Editor's Note — February 17, 2017, 2:13 pm

Inside the March Issue

Andrew Cockburn on turning Texas blue, Masha Gessen on the spread of antigay ideology, Calvin Baker on how Obama negotiated America’s racial tightrope, Mary Cuddehe on the dealth penalty as a conservative conundrum, a story by David Szalay, and more

Harpers-Magazine-March-2017-4Despite widespread street protests and some spine-stiffening from the judiciary, these are dark times for Democrats. The party has lost control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, and is clinging with its collective fingernails to whatever power it still holds at the state level. Yet Andrew Cockburn has found a glimmer of hope, and in an unlikely place. In “Texas Is the Future,” he recounts how a band of activists known as the Texas Organizing Project pulled off a Democratic coup in Harris County, expelling local G.O.P. grandees and racking up a 160,000-vote margin for Hillary Clinton in November. The secret? Cultivating a “shadow electorate” of Latino and African-American voters, who number in the millions but have been repeatedly burned by Democratic candidates in the past. If the party hopes to regain power at the state and national level, this is probably the template. But it will take work, patience, focus, and a willingness to really listen to the grievances of those voters the party has traditionally taken for granted.

Things look little better abroad. In “Family Values,” Masha Gessen chronicles her visit to the World Congress of Families in Tbilisi, Georgia, where opponents of gay rights gather to celebrate their victories. The author, who describes herself as “queer, Jewish, anti-Putin, and a critic of marriage as an institution,” is not the sort of person to receive a warm welcome at the W.C.F. Yet she attended as a kind of thought experiment: could she find any common ground with her hosts? (The answer is not encouraging.) In “City of Gilt,” meanwhile, Tanya Gold takes a tour of post-Brexit London, paying particular mind to Karl Marx’s old haunts. The metropolis strikes her as a glittering ruin, its exterior unable to conceal decades of neoliberal rot. Her indignation reaches a comic climax at Harrods, a shrine to conspicuous consumption jammed with goods so ugly that Gold can feel “only pity: for the maker, the buyer, the voyeur, the world.”

Indeed, as we wait for the latest insane, non-spell-checked edict from the Oval Office, it’s getting increasingly hard not to pine for the old days, prior to January 20.  In “Black Like Who?,” Calvin Baker looks back at Barack Obama’s ascent and his exquisite navigation of America’s racial tightrope. This isn’t an evaluation of the former president’s policy record. The author is more interested in Obama’s symbolic role, for Americans both black (who saw him “as one of the last black firsts”) and white (who hoped that his presence in the White House could help to transcend the nation’s dismal racial history). “It is a history,” writes Baker, “from which both blacks and white wish to be redeemed—even if their pathways through it have often been mutually unrecognizable.”

Elsewhere in the issue, Mary Cuddehe looks at the unlikely transformation of the death penalty—or more accurately, its abolition—into a conservative cause. (The arguments, just for the record, are both moral and fiscal; enforcing the death penalty in Florida annually costs taxpayers $51 million more than lifetime imprisonment.) Manga makes its first appearance in Harper’s Magazine with Kazuto Tatsuta’s “Itchy Nose,” a peek into daily life at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, where workers in hazmat suits are still cleaning up after the disaster of the 2011 tsunami. There is also a new Easy Chair from Rebecca Solnit, whose previous columns just won a National Magazine Award. In Readings, we have journal excerpts from the late, great Christa Wolf, a dual interview with Allen Ginsberg and his father, a letter from Donald Trump’s grandfather (in which he begs not to be deported from the Kingdom of Bavaria!), and a snippet from the Simple Sabotage Field Manual of 1944. Bringing up the rear is a muted, marmoreal work of fiction by David Szalay and some shrewd critical appraisals from the likes of Christopher Beha, Nat Segnit, and Molly Fischer.

Finally, a heads up to all users of the Harper’s Magazine app: it’s about to go the way of the dodo. At the end of February, we will discontinue the app and upgrade our website for mobile viewing. We urge you to register your account with Harpers.org, if you haven’t already. To do so, open the app, select My Subscription, and enter your information. That way, you will have uninterrupted access to Harper’s Magazine on your computer, tablet, or phone, and can romp to your heart’s content in our capacious archives. You will also continue to receive the print edition of the magazine, hand-delivered to your home by a U.S. government employee. Any questions, please contact dodo@harpers.org.

Subscribe to Harper’s Magazine today!

Share
Single Page

More from James Marcus:

Editor's Note October 20, 2017, 11:00 am

Inside the November Issue

Rebecca Solnit, J. C. Hallman, Vivian Gornick, Dale Maharidge, and more

From the October 2017 issue

Into the Wild

Henry David Thoreau as prophet, naturalist, and stealth comedian

Editor's Note September 18, 2017, 1:04 pm

Inside the October Issue

Marilynne Robinson, Andrew Cockburn, Ben Mauk, Elisabeth Zerofsky, Eileen Myles, and more…

Get access to 167 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

December 2017

Document of Barbarism

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Destroyer of Worlds

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Crossing Guards

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“I am Here Only for Working”

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Dear Rose

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Year of The Frog

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Destroyer of Worlds·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

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
Article
Crossing Guards·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

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.

Illustration by Richard Mia
Article
“I am Here Only for Working”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

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.

— Karl Marx

Photograph from the United Arab Emirates by the author. This page: Ruwais Mall
Article
The Year of The Frog·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

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.

“Horse 1,” by Nine Francois. Courtesy the artist and AgavePrint, Austin, Texas
Article
Dead Ball Situation·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

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

Begin, as Wallace Stevens didn’t quite say, with the idea of it. I so like the idea of Simon Critchley, whose books offer philosophical takes on a variety of subjects: Stevens, David Bowie, suicide, humor, and now football — or soccer, as the US edition has it. (As a matter of principle I shall refer to this sport throughout as football.) “All of us are mysteriously affected by our names,” decides one of Milan Kundera’s characters in Immortality, and I like Critchley because his name would seem to have put him at a vocational disadvantage compared with Martin Heidegger, Søren Kierkegaard, or even, in the Anglophone world, A. J. Ayer or Richard Rorty. (How different philosophy might look today if someone called Nobby Stiles had been appointed as the Wykeham Professor of Logic.)

Tostão, No. 9, and Pelé, No. 10, celebrate Carlos Alberto’s final goal for Brazil in the World Cup final against Italy on June 21, 1970, Mexico City © Heidtmann/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Factor by which single Americans who use emoji are more likely than other single Americans to be sexually active:

1.85

Brontosaurus was restored as a genus, and cannibalism was reported in tyrannosaurine dinosaurs.

Moore said he did not “generally” date teenage girls, and it was reported that in the 1970s Moore had been banned from his local mall and YMCA for bothering teenage girls.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Report — From the June 2013 issue

How to Make Your Own AR-15

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

Subscribe Today