While reading proofs for this issue in August, a friend asked me whether I felt that my work at Raritan was “doing something” to stay politically engaged. She was in a woeful mood--the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, had just occurred and the news cycle was toggling between images and descriptions of the violence, and reports on the indulgent, deliberately provocative response by Donald Trump. My friend wondered whether working at Raritan felt meaningful in such a political and social climate or whether it felt too far removed from the “real” world. Her question surprised me, but I didn’t have to think too hard about my answer. I just had to turn to the proof pages at hand.
There I found Tom Sleigh's arresting poems “For a Libyan Militia Member” and “A Drone in the Promised Land,” which, as their titles suggest, draw from contemporary events and force readers to confront the sounds (“the chopper’s wapwapwap” ), the mundanity (“And then it was time for breakfast, to sip tea, smoke / and take my place beside the others in the truck”), and the fear (“the boy’s bombed house, shockwaves blowing out / the windows to let in riot gas”) of the wars in the Middle East.
And I also encountered Charles Postel's all-too-necessary discussion of the notion of populism, which provides a brief history of this idea during a time when the term is bandied about in all media outlets and on both sides of the Atlantic. Tracking and unpacking the language helps us track and unpack our history.
And I found, as well, Adam Shatz’s exploration of Frantz Fanon's philosophical commitments. Fanon's "journey," as Shatz calls it, ended in 1961, but the matters of freedom, power, and race relations that preoccupied him remain as vital as ever. Shatz says it will require new forms of struggle and imagination to find our way through the new reality, and I trust that Raritan--and other independent magazines--provide space to do some of that hard and imaginative work. The contributors to "Remembering Karl Miller" discuss the impact of such work in their memoirs of the late, great man of letters, a model of an intellectual and editor engaged with politics and the world, whether he was discussing an eighteenth-century poet or the devolution of Scotland or the fiction of Anne Tyler.
I don't want to overstate the case--we are not on the front lines here in our editorial offices. But the kind of skeptical stance or posture that Raritan nurtures, at once engaged and questioning, helps me, for one, navigate the turbulent waters of modern life.