about ‘cleaning them up’ with deadly force?” Jackson writes of the men he’s known who were killed in fatal encounters with police, and of his own near-fatal experiences. To protest the unjust killings not just of Freddie Gray but also of generations of black women and men, Jackson concludes, “a riot makes a lot of fucking sense.”

Also in this issue: Lyle Rexer on why we take—and share—so many photographs; new fiction by Paul Yoon and Alejandro Zambra; Caleb Crain on Sybille Bedford; Nick Laird on Seamus Heaney’s translation of the Aeneid; and Christine Smallwood on Hisham Matar’s The Return, John Cassavetes: Interviews, and Pond, a debut work of vignettes by Claire-Louise Bennett.

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More from Ellen Rosenbush:

Editor's Note July 21, 2016, 3:35 pm

Inside the August Issue

Martin Amis on the rise of Trump, Tom Wolfe on the origins of speech, Art Spiegelman on Si Lewen, fiction by Diane Williams, and more

Editor's Note May 13, 2016, 1:31 pm

Inside the June Issue

Helen Ouyang on the cost of crowd-sourcing drugs, Paul Wood on Trump’s supporters, Walter Kirn on political predictions, Sonia Faleiro on a man’s search for his kidnapped children, and Rivka Galchen on The People v. O. J. Simpson.

Editor's Note April 20, 2016, 11:18 am

Inside the May Issue

Rebecca Solnit, Andrew J. Bacevich, Samuel James, Elisabeth Zerofsky, Paul Wachter, and more

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In February 1947, Harper’s Magazine published Henry L. Stimson’s “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb.” As secretary of war, Stimson had served as the chief military adviser to President Truman, and recommended the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The terms of his unrepentant apologia, an excerpt of which appears on page 35, are now familiar to us: the risk of a dud made a demonstration too risky; the human cost of a land invasion would be too high; nothing short of the bomb’s awesome lethality would compel Japan to surrender. The bomb was the only option. Seventy years later, we find his reasoning unconvincing. Entirely aside from the destruction of the blasts themselves, the decision thrust the world irrevocably into a high-stakes arms race — in which, as Stimson took care to warn, the technology would proliferate, evolve, and quite possibly lead to the end of modern civilization. The first half of that forecast has long since come to pass, and the second feels as plausible as ever. Increasingly, the atmosphere seems to reflect the anxious days of the Cold War, albeit with more juvenile insults and more colorful threats. Terms once consigned to the history books — “madman theory,” “brinkmanship” — have returned to the news cycle with frightening regularity. In the pages that follow, seven writers and experts survey the current nuclear landscape. Our hope is to call attention to the bomb’s ever-present menace and point our way toward a world in which it finally ceases to exist.

Illustration by Darrel Rees. Source photographs: Kim Jong-un © ITAR-TASS Photo Agency/Alamy Stock Photo; Donald Trump © Yuri Gripas/Reuters/Newscom
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The Ambassador Bridge arcs over the Detroit River, connecting Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, the southernmost city in Canada. Driving in from the Canadian side, where I grew up, is like viewing a panorama of the Motor City’s rise and fall, visible on either side of the bridge’s turquoise steel stanchions. On the right are the tubular glass towers of the Renaissance Center, headquarters of General Motors, and Michigan Central Station, the rail terminal that closed in 1988. On the left is a rusted industrial corridor — fuel tanks, docks, abandoned warehouses. I have taken this route all my life, but one morning this spring, I crossed for the first time in a truck.

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But the exercise of labor is the worker’s own life-activity, the manifestation of his own life. . . . He works in order to live. He does not even reckon labor as part of his life, it is rather a sacrifice of his life.

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To look at him, Sweet Macho was a beautiful horse, lean and strong with muscles that twitched beneath his shining black coat. A former racehorse, he carried himself with ceremony, prancing the field behind our house as though it were the winner’s circle. When he approached us that day at the edge of the yard, his eyes shone with what might’ve looked like intelligence but was actually a form of insanity. Not that there was any telling our mother’s boyfriend this — he fancied himself a cowboy.

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What We Think About When We Think About Soccer, by Simon Critchley. Penguin Books. 224 pages. $20.

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