In 1927, four years after its founding, Time Magazine launched its seminal “Man of the Year” award. In 2005, five years after its founding, The Brooklyn Rail is launching its own equally seminal “Person of the Year” award. We’re a year late, but in my view right on Time. Next year, though not this one, the honoree may even grace our cover.
Over the years, Time has honored various people of prominence, both deserved and dubious. The awards sometimes signified that the figures were the “newsmaker” of the year, and at other times, signified that they were friends of Time founder and publisher Henry Luce. The 30s, for example, saw tremendous range: Gandhi, FDR, Haile Selassie, Wallis Warfield Simpson (a.k.a the Duchess of Windsor), Madame and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, Hitler, and Stalin. If you want to know more about Luce’ friends and enemies, read the great biographer W.A. Swanberg’s Luce and His Empire. For now, read on.
The Brooklyn Rail hereby makes Congressman John (or Jack) Murtha its inaugural “Person of the Year.” His courageous, altogether unexpected call for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq has suddenly, and finally, created real debate over how to end the Iraq war. Murtha, a venerable hawk, has opened the coop for the doves. Marines are always at the front lines of battle.
Whatever happens regarding the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in 2006 will owe much to the position that Jack Murtha took at the end of 2005. For this we salute him, and I have a sneaking suspicion that in this sentiment, we’re not alone.
Peace on earth.