Slideshow:
Mountain top removal
coal mining in W. Va.
Editors' Story

In perhaps his finest novel John Steinbeck tells of Americans in the 1930’s enacting, yet again, the destiny of their nation—as one founded by people on the move, desperately eager to find a new life elsewhere, no matter the risks, eager also to explore a constantly expanding country, until “from sea to shining sea” became a summary of countless treks across the continent. real binary options Explorers (as in our Bookmark, and by implication, Lookmark) soon enough gave way to seekers, and viewers—even as horses and their pathways were followed by railroad tracks, then roads, highways. In the 1930’s, economically hurt and ailing families found in Route 66, which starts in Illinois, a beacon of sorts, a means to achieve a dream: across all that land is possibility, hope for achievement—the many miles travelled will yield a job, a place to live, a host of prospects hitherto denied, now seemingly across a continent rather than around the familiar, all too bleak next corner. Here is Steinbeck rendering for us readers what a writer, a photographer, try to show and tell in the pages ahead: “66 is the path of a people in flight, refugees from dust and shrinking land, from the thunder of tractors and shrinking ownership, from the desert’s slow northward invasion, from the twisting winds that howl up out of Texas, from the floods that bring no richness to the land and steal what little richness is there. For all of these the people who are in flight, and they come into 66 from the tributary side roads, from the wagon tracks and the rutted country roads, 66 is the mother road, the road of flight.”

At another point Steinbeck calls highway 66 “a migrant road,” even as a migrant farm worker told one of us editors, years ago, that for all the hardship of her kind of daily toil in the fields of this nation, she at least gets “to see all sorts of people doing all sorts of things—I tell my kids [who worked alongside her and their father], and that way I learn how it goes in life for a lot of folks.” A pause, then a summary after-thought that basically tells what this issue of this magazine (indeed, all its prior publications) is all about: “You use your eyes and ears, then you put it all together, upstairs—in your head, until you have the whole story, and then you can help your little ones figure what’s going and why.”

A mother’s effort at observation, comprehension, is furthered in the pages that follow. We are taken by two essayists to the border territory (much in the news these days) that makes land variously, separately, called Mexico and the United States. We are also taken to miners, who work the land below or above, and to those who worry about the effects of willfully indiscrimate coal-mining. We also are helped in our reading heads to venture across the ocean, where (in Africa) we encounter a young American trying to figure out what obtains around him (and doing so with the help of a distinguished European political philosopher who became, finally, one of America’s most astutely compelling sages). Back home “in the States,” as many who leave a nation think of it, call it abroad, we are prompted to consider the young, those who bear them, and the schooling they eventually get; and too, the very old, who have stayed together as long as a half a century—the foregoing conveyed through personal rembrance and through fiction. We also meet the consequences of a nation’s disastrous folly, a war abroad become a family saga worthy of the Greek tragedians, of Tolstoy, of George Eliot—a father outraged by a war his son helps fight. Abroad this planet, apart from the ravages of war, the personal, familial ironies of those who do the fighting, or are the parents of such soldiers, there are human beings trying to make do—contending with the ravages of nature, in North America, or across the continents: trying through their imaginative life, to make sense of things—as two who roamed widely tried to do, figure out what is going on, and why, through an essay and courtesy of an interview. “Only connect,” the novelist E.M. Foster famously urged us, and surely it is such advice that those using words and pictures in this periodical’s issue yet again aim to affirm on our behalf.