The summer starts

The summer starts

Summer started on Thursday.

After the glorious days we had last week — breezy, warm but not stifling, green-and-gold-and-blue light — now we’re sweltering, and the weather porn that terrorizes us will take glee in predicting the 100-degree days that loom sweatily in front of us.

Summer’s supposed to be free time. Few of us fully outgrow the sense that summer is when we have off; I have a feeling that even centenarians remember the sense of school vacation in their bones.

But summer’s end is baked into its beginning (and note that I don’t use that cliché lightly. It bakes, they bake; most importantly, we bake).

Summer begins with the summer solstice, and that’s when the days start getting shorter, the day breaks later, and dusk is earlier. It is, of course, the opposite of the winter solstice, when the days are so dark that they can only get better.

So why so grim? Because this promises to be a grim summer.

Here in the United States, no matter which side of the Grand Canyon divide you’re on, if you pay any attention at all, you must realize how polarized we have become. Some people, understandably, retreat from politics, but that doesn’t work. It’s not as if it will go away if we pay it no mind.

And then, of course, there’s the ongoing traumatic nightmare in Israel, as Israelis struggle to regain their equanimity, their sense of the state as their bedrock, as the bloody war drags on, more and more innocents die, and the future becomes increasingly red-tinged.

Here at the Jewish Standard, we too are faced with a dilemma. Some of our friends ask us why we’re not more political, while others ask why we are so blatantly one-sided. The world is so polarized that trying to position yourself above the fray risks seeming so blind that you don’t notice it.

Our solution — which is shared by most other non-polemical publications (and there is nothing at all wrong with being polemical, as long as you say so openly) — is to make our news section as nonpolitical as possible. We know by now that pure objectivity is not humanly possible — putting together a newspaper is making a series of choices, and each choice is guided by practical as well as theoretical needs and assumptions — but we try.

We are a community paper, so we see ourselves as helping to build community. We steer clear of gossip and innuendo. Often we cheerlead.

We are not unbiased, though, when it comes to Israel. We are openly and proudly Zionist. We understand that the term has a range of meanings, and we do not care which meaning our readers or writers use. But we are a Zionist newspaper.

We do not try for news-story objectivity in the Opinion section, because if we did, the resulting piece wouldn’t be opinion. We aim less for even-handedness than for a faithful representation of the opinion pieces that we receive. We do not publish pieces that are too poorly written to be salvaged, and we do not publish pieces that are ad hominem attacks (although we allow more bile to be aimed at successful, high-level politicians than at more private citizens). And although we do not have a large enough staff for fact-checkers, and we make it clear that we are not responsible for correspondents’ opinions, we do not publish opinion pieces that we know to contain lies.

When you add in the constraints posed by the space we have available any week, putting together an Opinion section often seems like working on a jigsaw puzzle, just without the picture on the box for guidance.

We hope that this summer will not be as grim as it could be, and that somehow peace, sanity, and decency will reassert themselves, here, in the world, and in Israel.


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