Editor’s Page

Editor’s Page

As we go to press, a great American city is being destroyed; tens of thousands of its inhabitants are in desperate straits. What happened in New Orleans at the end of August should prompt an urgent reconsideration of homeland security. We have been arguing since 9/11 that a government’s commitment to the security of its citizens involves a lot more than protecting them against terrorist attacks. It involves social security, economic security, environmental security, and medical security. Terrorists put everyone at risk, but natural disasters, as we are being taught yet again, target the poorest and most vulnerable of our citizens. And so governments that tolerate (or foster) poverty and vulnerability are complicit in the deaths and injuries that result. It is an old lesson: security is not consistent with radical inequality. n Dissent has published a good many articles in these last years on the growing insecurity of ordinary Americans (not to mention the rest of the world: see Jeff Faux’s critique of globalization). This issue includes a brilliant analysis by Andrew Stark of the illogic of America’s public/private health care system—which leads Stark to argue for a system focused above all on the health risks that poor people live with every day. The steady weakening of the union movement, the steady decline in the proportion of the work force that is organized makes all American workers more vulnerable. Jim McNeill asks whether labor’s “house divided” will galvanize the movement—as the creation of the CIO did some seventy years ago—or weaken it further. We will ask this question again (and again) in future issues. The articles by Gary Marx and Ian Roxborough, written independently, make a useful and enlightening unit. Roxborough addresses the external threat of high-tech weapons of mass destruction; Marx addresses the internal threat of high-tech instruments of surveillance and data collection. The first threat is to life, the second to liberty, and we need to think seriously and simultaneously about both. Along with many other people on the left, we have been slow to acknowledge the importance of religion in political life. Islam is the obvious case these days, and gets a lot of attention, but it is far from the only one. John B. Judis brings our attention home by writing about the role of evangelical Christianity in shaping U.S. foreign policy—not only in our own time but from the republic’s earliest days. Ellen Willis brings us home in another sense: she argues for the value of a secular utopianism, which has for a very long time been one key expression (but again, not the only one) of the left’s larger project.
M.W.


Lima