YO DUDE, IT’S THE MAN OF THE YEAR!
Back in the day, there was this national institution known as Time, a magazine which was of common occurrence in homes and waiting rooms across the land. Today, not so much, though it has managed, to its credit, to remain in continuous publication even as paper publishing, especially of magazines, has become fraught with peril. Back in 1927, when I was still pretty young, the magazine’s founder decided to recognize the Man of the Year, perhaps more as an excuse to put national hero Lucky Lindy on the cover yet again than from any thought that the public would be still interested in quibbling about the suitability of the selection each and every year.
Lest you think that Bigly’s flying by the seat of his pants yet again, I actually researched the award’s history on that unimpeachable source, Wikipedia, and I persevered even as they hit me up for a donation so that I would know whereof I wrote. I was aware, of course, that Man of the Year had metamorphosed into Person of the Year, but when? Turns out that it was in 1999, and that the four women who had been named previously had been dubbed the Woman of the Year, which seems sufficiently non-sexist to me, but hey, it’s not my award. I also was aware that a really big problem with the award in its present-day manifestation was that John Q. Public had come to insist that it be sort of an award for meritorious service, or popularity, rather than the most consequential newsmaker of the year, which was the original intent (and which the magazine still pays a grudging lip service to). Back in the day, in fact, some of the biggest baddies of the century (i.e., Hitler and Stalin) won the award. The last individual whom the American public truly despised to win it was Ruhollah Khomeini, in 1979 (though I’ll have to admit to not having heard of some of the recent winners (David Ho or Andrew Grove, anyone?…answers on a postcard).
And yet another neologism is that some of the winners have latterly turned out not to be persons but people, and in some case, not even that; at the time there was some derision when the computer won it, and later on the whole planet won it. But I was surprised that this phenomenon of groups of people started up fairly early, in 1950, when “Soldiers” won it.
Another little peculiarity that the magazine probably would like to sweep under the rug is that as Y2K loomed, they decided to honor a Person of the Century, winner to be determined by a global internet vote. Of course, the outcome was too ridiculous to be anything but hilarious, and they ended up just picking someone (whom, I can’t remember) in the office one afternoon, but, if memory serves, the top finishers on the Web were Jesus, a pro wrestler, and three South Asian pop singers. In fact, they’re still doing this; if you want to dig around a little and have good eyesight, in the bowels of this year’s issue you can find that the winner of this year’s internet vote was a member of the House of Saud.
So, with this in mind, I was privileged to cast a vote in an internet poll posted by the daily newspaper which publishes a few miles up the road. It asked who we, the common people, would select as the Person of the Year, though you did have to pick from their nominees. Just like in the presidential election, a plurality was won by President Trump, which of course means nothing more than that the bumpkinry amid whom I live simply wished to reemphasize their love for the man and his non-stop hate machine.
As for me, I decided to vote for the year’s big power-grabber, China’s President Xi, and was the first so to do; I am sure that the government of China will soon be recognizing me with a medal for helping him see the light of day over here. I passed over Korea’s Kim Jong-un for no particular reason, and was pleased that I so did, for he had already received a handful of votes. And as for the Silence Breakers, whom the magazine chose, or any other groups of people, abstract ideas, or inanimate objects, well, such complexities simply had not occurred to the good grey newspaper, and we had to vote for a person, an individual person. Thomas Carlyle would be quite pleased.