Newspapers: our last connection?
As the TentMaker would have it: "The moving finger writes; and, having writ,//Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit//Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line//Nor all thy Tears wash out a word of it."
Life is long and memory dim. The present is fuller than we can ever at a present moment hold, and then is gone. Linking successive presents and all that is thought and done within them makes culture, makes history. Localizing such history and subsequently telling and remembering it makes community. And of all the loud-brayed lauds of Charlottesville, the one most heard is that, by God, we are a Community– not a sprawling, disjointed, alienating metropolis, but an old-fashioned, gee-whiz community where familiar faces pass, where we are known (and consequently accountable) to one another.
As others in the South, we in Charlottesville live a historical present. We suffer to have Jefferson name-dropped with obscene regularity, we endure to have it called a "Historic Downtown Mall," we slip and call it the Movie Palace, not the Jefferson Theater, or Eastern Standard, not Escafé. And we feel warm inside to know this past is with us. But Jefferson, it seems, did some bad things to a nice person, and the nice pedestrian Mall seems little more than a Food Court, and these new folks just can't get it that Downtown we say Park, not Rio.
So our distant past embarrasses us into forgetting, our recent past is buried under our having staffed the E-boom and invited all those transient Wahoos to our Downtown bars and Cineplex, and our present is so scattered, so intense, so populous that we haven't a clue what to make of or choose to remember of it.
What then is left of community, and what do we choose as history, and on what do we build our future rememberings? And how in the hell do we remember anything together when we can't talk anymore in our bars because they've all become techno-blaring meat-markets, and the grad students leering over their Being and Time at undergraduettes in every coffeehouse crowd us out of our tables there, and the rest of the herd ambles unthinking up and down the Mall, chewing costly designer cud from its many-too-many restaurants. Still... still, some lowing one of us may be doing something or saying something of note.
So, out of necessity, we make newspapers. And when necessary we make more newspapers. Each presumes to chronicle what just happened to you, and to me, and to our town. And every issue is a communal memory and the writing of communal history. And every moment we spend idly flipping its pages is a moment we spend together.
And if you recall from somewhere (ohhh, just for example) that some weepy-eyed uke-stroking idiot got dumped by his so-beautiful girlfriend, then you are one of us. And if you recall that a good man wrote for many-many recent years a bi-weekly, then weekly, paper that tolled the bells of Charlottesville's happy hours of, first growth, and now affluent phony sophistication, and that he counted these hours for us with wit and courage and love for us all, then you are one of us. And if you heard a week or so ago that he was no longer to do these things for us, then you are one of us.
But perhaps, in a newspaper like this one, someone yet has a vision of our future and the will to shape it in words, and someone yet has keen eyes and ears for our present, someone yet has affection for and devotion to our past, has love for the town and its people and for our history still-to-be-made. Perhaps someone has all these things.
Someone does. And this someone has the blinding gall, the courage, the cunning, the audacity, to tell you that this is history, that this is culture, that this is our community, that this is what you missed when you were getting her phone number after that sixth drink, or scurrying off to racquetball with your VP-Marketing, or pricing duvet covers at Bloodbath and Beyond.
And this someone has the audacity to choose what just happened, and moreover to stand up in front of all of you with his name on a placard and tell you that you haven't heard enough of what just happened, or you heard it wrong, or you shouldn't have bothered to hear it at all from somewhere and someone else.
So, and now here not elsewhere, he again writes your history, our history. And you flip the pages and recognize a face or name or two. The Editor slides his audacious moving finger down the pages of our days, and every once in a while stops to jot a note in the margins of our present to say that without question this is the day you spent, this is the life you led, this is a person you know. And this broken hearted sap still hasn't got her back. But you, you got your Editor back.
So we need the audacity of one person to dare select from this heaving inconstant present some memorable element, and you need that element in your hands so that this remains a community, and so that you remain one of us, and so that life, culture, and community are fully those things.
Here you have it. Here you live it. Earn it.