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

Inside the March Issue

Rebecca Solnit, Katie Roiphe, Sallie Tisdale, and more

In “The Other Whisper Network,” Katie Roiphe argues that #MeToo, whose goals she heartily endorses, has created its own variety of conformist backlash. In her view, women who stray from the movement’s heated rhetoric—from the take-no-prisoners tone so common on Twitter—are shunned, silenced, and shamed. The author draws from her own experience and from that of the twenty-odd women who form a Greek chorus of the “deeply anonymous.” She assails the note of moral purity that so often creeps into the discussion: “As a culture, we seem to be in the midst of dividing ourselves into the flawless and the fallen, the morally correct and the damned.” Human beings are more typically moral hybrids, the author suggests, and should be assessed on that basis. “If we are going through a true reckoning,” Roiphe writes, “there should be space for more authentically diverging points of view, a full range of feelings, space to hash through what is and is not sexual misconduct, which is an important and genuinely confusing question about which reasonable people can and will disagree.”

Rebecca Solnit takes a somewhat different position in this month’s Easy Chair column. “Nobody Knows” is not explicitly about #MeToo but about the casual uses and abuses of power—and the ways in which such power can blind the person possessing it. The high and mighty, she points out, “swathe themselves in obliviousness in order to avoid the pain of others and their own relationship to that pain.” But not surprisingly, her argument circles back to men and women—to the asymmetrical combat of America’s gender wars, which have taken their toll on Solnit and on so many others. There is the middle-aged cook who delighted in groping the young author when she worked in a diner; there is the Colorado DJ who stuck his hand up Taylor Swift’s skirt in 2013 (and was at least fired for his Trumpish initiative); there Harvey Weinstein and there is the low-level harasser who showered his unwanted favors on a young friend of Solnit’s. Her conclusion is not that men are wicked or irredeemable but that self-knowledge of any kind dictates a thorough immersion in the lives of others.

Elsewhere in the magazine, Sallie Tisdale explores the mixed blessings of dementia in “Out of Time.” To suggest that there are any blessings at all associated with Alzheimer’s disease will strike some readers as blasphemous. But the author, a registered nurse who has worked extensively with dementia patients, sees something “far more nuanced than the commentary surrounding it: there is grace here, rare intimacy, moments of startling clarity—and, yes, happiness.” Alan Lightman commits a different sort of blasphemy in “The Infinity of the Small,” suggesting that eternity is to be found not in the vast reaches of the universe but in the tiniest subdivisions of the physical world. Once we thought atoms were the smallest units of matter, the indivisible end of the road. Instead we have chopped those same atoms into ever more minuscule fragments, fetching up—for the moment, anyway—at the Planck length, where time flows backwards and “space has been blown thin by an ancient glassblower, so thin that it dissolves into nothingness.”

Ian MacDougall investigates the seamy world of SLAPPs (“strategic lawsuits against public participation”) in “Empty Suits,” exposing corporate America’s latest tactic to quash activist dissent. Maddy Crowell journeys to Kashmir, where the Indian government is attempting to quell the province’s irredentist itch by building a lavish railroad, complete with the world’s loftiest railway bridge—assuming it’s ever completed. And in “If These Walls Could Talk,” Lauren Markham addresses the current rage for barrier-building. It’s not just the United States that hears incessant talk about the Really Big Wall on the horizon. Even Norway has gotten into the game, erecting a pipsqueak fence on its northern boundary with Russia that stretches a mere 600 feet. “Walls offer the promise of absolute protection,” Markham muses, “but they almost always fail to deliver. Still, we build them again and again.”

We have a wild metafictional ride from Catherine Lacey in “Violations,” and strong critical pieces by Joanna Biggs (on Alan Hollinghurst’s new, tradition-bending novel) and Amia Srinivasan (on The Incest Diary, meaning yet another take on the issue of sexual consent). In Readings, Barbara Ehrenreich inveighs against physical fitness, Terry Southern recalls the glory days of the West Village, and Brenda Hillman contributes a brief poem from a work in progress. We also get a look at the editorial notes delivered to Milo Yiannopoulos, which caution him against laziness, humorous boasting, and literally scatological rhetoric: “Let’s leave ‘fecal waste’ analogies out of this chapter.”

