Annotation, Art — August 29, 2017, 1:24 pm

Trumpeter Storm

Donald and Melania Trump go to Texas. 

Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images.

1: Hurricane Harvey, technically an active tropical cyclone, hit southeastern Texas late Friday night, in a deluge never before seen on that shore. The water came with 130 mile-per-hour winds that swept Houston and its surrounding towns—uprooting trees, collapsing road signs, smashing walls, and forcing more than 30,000 people from their homes. Some 450,000 are expected to apply for federal assistance; at least ten people are dead. Brock Long, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said that, as rainfall continues to pour on rivers and bayous that are already teeming, Harvey has the “highest potential to kill the most amount of people and cause the most amount of damage” of any storm yet seen. Long told reporters that FEMA will be there for years. Greg Abbott, the Governor of Texas, announced that this is “one of the largest disasters America has ever faced.” As 12,000 members of the National Guard rushed to the scene and hundreds more volunteers joined the relief efforts, President Trump tweeted: “Thanks!”

2: Trump proceeded to continue with Twitter as usual; his next message was a retweet observing that The Washington Post “breaks down & admits the truth” about a “Black-clad antifa” attacking “peaceful right wing demonstrators in Berkeley.” By Sunday, however, his attention was back on the flood—perhaps noting its Biblical or at least primetime-worthy proportions. Or maybe the phrase “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job” began to ring in his ears. In any case, by Tuesday morning, he announced to followers, “Leaving now for Texas!” His bags packed and his cap in hand, he flew off to where the cameras are.

3: In moments of crisis, presidents have been said to take on the role of “Comforter-in-Chief,” lending a shoulder to those afflicted by a harm that supersedes politics. (Harris County, of which Houston is the seat, went for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.) One imagines that few of the townsfolk being pummeled by water would flick away a rescuing hand and offer a pamphlet on climate change. In desperate times, we accept help where it comes. And so, in full comforter mode, Trump decided to wear his most duvet-like jacket, with the seal of the president and, of course, a hood.

4: Trump’s water-resistance goes all the way down to his toes. He pulled on a pair of fine-looking Cat brand boots, possibly borrowed from his son Donald Junior, who has become known for his grippy footwear and overall outdoorsmanship. Junior, who was raised in a Trump Tower penthouse, knows what it means to commune with nature: he is a member of the National Rifle Association, and The New York Times reported that among his dozens of firearms is a Benelli Super Black Eagle II, used for hunting waterfowl. Waterfowl, or Anseriformes, as Papa Trump might like to know, comprise some 180 species; dozens are native to Texas, including the Ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis); the Cackling goose (Branta hutchinsii); and, likely of greatest interest, the Redhead (Aythya americana).

5: Speaking of hair, Melania’s looks perfectly coiffed. As she boards Air Force One, it’s difficult not to feel a little sad—for casualties of the tempest, of course, but also for what is surely to happen when Blow-Out Harvey blasts too strong. Yet the First Lady seems ever the optimist, ready for a change in the weather with her aviator sunglasses already on. Who knows what delightful change of fate might arrive if she just keeps thinking, “Sun!”

6: Now we come to an important message for readers of women’s magazines: the versatility of the black stiletto. It projects poise, balance, and better-than-you-ness, even in times of despair. But, wait, hold on a minute—a brief consultation with Vogue reveals that, slip factor aside, stilettos are out! “Why a Weird Heel Is the Shoe of the Season,” a June story reports. If only an aide had told Melania, a patternmaker’s daughter, she might have avoided some embarrassment. Perhaps she will put aside this misfortune and wade over to meet the women, as old as her husband, who until yesterday were sitting waist-deep in murky pools that filled the La Vita Bella assisted living center, in Dickinson. And Melania, taking the wrinkly hand of a person who has never worn Gabbana, will look deep into her eyes and say the same thing she told Harper’s Bazaar last year: “Of course, I always loved fashion—and I was always the tallest one and the skinniest one, so that helped.”

Share
Single Page

More from Betsy Morais:

Context May 2, 2017, 4:31 pm

The Moderator in Manila

What the Trumps are building in the Philippines

Annotation April 6, 2017, 6:10 pm

Dressed to Kill

Jared Kushner goes to Iraq

Art, Caption March 24, 2017, 4:52 pm

Ups and Downs

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

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

June 2018

Family History

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Combat High

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Last Best Place

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Sound of Madness

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Looking for Calley

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Comforting Myths

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Combat High·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Afew months before the United States invaded Iraq, in 2003, Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary at the time, was asked on a radio show how long the war would take. “Five days or five weeks or five months,” he replied. “It certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.” When George W. Bush departed the White House more than five years later, there were nearly 136,000 US soldiers stationed in the country. 

