Sunday, December 25, 2016
2016 was a good year, in that we were alive. Otherwise....
The year is winding down, and I noticed people online making a point of listing some of the good things that happened this past year, lest 2016 be remembered solely as the year that a brittle, angry, unfit fraud told America he would make their dreams come true, and 60 million people fell for it.
To be honest, I was tempted to join in. And it was a good year for me—the new book did well, I traveled, from Joshua Tree National Park to Washington, D.C. to rural Japan. The boys kept hitting it out of the park, rounding the bases of college with an easy, casual grace.
And really, considering the 14 billion years of void that come before we wink into consciousness, and the untold billions more of darkness and oblivion to come, any year on the sunny side of the grass is a good year. It beats the alternative.
But it feels wrong to pin a few lacy highlights on 2016, hoping they'll obscure the gathering disaster. It isn't just Trump's election, but a worldwide retreat from the modern, interconnected, tolerant, intelligent, caring, scientific approach that got us to this world of smart phones and flatscreen TVs and CT scans. We've gone off the rails, from Britain and Brexit to the Philippines and Dutarte, with God knows what's to come. The dice are tumbling, the world is tumbling, bobbing along in the rushing sewer of events that flows through the ditch we've fallen into. If we're going to be at war with China in a year, or watching boxcars of Mexicans rumble south, I don't want to have history catch me showing slides of my as-yet-unruined life up until the moment the whole thing goes to hell.
One of the many reasons 2016 was a good year is because 2017 is going to be worse. I'm fairly certain of that. Oh sure, Trump is erratic, and can renege on an insane promise as easily as he can make one. But again, there is a global context here. It isn't just us. And if it were, the prelude is so ghastly and horrifying we already have begun to re-jigger down our standards of exactly what ghastly and horrifying means. Donald Trump sent out one tweet recently that, while no worse than dozens if not hundreds of others, seems to me to show just what a pickle this country has put itself in.
As you probably know, the inauguration looms, and the usual A list of stars is balking at the idea of performing for this awful man. So far he has a few corporate entertainers -- the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Rockettes, though not without individual dancers raising a howl of protest. Some child, 16, who obviously doesn't know better, will sing the National Anthem.
If you or I were in Trump's situation, we'd nod, and wonder if perhaps we weren't conducting ourselves in an ideal manner, given that all professional entertainment was shunning us. Or we'd lose ourselves in the million important details of putting together an administration.
Not Donald Trump. Not pettiness incarnate. Here's the tweet:
The first sentence is an obvious lie. Donald Trump's entire life has been one long genuflection at the gilded void of celebrity, in himself and others. The idea that he would reject any mildly famous person is laughable. Then he somehow twists that into a barb at Hillary Clinton -- these celebrities failed to elect her, so he doesn't want them. He wants "the PEOPLE!" The vox populi who elected him. The lumpen proletariat -- and I sincerely feel for them. It blows not to have a job, an industry, to be so hateful that you look at our departing First Family and see only apes, their elegance and intelligence and dignity for eight years unperceived, meaning nothing to you. That's a level of narrowness and crazy I can only squint my eyes and imagine.
And it blows to be in that precarious position and be duped, to place your trust in a con-man, and only realize after the bank account is drained that the Nigerian Prince who promised to share his fortune with you, provided you put up some earnest money, was not real after all. Not that I expect them to grasp that, soon or ever. You become invested in the deceit you fall for. Better to be cheated than a fool.
We've turned our country over to this man and these people. That's an enormous pile of shit that will counterbalance all the individual personal good we could possibly heap on the other tray of the 2016 scale.
Not that I am despairing, I'm not. Life has become more complicated and difficult and awful for millions of Americans than it would have been had Hillary Clinton won, while millions of others are ululating over good that will never come their way, except through shared delusion. I am confident good will come from this — after years of suffering, certainly. But it will come. It's coming now. Each ghastly day of jaw-dropping revelation will be one day, one step toward reaching -- and we assume eventually passing through and then, please God, putting behind us -- whatever cataclysm the world is heading toward.
It would not help anybody to suggest that my buying a snowblower somehow slightly mitigates the year America was brought low, garlanded with shame, and drop-kicked into a nightmarish hall of mirrors hell the dimensions of which we can only guess at for now. I won't do it.