by the Editors
Dear friends and readers,
On September 5th, The New Herald turned one-year-old. In one of the first pieces the Herald published, a painting by Émile Friant (called la Discussion politique) shows four individuals in the midst of a conversation that seems to have gone off the rails. Four men sit around a table drinking and one of them, a newspaper under his arm, seems to insistently address another, who angrily refuses to look at him. This scene painted in 1889 feels vividly familiar today. It is easy to identify with the individual who desperately tries to make a point to a friend–whose sense of annoyance and dismissal is also painfully recognizable. Perhaps one is most sympathetic to the friend, head in hand, staring on in haggard confusion or frustration.
The truth is, no matter where we locate ourselves within this painting, we have all observed or participated in similar discussions. Feelings such as urgency, frustration, and confusion are a natural part of life. But when our political discussions come to be overwhelmingly dominated by intractable discord, something is amiss in the way we conduct the conversation. This is why we started The New Herald.
We believe a rupture can be undone. Not in a permanent or final way, but in the sense that wounds can be treated, illness diagnosed, and the body brought temporarily back to health. The body politic or society are composed of relationships. Each relationship suffers from the disorder of its constituents. To heal society, we have to think smaller. In order to address a national sense of dissension, we have to start with the individuals that comprise the nation.
The goal of The New Herald has always been to start small. We started the journal to try to answer a question: is serious and open conversation possible online? As we have witnessed in the year since our founding, such conversations are possible. However, engaged and welcoming conversations about politics and society are only sustainable if they are mutually investigative. It’s necessary to have a space wherein we approach an exchange believing we can learn something from someone else, rather than convince them of the truth of our ideas or signal our allegiance to a side. The Herald was started as an attempt to create such a space.
Moving forward, we are doubling down on our commitment to an open exchange of ideas. We are proud of what we have published so far, but we want to emphasize that the subjects of our conversation and the perspectives involved should change. Conversation is unpredictable, especially if it is open to a variety of ideas and individuals. If you don’t feel that your point of view is being represented on the site, submit something. The New Herald will always welcome new topics and new points of view.
After a year of trying to jumpstart the kinds of conversations we need to be able to have, we realize that we’re still learning how to do this. This year we want to issue an invitation to learn with us.
Thank you, again, for the invitation. I confess, I was just inwardly lamenting yesterday that I feel unable to have a conversation, because I feel provoked so intensely by what has been transpiring politically. I don’t like that the conversing feels almost impossible with those close to me, who believe so differently. I have appreciated the perspectives shared on the New Herald, but I appreciate most the call to conversation, even though I don’t know how to do it well. Anne Lamott had a sentence in her post today that said, “You can tell you’ve created God in your own image when He hates all the same people you do.” This pierced me. I aspire to look through a lens that does not demonize. Your site helps me toward that end. Thank you.