Editor's Note — May 15, 2017, 1:30 pm

Inside the June Issue

Michael Glennon on Trump’s war with the security state, Helen Ouyang on health care in the Black Belt, Rebecca Elliott and Elizabeth Rush on the battle over New York City’s flood zones, a story by Nell Zink, and more…

During the recent presidential campaign, Donald Trump regularly described America’s intelligence agencies as fumblers—unless they were snapping at Hillary Clinton’s ankles, in which case they were ardent patriots. (The G.O.P. candidate told a frothing crowd in New Hampshire that he was “actually, really, very proud” of the FBI for reopening its investigation of Clinton’s emails just days before the election.) Relations between the security bureaucracy and Trump have only worsened since then—culminating, most recently, in the firing of FBI director James Comey. Many liberals have hoped that the CIA, FBI, and NSA, all of them in the presidential doghouse, would push back against the Trump’s worst excesses. But in “Security Breach,” Michael J. Glennon warns against viewing the security state as a heroic firewall. These agencies were not created to keep the other branches of government in check, despite their mad metastasizing during the postwar decades. They were never intended, in Glennon’s words, “to be a coequal of Congress, the courts, and the president.” Nor do they have unspotted records when it comes to the preservation of civil liberties (to say the least). We may delight in their guerrilla war against Trump, fought with leaked intelligence and heat-seeking inquiries, but once we have licensed them as the last best hope of democracy—well, be careful of what you wish for.

In “Where Health Care Won’t Go,” Helen Ouyang chronicles an outbreak of tuberculosis in Marion, Alabama. This small town is located in the so-called Black Belt—a ribbon of rural counties with a long history of racism and poverty—and not surprisingly, health care is in short supply. Once the first case was discovered, state authorities intervened, but the epidemic has yet to be contained. “It’s not looking good,” the state’s tuberculosis controller said. Ouyang’s story points to a deeper, ongoing crisis in this country: Americans living outside of urban areas frequently have few health-care options or none at all, which is exactly what sets the stage for a mini-epidemic like Marion’s. What we are left with is a vicious cycle of illness and economic impoverishment. “We’re not progressing at the same rate as everybody else around us,” a local physician wistfully told the author. “We’re just kind of stuck.”

Not that city dwellers everywhere have it all that easy. In “Stormy Waters,” Rebecca Elliott and Elizabeth Rush explore the battle over New York City’s flood zones—those portions of the Big Apple that are likely to be inundated during the next apocalyptic hurricane. The precise delineation of these zones has led to a cartographic tug-of-war between FEMA, whose predictions are suitably dire, and real-estate developers, who would have to shell out enormous sums to make their buildings flood-resistant. Meanwhile, Daniel Brook looks at a post-apocalyptic metropolis in “Here A City Shall Be Wrought.” His subject is Beichuan, China, which was destroyed by a 7.9-magnitude earthquake in 2008, then quickly reconstructed in a new location fourteen miles away. The spanking-new Beichuan is, in Brook’s words, an experiment in “time-lapse urbanism,” which he finds both “enviable and cloying.” More disturbing is the ruin of the old city, which has been left intact as a memento mori and symbol (at least in the eyes of party officials) of Communist solidarity.

Elsewhere in the magazine, Gary Greenberg ponders the mathematics of predicting war, and Julia Harte asks: “When can the legal system hold accountable those who occupy the highest offices in the land?” In Readings, we have interviews with Syrian refugees, a thousand-year-old poem by Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali bin Hisn, a parliamentary debate over rhododendrons, and a list of memorable names that parents have recently tried to bestow on their children, including “Tiny Hooker,” “Cholera,” “Ghoul Nipple,” and the relatively innocuous “Satan.” Last but not least, there is Matthew Bevis on John Ashbery, Christine Smallwood on New Books, and a hilariously vicious fiction by Nell Zink, her first story for the magazine.

Share
Single Page

More from James Marcus:

Editor's Note February 12, 2018, 11:15 am

Inside the March Issue

Rebecca Solnit, Katie Roiphe, Sallie Tisdale, and more

Editor's Note December 22, 2017, 1:26 pm

Inside the January Issue

Fenton Johnson, Andrew Cockburn, Mansi Choksi, Rebecca Solnit, Yasmine Seale, and more…

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

Inside the November Issue

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

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

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

March 2018

The Great Divide

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Nobody Knows

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Other Whisper Network

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Infinity of the Small

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Empty Suits

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Other Whisper Network·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

No one would talk to me for this piece. Or rather, more than twenty women talked to me, sometimes for hours at a time, but only after I promised to leave out their names, and give them what I began to call deep anonymity. This was strange, because what they were saying did not always seem that extreme. Yet here in my living room, at coffee shops, in my inbox and on my voicemail, were otherwise outspoken female novelists, editors, writers, real estate agents, professors, and journalists of various ages so afraid of appearing politically insensitive that they wouldn’t put their names to their thoughts, and I couldn’t blame them. 

Of course, the prepublication frenzy of Twitter fantasy and fury about this essay, which exploded in early January, is Exhibit A for why nobody wants to speak openly. Before the piece was even finished, let alone published, people were calling me “pro-rape,” “human scum,” a “harridan,” a “monster out of Stephen King’s ‘IT,’?” a “ghoul,” a “bitch,” and a “garbage person”—all because of a rumor that I was planning to name the creator of the so-called Shitty Media Men list. The Twitter feminist Jessica Valenti called this prospect “profoundly shitty” and “incredibly dangerous” without having read a single word of my piece. Other tweets were more direct: “man if katie roiphe actually publishes that article she can consider her career over.” “Katie Roiphe can suck my dick.” With this level of thought policing, who in their right mind would try to say anything even mildly provocative or original? 

Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
Pushing the Limit·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In the early Eighties, Andy King, the coach of the Seawolves, a swim club in Danville, California, instructed Debra Denithorne, aged twelve, to do doubles — to practice in the morning and the afternoon. King told Denithorne’s parents that he saw in her the potential to receive a college scholarship, and even to compete in the Olympics. Tall swimmers have an advantage in the water, and by the time Denithorne turned thirteen, she was five foot eight. She dropped soccer and a religious group to spend more time at the pool.

Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Post
CamperForce·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

After losing their savings in the stock market crash of 2008, seniors Barb and Chuck find seasonal employment at Amazon fulfillment centers.

Estimated size of heaven, in cubic miles, according to the Reverend Billy Graham:

1,500

Photographing your food makes eating it less enjoyable.

The shooter discarded his AR-15 semiautomatic weapon, the model used in six of America’s ten deadliest mass shootings and referred to by the NRA as “America’s rifle,” and then fled to a nearby Walmart, where customers can buy rifles but cannot purchase music with lyrics that contain the word “fuck.”

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