I ran a half-marathon yesterday in the early morning light, all by myself. After 13.1 miles, and more than 600 feet of climbing on the roads that snake ever upward through the fells north of Boston, I staggered to the door of my apartment building, thirsty, tired and, frankly, spent. I needed a rest but, as both Slade the Leveller and Isaiah the Prophet observed, there is “no rest for the wicked.”
That is how I feel, one year after the launch of The Typescript, in every emotional sinew. My intellectual muscles are strained, and my joints ache. Our times, as I noted from the perspective of 15 May last year, are disorienting. This is a time “of casual injustice, alternative facts, and ‘no collusion.’ And in the gloaming twilight of our planet – so preventable, yet increasingly inevitable – we have arrived at the Orwellian political moment when ‘ignorance is strength.’ These are times of political choices. As he was writing 1984, George Orwell observed of his own times that ‘there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues….’”
These are dark times, I wrote last year, much like those times described by Hannah Arendt: framed by “the disorder and the hunger, the massacres and the slaughterers, the outrage over injustice and the despair ‘when there was only wrong and no outrage,’ the legitimate hatred that makes you ugly nevertheless, the well-founded wrath that makes the voice grow hoarse.”
Yet Arendt noted that “even in the darkest of times we have the right to expect some illumination,” and the goal of The Typescript has been to provide some.
It is a flickering candle, to be sure, a dim light measured against the enormity of the darkness that engulfs us. Almost halfway through a calendar year that began with Australia ablaze, and a step to the edge of world war, and then continued from one disappointment and disaster to the next – the failed impeachment of President Trump, the still-fresh wounds of the Democratic primary, and the lingering distrust on the left, the unending drumbeats of racist murder and antisemitic violence – our times seem no less gloomy. And now, in America, we sit bickering over “opening the economy” as the butcher’s bill of the Trump administration’s abject public health failures ticks ever closer to 100,000.[*]
My father used to say, on every 5 July, as we lit another candle on his cake, that birthdays were only good if you used them to stop and take stock of your accomplishments in the year just passed – which is probably why I never celebrate my own birthday. Looking back at The Typescript’s first year, I find that we have accomplished much, even if we – the great collective “we” of our editorial staff, our readers, and the vast community of people of good will and conscience of which we form an admittedly small part – have not yet quite banished the darkness.
The Typescript’s greatest accomplishment, indeed, has been to meet out founding goal to “provide an open forum of ideas, tolerant of many perspectives; where the personal, in all its manifestations and variety, is political, and the political personal.” Associate editors Matthew Barlow and Theresa Smalec, with whom I agree politically roughly half the time, deserve the lion’s share of the credit for this success. Barlow has shepherded our coverage of independent music, a uniquely eloquent source of light and resistance against the darkness, to a level of exceptional breadth and critical acuity. Smalec’s literary section, devoted throughout our first year, to works of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction documenting these times, has published some of the most moving and insightful literature to be found anywhere.
Despite our differences – and they are many – or maybe because of them, I have found working together with these associates to build something greater than ourselves individually to be one of the most rewarding professional experiences of my life. That phrase “vive la différence!” seems much less of a cliché when you actually live it.
Together, we have built an editorial staff that is the stuff of any editor’s dreams. Audie Wood, a self-described “reformed southern RWNJ”[†] has brought a perspective both desperately needed and often sorely-lacking in our global political conversation to his weekly columns. Greg Horn, the very image of the crusading journalist, has brought a different, though just as essential, viewpoint to Indigenous and First Nations issues. Our regular culture and arts critics – Samia Aladas, Evi Cox, Paul Olioff, Karl Rozyn, Rik Eisenberg, to name just a few – have never failed to cast light on our culture. Other regular contributors, like Mark Shainblum, DJ Gaskin, Robert Hazel, Susan Messer, and Stephanie King have incisively commented on our historical and cultural moment.
The gloom of that moment remains, of course, relieved in pinpricks of radiance, of which The Typescript is but one. The struggle to keep the flame alight has been both gratifying and exhausting and, after a year – this year – that the light still burns as brightly as it does feels like an accomplishment worth celebrating, like running a half-marathon.
But 13.1 miles is only half of a marathon, and there are still many miles to run before we can rest. The race continues. There is no rest for either the wicked or the righteous.
Photo © Matthew Friedman
[*] The Novel Coronavirus death toll has passed 91,000 as I write this; we will almost certainly reach the grim milestone of 100,000 next weekend.
[†] “Right-Wing Nut Job.”