Editor's Note

In a truly horrible year, perhaps there have been planted the seeds of miracles

By MIKE NICHOLS | October 2020

Maybe it’s human nature that the term annus horribilis is more a part of our modern lexicon than its counterpart, annus mirabilis.

But it wasn’t always so.

The term “annus mirabilis,” literally meaning “a miraculous year,” has been around since the Seventeenth Century. It is thought to have described the wonderous developments of 1666 when 23-yearold Isaac Newton made a new future possible with his discoveries in the fields of calculus, physics and optics.

“Annus horribilis” has only been around for 35 years, when a writer for The Guardian used it to describe the horrors of 1968 — the year Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated and the deadliest year of the Vietnam War.

It’s never good form to compare tragedies and deaths. But 2020 surely qualifies as an annus horribilis — with the COVID-19 crisis, violent protests, skyrocketing government debt and the potential for electoral turmoil. We provide ample evidence in the stories you’ll find inside. Read Michael Jahr’s interview with Ron Johnson for a sense of just how big a hole America is digging itself.

Read Julie Grace’s piece on idiotic protestors in Madison and their mindless destruction. Donovan Newkirk shows us who is trying to burn the Black Lives Matter doctrine into the minds of Milwaukee Public School students.

But our issue is much more than a recitation of horrors. Our cover package makes the case that neither police nor most of the offenders who end up in our prisons are as violent as you’ve been told.

While there’s certainly potential for enormous conflict over the upcoming election, you’ll see in Mark Lisheron’s story about absentee ballots there’s also a way to restore faith in how we go about choosing our leaders.

Restoring faith in the “mainstream” media, in the meantime, could be a much tougher lift, according to Ken Wyscocky’s excellent piece on housing policy and how it is covered by the Journal Sentinel and other papers.

Yes, it’s been a tragic year. There’s no glossing over it. Tragedies are apparent while miracles take time to reveal themselves. Perhaps it is the same with years of horror and wonder.

Newton had so much time to work on his world-altering discoveries of 1666, according to one of his biographers, because the Great Plague forced his school, Cambridge University, to close the year before.

Think about that.


Read the entire issue of Diggings Fall 2020 here.