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November 2018

Rebirth of a Nation

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The Tragedy of Ted Cruz

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Rebirth of a Nation·

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Donald Trump’s presidency signals a profound but inchoate realignment of American politics. On the one hand, his administration may represent the consolidation of minority control by a Republican-dominated Senate under the leadership of a president who came to office after losing the popular vote by almost 3 million ballots. Such an imbalance of power could lead to a second civil war—indeed, the nation’s first and only great fraternal conflagration was sparked off in part for precisely this reason. On the other hand, Trump’s reign may be merely an interregnum, in which the old white power structure of the Republican Party is dying and a new oppositional coalition struggles to be born.

Illustration by Taylor Callery (detail)
Blood Money·

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Over the past three years, the city of South Tucson, Arizona, a largely Latino enclave nestled inside metropolitan Tucson, came close to abolishing its fire and police departments. It did sell off the library and cut back fire-truck crews from four to three people—whereupon two thirds of the fire department quit—and slashed the police force to just sixteen employees. “We’re a small city, just one square mile, surrounded by a larger city,” the finance director, Lourdes Aguirre, explained to me. “We have small-town dollars and big-city problems.”

Illustration by John Ritter (detail)
The Tragedy of Ted Cruz·

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When I saw Ted Cruz speak, in early August, it was at Underwood’s Cafeteria in Brownwood. He was on a weeklong swing through rural central Texas, hitting small towns and military bases that ensured him friendly, if not always entirely enthusiastic, crowds. In Brownwood, some in the audience of two hundred were still nibbling on peach cobbler as Cruz began with an anecdote about his win in a charity basketball game against ABC’s late-night host Jimmy Kimmel. They rewarded him with smug chuckles when he pointed out that “Hollywood celebrities” would be hurting over the defeat “for the next fifty years.” His pitch for votes was still an off-the-rack Tea Party platform, complete with warnings about the menace of creeping progressivism, delivered at a slightly mechanical pace but with lots of punch. The woman next to me remarked, “This is the fire in the gut! Like he had the first time!” referring to Cruz’s successful long-shot run in the 2011 Texas Republican Senate primary. And it’s true—the speech was exactly like one Cruz would have delivered in 2011, right down to one specific detail: he never mentioned Donald Trump by name.

Cruz recited almost verbatim the same things Trump lists as the administration’s accomplishments: the new tax legislation, reduced African-American unemployment, repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, and Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court. But, in a mirror image of those in the #Resistance who refuse to ennoble Trump with the title “president,” Cruz only called him that.

Photograph of Ted Cruz © Ben Helton (detail)
Wrong Object·

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e is a nondescript man.

I’d never used that adjective about a client. Not until this one. My seventeenth. He’d requested an evening time and came Tuesdays at six-thirty. For months he didn’t tell me what he did.

The first session I said what I often said to begin: How can I help you?

I still think of what I do as a helping profession. And I liked the way the phrase echoed down my years; in my first job I’d been a salesgirl at a department store counter.

I want to work on my marriage, he said. I’m the problem.

His complaint was familiar. But I preferred a self-critical patient to a blamer.

It’s me, he said. My wife is a thoroughly good person.

Yawn, I thought, but said, Tell me more.

I don’t feel what I should for her.

What do you feel?

Photograph © Joseph S. Giacalone (detail)

Portion of those caught in possession of drugs by the U.S. Border Patrol who are U.S. citizens:


A third of heart attacks worldwide were blamed on unhealthy Western eating habits.

Nikki Haley resigns; Jamal Khashoggi murdered; Kanye visits the White House

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Happiness Is a Worn Gun


Illustration by Stan Fellows

Illustration by Stan Fellows

“Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.”

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