The number of troops has fallen since then, but Bush’s successors have failed to withdraw the United States from the region. Barack Obama campaigned on ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, only to send hundreds of troops into Syria. For years Donald Trump described America’s efforts in Afghanistan as “a waste” and said that soldiers were being led “to slaughter,” but in 2017 he announced that he would deploy as many as 4,000 more troops to the country. “Decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk of the Oval Office,” he explained. Every president, it seems, eventually learns to embrace our perpetual war.

With the Trump Administration’s attacks on affordable health care, immigration, environmental regulation, and civil rights now in full swing, criticism of America’s military engagements has all but disappeared from the national conversation. Why hasn’t the United States been able—or willing—to end these conflicts? Who has benefited from them? Is victory still possible—and, if so, is it anywhere in sight?

In March, Harper’s Magazine convened a panel of former soldiers at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. The participants, almost all of whom saw combat in Iraq or Afghanistan, were asked to reflect on the country’s involvement in the Middle East. This Forum is based on that panel, which was held before an audience of cadets and officers, and on a private discussion that followed.

Illustration (detail) by John Ritter
Article
Comforting Myths·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Before he died, my father reminded me that when I was four and he asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said I wanted to be a writer. Of course, what I meant by “writer” then was a writer of Superman comics. In part I was infatuated with the practically invulnerable Man of Steel, his blue eyes and his spit curl. I wanted both to be him and to marry him—to be his Robin, so to speak. But more importantly, I wanted to write his story, the adventures of the man who fought for truth, justice, and the American Way—if only I could figure out what the fuck the American Way was.

Artwork by Mahmood Sabzi
Article
The Sound of Madness·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Sarah was four years old when her spirit guide first appeared. One day, she woke up from a nap and saw him there beside her bed. He was short, with longish curly hair, like a cherub made of light. She couldn’t see his feet. They played a board game—she remembers pushing the pieces around—and then he melted away.

After that, he came and went like any child’s imaginary friend. Sarah often sensed his presence when strange things happened—when forces of light and darkness took shape in the air around her or when photographs rippled as though shimmering in the heat. Sometimes Sarah had thoughts in her head that she knew were not her own. She would say things that upset her parents. “Cut it out,” her mother would warn. “This is what they put people in psychiatric hospitals for.”

Painting (detail) by Carlo Zinelli
Article
Looking for Calley·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In the fall of 1969, I was a freelance journalist working out of a small, cheap office I had rented on the eighth floor of the National Press Building in downtown Washington. A few doors down was a young Ralph Nader, also a loner, whose exposé of the safety failures in American automobiles had changed the industry. There was nothing in those days quite like a quick lunch at the downstairs coffee shop with Ralph. Once, he grabbed a spoonful of my tuna-fish salad, flattened it out on a plate, and pointed out small pieces of paper and even tinier pieces of mouse shit in it. He was marvelous, if a bit hard to digest.

The tip came on Wednesday, October 22. The caller was Geoffrey Cowan, a young lawyer new to town who had worked on the ­McCarthy campaign and had been writing critically about the Vietnam War for the Village Voice. There was a story he wanted me to know about. The Army, he told me, was in the process of court-martialing a GI at Fort Benning, in Georgia, for the killing of seventy-five civilians in South Vietnam. Cowan did not have to spell out why such a story, if true, was important, but he refused to discuss the source for his information.

Photograph © Bettmann/Getty Images
Article
The Last Best Place·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The family was informed they would be moving to a place called Montana. Jaber Abdullah had never heard of it, but a Google search revealed that it was mountainous. Up to that point, he and his wife, Heba, had thought they’d be moving from Turkey to Newark, New Jersey. The prospect of crime there concerned Heba, as she and Jaber had two young sons: Jan, a petulant two-year-old, and Ivan, a newborn. 

Montana sounded like the countryside. That, Heba thought, could be good. She’d grown up in Damascus, Syria, where jasmine hung from the walls and people sold dates in the great markets. These days, you checked the sky for mortar rounds like you checked for rain, but she still had little desire to move to the United States. Basel, Jaber’s brother, a twenty-two-year-old with a cool, quiet demeanor, merely shrugged.

Illustration (detail) by Danijel Žeželj

Average amount Microsoft spends each month assisting people who need to change their passwords:

$2,000,000

Chimpanzees who join new groups with inferior nut-cracking techniques will abandon their superior techniques in order to fit in.

Trump leaves the Iran nuclear deal, Ebola breaks out in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and scientists claim that Pluto is still a planet.

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