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I once dreamt of progress. I thought that America, like a turbine or a generator, underwent a series of design changes, alterations of the blueprint, toward an increasingly perfect mold.
History, I thought, molded through the fires of human failure, moved forward, like time. But history is nothing like time. It does not move forward or backward. Two, even three, dimensions cannot contain the story of America, any more than a piece of paper can contain a cube. History is the movement of time through space, the chaotic wanderings of space bits: aflame, unknown.
History is like gravity. There is no up or down. Just mass and velocity. Look to the stars tonight. Look to the satellites and planets that crease the quilted atmosphere, changing its shape, redefining beginnings and endings with the hour. See overhead the space-rocks and satellites that move without meaning or purpose. They move this way and that, held together by something we don’t understand.
You can look all your life for center of it all — the thing toward which everything moves. You won’t find it. All this energy, all this data. The voices of the People. They circle around something, which is circling around something else, which is circling around something else, and when you step back and look at all the tiny moving parts, what you have is a magnetic field of tiny universes, but no fate. Perhaps there is no long arc of history. Just a thousand lonely circles, concentric and mercurial, like the stars.
Welcome to the age of populism, the age of anger, the epoch of democracy, of alienation, of inclusion and angst. Never has the voice of the people been so loud, so shrill, so contradictory, and so crucial. Vox Populi. The Voice of the People — a people confused, intelligent, full of sorrow, hope and beauty. In these pages we find their stories.