"We believed, after being told that if we didn't, we would die."

I don’t think Esquire gets enough respect. For a magazine that too often gets lumped in to the “Men’s Interest” section of the magazine rack with Details and GQ, it strikes a good mix of fun, hotness and (relative) intellectual stimulation. For examples of the first look no further than {dreamy sigh} their most recent winner of the Hottest Woman Alive award. For examples of the last, I submit the following:

1. A Little Counterintuitive Thinking on Gays, Guns, and Dead Babies, in which John H. Richardson turns the dogma of three standard conservative planks on their ears.

In this country, ten states supply fifty-seven percent of the guns that police recover from criminals in all other states. When compared to the ten states that supplied the fewest firearms, a recent nationwide analysis found that those ten gun-toting states also had nearly sixty-percent more homicides and three times as many cops dead from gunfire.

The difference between the states with all those cops shot dead and the others boils down to two obvious realities: gun-show regulations and gun-permit requirements. (I’ll leave you to decide which states have strict rules and which don’t). It’s another symbol with a body count, another political football with terrible consequences in the world as it actually exists. In the name of absolute firearm freedom without any restrictions — which will never be anything but a symbol until private citizens can buy working tanks and fighter planes — all those real cops are really dead.

2. What the Hell Just Happened? A Look Back at the Last Eight Years, a remarkable short piece of work by Tom Junod which carries more heft than the title suggests.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The irony of 9/11 and the wars that followed was that they were supposed to disestablish irony as a reigning sensibility; instead, they wound up exposing us to ironies of the bitterest and darkest and cruelest kind. That is, not McSweeney’s — style irony, the irony of bright minds roaming free in increasingly confined spaces; but ironies contrived by the brutal hand of history itself. The ironies of the Bush Years were ironies that exposed the consequences of our assent, guided — missile ironies that were unerringly aimed at point after point of the American creed, which began 2001 as the foundation of our belief and ended 2008 as the scaffolding of our credulity. America does not attack countries that have not attacked us. America does not torture. America takes care of its own. America follows the rule of law. America’s laws are built upon the principle of habeas corpus. America’s distinction is its system of checks and balances. American democracy is the inspiration of the world, and American capitalism the envy. America is better than that, no matter what “that” might be. These are not political statements; these are articles of faith, and yet in the Bush Years they suffered a political fate, as they became yoked to an administration that endured the irony of being the most image-conscious in American history at the precise historical moment when any control over how images were either promulgated or consumed was completely lost.

I encourage you to read both; the former is very short; the latter is worth every word of its three pages. And the next time you’re in a store, think about picking up an issue of Esquire.

0 responses to “"We believed, after being told that if we didn't, we would die."

  1. For some reason it’s taking forever to open anything from Esquire’s site, so not sure if this is still a good link, but if so, a good example of what they can do when they’re on.
    http://www.esquire.com/features/essay/ESQ0307ESSAY
    That said, I almost never read it anymore. It can be great, but it can also be painfully hip in a self-conscious way that doesn’t work after 25. But every now and then…

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