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.


  1. "... the world is tumbling, bobbing along in the rushing sewer of events that flows through the ditch we've fallen into." How wonderfully descriptive. And how terribly accurate.

    It's been a really tough ending to 2016, that's for sure, and the future looks even grimmer. But I have to agree it's not beyond the realm of possibility that this horror show may somehow have a positive ending. History has shown that the world can survive the most insufferable abuses and evolve into something better. A lot of us living in the present may not be around long enough to see it happen, though.


  2. Trump is so delusional and narcissistic he spins his own tales.

  3. Indeed, this is a global phenomenon. TY Neil for reminding us of that. As I served tourists here from around the world in the previous year, I could feel the energy & attitudes (people find ways to let u know where they're coming from, more or less subtly). I feared this outcome for some time. The MSM, in my view, was In Denial. Every time Trump did or said something outrageous, we liberals mused SURELY HE CAN'T...and Trump's people loved him for it. I think there are less "dupes" out there thank folks, fellow countrymen, who simply hate liberal progressive ideals. They're into this, they're gleefully into a swing back toward a White Christian Hetero Male Hegemony. Worldwide. Not just including those who voted for Trump, but also those who didn't vote. A higher number than we might want to accept. They're a fact, they can't be underestimated, ever, or even condescended to. I think back to a previous column here about hope, and about having to stick together to Fight the Power. Let's keep that in mind, too, as the new year approaches. And Happy Holidays!

  4. Not a Trump fan but the problem may have started when the uber left seemed to make it a crime to be a white, Christian, hetero male. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.

    1. Women/blacks/minorities/gay/trans/fat/old/poor (continue to fill in here) people simply want to be treated equally. Why do white/Christian/hetero males feel so threatened by that? Just because I'm a feminiist, for instance, and demand to be treated fairly doesn't mean I want men to be treated unfairly. No one wants to be better-than, just the same-as.

  5. I know that drumph has been compared to Hitler countless times, but I recall a video I watched of Hitler meeting with union workers shortly after he became Chancellor. He got an icy reception, boos and jeers and silence, to which he was contrite: I know you are disappointed, but it was the workers who chose me. Yeah, right. He then outlawed the unions.

    1. Just so happens that in reading History's Unknown Chapers by Giles Milton, I've gotten to the chapter in which Hitler is challenged in court in 1931 with Goebbel's incendiary language about "pounding our adversaries to a pulp," to which Hitler replied that such was not to be taken literally.

  6. I also am depressed by the political turn of events, but this may be a bit too dystopian. Trump hasn't been elected to be King. And even kings didn't always get their way. Reaching for historical comparisons of being on some kind of brink, I think of Cold War confrontations like the Cuban missile crisis, when classified traffic I was reading suggested that the nukes flying was a real possibility. Or lines written by an expat Englishman at a time of real and clear-cut world-wide peril.

    "I sit in one of the dives
    On Fifty-second Street
    Uncertain and afraid
    As the clever hopes expire
    Of a low dishonest decade:
    Waves of anger and fear
    Circulate over the bright
    And darkened lands of the earth
    Obsessing our private lives;
    The unmentionable odour of death
    Offends the September night.

    Exiled Thucydides knew
    All that a speech can say
    About Democracy,
    And what dictators do,
    The elderly rubbish they talk
    To an apathetic grave;
    Analyzed all in his book,
    The enlightenment driven away,
    The habit-forming pain,
    Mismanagement and grief:
    We must suffer them all again."

    Tom Evans

  7. after nearly 60 years i am certain of few things and absolutely certain of only 3. i can't tell the future and i can't read peoples minds.

  8. One year from now, by next Christmas day, will all the Obama haters be happy with their choice of leader or missing the relative calm and sanity of the last eight years? As the Republicans hasten nullify the Obama presidency by erasing every law and social/political change he achieved, who will suffer more? They may be surprised to find that hate is a poor substitute for needed government entitlements and economic/international stability.

  9. That Joe Ricketts upset me more when he made comments against Pres. Obama.


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