The piece, which begins, in seriousness, with a quote from a 16th century French philosopher, is a rambling jumble 0f platitudes and reeks of the white-hot passion of an enduring and powerful teenage angst. Penn’s subject is Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the drug cartel kingpin who was arrested this week after months on the run.
We learn many interesting things about the writer, as well as his subject in this piece. First among them, Penn has a hard time with technology.
At 55 years old, I’ve never learned to use a laptop. Do they still make laptops? No fucking idea!
One can almost see the frustration of Penn’s editor, who probably lost a little chunk of his soul as he read this:
I take no pride in keeping secrets that may be perceived as protecting criminals, nor do I have any gloating arrogance at posing for selfies with unknowing security men. But I’m in my rhythm. Everything I say to everyone must be true. As true as it is compartmentalized.
Another thing we learn is that Penn holds the cure to the world’s ills—if only someone would listen to him!
Working in the emergency and development field in Haiti, I have countless times been proposed theoretical solutions to that country’s ailments by bureaucratic agencies unfamiliar with the culture and incongruities on the ground.
El Chapo, reports Penn, is not a tourist. What does this even mean???
I could not sell him on a bait-and-switch, and I knew that in the writing of any piece, my only genuine cards to play were to expose myself as one fascinated and willing to suspend judgment. I understood that whatever else might be said of him, it was clear to me he was not a tourist in our big world.
Sean Penn farted in front of El Chapo.
At this moment, I expel a minor traveler’s flatulence (sorry), and with it, I experience the same chivalry he’d offered when putting Kate to bed, as he pretends not to notice.
Penn delights in referring to himself as a Gringo. It’s likely that his suggested headline for the piece was “Gringo In A Strange Land.”
I ask myself, How in the fuck does anyone run a business that way?! I go Full-Trump-Gringo on Kate, battering her daily by phone, text and encrypted email.
As you dive deeper into the meandering mess, it becomes clear that Penn holds some sort of Hollywood-inspired reverence for El Chapo, a man who once claimed that he had murdered thousands of people. In the end, Penn says he was disappointed by the quality of his interviews with the kingpin—though he’s clearly made up for it with his own insightful commentary.