Thursday, September 01, 2005


The Editorial Principle

I realize that the piece below, "As Ye Sow," seems bitter and ungenerous when Americans of all political persuasions are both recoiling in horror at the tragedy on the Gulf Coast and also pulling together to help.

This brings up a point I had meant to make in "The Middle Monkeys" a few days ago. Many people are unaware of the original intended purpose of the "editorial." The idea is that the editor of a newspaper of magazine is supposed to be fair, unbiased, and evenhanded in the discharging of his or her duties; but it's also natural that every individual in such a position will have his or her own opinions. The editorial is therefore a vent, a steam-valve. It's meant to give the editor a place to park his own personal opinions and blat his own biases, the better to enable him to keep them out of the rest of the publication.

"The Quotidian Meander" is itself a vent and a steam-valve in that same sense. I noticed two years ago that my need to communicate my political fears and worries was growing so insistent that it was spilling over into my photography column, where it was inappropriate. I have never publicized "TQM," never done a thing to increase its traffic; I have no expectations of it and no ambitions for it. I know I'm not a political writer or a politician.

All "The Quotidian Meander" is supposed to do is to give me a personal steam vent, a place to air my political concerns, to better enable me to keep those concerns from infiltrating my photography writings. That's all. That's why I write it, why it exists.

It has worked. In my photography writings, I confine myself to photography and, for the most part, keep the politics out.

Still, it's simply important that citizens realize that this hurricane is not entirely a "natural" disaster. The increasingly horrible aftermath we're forced to witness now is also the result of deliberate policy choices by our leaders.

Never mind the fact that climatologists have been predicting for 25 years that global warming will exacerbate storm activity, and the Bush league bizarrely yanked the U.S. from its lead-dog position in the Kyoto Accord pack. Forget about that. This administration is presiding over the biggest sacking of the U.S. Treasury ever. Using the philosophical rationalization that government can only be curtailed if it is bankrupted ("starve the beast" in the infamous words of Neo-con capo Grover Norquist--click on the title for a link), the Administration is transferring wealth to big business and the economic elite at an unprecedented rate. At the same time, it is cutting back on services to average citizens on almost every front.

We would see this--we are seeing this--wherever pressures are exposing weaknesses in our societal fabric. The hurricane is merely what is exposing it at the moment.

FEMA's slow response (there are trapped infants in desperate straits in a New Orleans hospital, for instance, days after the rains stopped) and the breach of the levees the day after the hurricane passed ARE NOT ACCIDENTS. They are not natural occurrences. They are the result of choices our leaders have made. We simply must realize that; it is our duty, as citizens and as human beings.

The Quotidian Meander

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