Opinion

Darkness visible

After this remarkably gloomy year, 2022 has to be better … doesn’t it?

This is the editor's letter in the current issue of The Week magazine.

This is a dark time in a dark year. It began horribly, with a violent assault on the Capitol intended to stop the peaceful transfer of power — a first for our nation. The climate showed us where we're headed, as biblical droughts baked the West and sucked reservoirs dry, 115-degree heat waves paralyzed Portland and Seattle, and a polar cold snap froze Texas solid. Forests in the Western U.S. and the world exploded into flames. Monstrous tornadoes — almost never seen in December — erased communities across Kentucky and the Midwest. The pandemic we thought we'd beaten in the spring roared back twice, through Greek-lettered, mutation-disguised variants that have filled hospitals and morgues with the voluntarily unvaccinated. In this season of renewal and of hope, it takes real effort to find optimism about the future in our sore, beleaguered hearts.

We can reasonably hope the pandemic will wane this year at last, after holding humanity hostage for more than two years. But there's no reason to expect an end to another viral epidemic — of misinformation and tribal hatred — that endangers our democracy. Americans no longer share common facts, information, or trusted sources and experts; a virtual secession has already occurred. Extremists are pushing the parties further apart, and on the right, a radical, anti-democracy movement is gaining momentum. Three retired U.S. generals warned this week that a disputed presidential election in 2024 could cause "a total breakdown of the chain of command along partisan lines" — and actual civil war. If that sounds nuts, remember that two years ago, an insurrection and a pandemic were just as unimaginable. In the face of so many troubles and sorrows, what do we do? For perspective, I often think back to what my parents' generation faced, and how dark it must have felt as 1941 gave way to 1942. Then, as now, surrender was not an option. Curse the darkness. Fight. Persist.

The light is coming. Eventually.

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