We have no articles in this issue about the Lebanon war. Nobody in his or her right mind would venture to do a piece now (end of August) to be read in mid-October—when there might be a stable cease-fire or another war or a diplomatic initiative or, most likely, when we will still be waiting for the UN. When we finally do write about the war, there will be a lot to criticize: the familiar pattern of UN inaction that allowed the buildup of Hezbollah’s arsenal, the conduct of the war by both Hezbollah and Israel, the media coverage of the war around the world, and an outcome that could too easily produce a renewal of the fighting. But there is another issue that should be central for the Western left: the need for moral clarity about the politics of radical Islam, represented in this case by the president of Iran and the leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah. What these people express is a zealous hatred for everything that the left stands for—or should stand for. Which makes those “We are all Hezbollah” banners carried in antiwar, actually anti-Israel, demonstrations in European cities very disturbing. We will have more to say about this in 2007.
This issue features Darryl Lorenzo Wellington’s fine report on the state of New Orleans a year after Katrina. We can rarely mobilize the resources to send a writer across the country. But the destruction of an American city and the extraordinary failure of the government to look after the refugees or to organize their return—this was an occasion to which we had to respond.
The life cycle isn’t often a subject for leftist writers, but it should be, because its different stages are revelatory of our social state. We have put together a group of articles that cover three of Shakespeare’s seven ages: from “the whining school boy with his satchel” to “the lover sighing like furnace” to “the sixth age,” which Lillian Rubin addresses in terms more hopeful than the Bard’s. Three of the pieces deal with schoolchildren. In one of them, Dissent editor Deborah Meier writes with élan (the article is from a talk) about what our kids can do, if we give them half a chance.
For everyone who enjoyed World Cup soccer this past summer, we include here a report from our man in Beijing, who watched the games on Chinese television. The World Cup may be the first global festival. No other game is played in so many different countries or, every four years, watched with such passion by so many people. And as Daniel A. Bell makes clear, how the games are watched in this country and that one tells us a lot about the local politics and culture.