This Is the Survival Issue

The notion of survival is inextricably bound with the concept of a future. And what can be said about the future right now, except that it is absurdly, unprecedentedly uncertain? We feel hopeful and also suspicious of that hope. We have struggled to phrase what we’re feeling. The limitations of words, and the “systematic looting of language,” as Toni Morrison put it in her Nobel Lecture, make it that much more difficult. So maybe it’s best to start with something visual. In his interview, Robert Thurman describes meditating on the image of Dick Cheney dressed as his mom in a previous life. The gesture enacts a core idea we’re circling in this issue, which is that if our society is going to make it, we need to practice compassion for others, and model ways for those we dislike to do the same for us. Survival, particularly in America, is often thought of in terms of rugged individualism. Cowboys, homesteaders, presidents named Andrew, outlaws, and, in modern times, people who start billion-dollar companies in their garages. Recent months, however, have shown us how deeply our individual survival is tied to the survival of others, including plant life, animals, and other humans. This issue intends to explore these points of interconnection. What systems of support already exist in our culture? What strengthens or harms them? Who is still struggling to survive? How can we live and make work that serves to decimate anti-Black racism and all forms of race-based oppression? How do we consciously fight white supremacy, transphobia, and patriarchy? We are being called to attention by sickness and disease, by rampant inequality, by our ailing planet. It’s time to pay attention. It’s time to ask questions of ourselves, and of those in power. Our survival depends on it.

—The Editors

View the issue’s full offerings here!

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