HAPPY OLD YEAR’S DAY 2018
Another year over, and what have we done? Yes, 2018 is at an end. We can look back at the past, and forward to the future, and celebrate an arbitrary date chosen to begin a new year – January 1. People will make (and break) resolutions, promise things will be better in the new year, and proceed to do the same things the way they always do them, because the new year isn’t magic. There is no reason to expect things will change, because New Year’s Day is an imaginary day…oh, the day actually exists, but there is no reason to believe things start over that day. It’s really just another day to which we have chosen to add significance.
So what have we done? What was 2018? It was a year of tantrums, mostly. The chief occupant of the White House has distinguished himself from other presidents by throwing nearly daily Twitter tantrums, praising himself to the skies, telling lies and making shit up, and just in general acting like the giant toddler he is. His staff has spent the year lying for him, cleaning up after him, resigning in disgust, being fired, or just in general having a really bad time. It’s actually rather hard to feel too much sympathy for anyone who chose to work for a giant orange id.
Wars have continued over the globe. The New Year won’t change that, though some may end and others begin, the idea of war has a depressing continuity that stretches through the entire path of human history. Our history is strewn with corpses, and body counts have become meaningless. In an era of remote strikes, they become even more meaningless to many because they are not our own, they do not look like us, and they do not speak the same language. You can make all the resolutions for the New Year you want, but the new year will not bring an end to war. You have to do more than make resolutions; you have to find a way to change the national mind (of many nations simultaneously).
Mass shootings have been another continuation for 2018, with 294 mass shootings. The first was shortly after midnight on January 1, so we got an early start on the killing spree. The most recent listed was on December 29, so we managed to continue throughout the year (since there are approximately 11 hours left of the year, this may change). Some days logged more than one mass shooting; many of these didn’t even make the national news. Meanwhile, any attempts to control the mayhem through the use of legislation stalls in Congress as the NRA continues to throw money at lawmakers at all levels of government. I expect we will see no relaxation of the culture of mass shooting in 2019.
This year has also seen some other events that will continue to contribute to our overall societal malaise as we go forward. Perhaps chief among them, at least for some, is the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Although there is evidence that many lawmakers (probably most) believed Christine Blasey-Ford’s story of sexual violence, he was confirmed on a narrow margin (50-48) and will be on the Supreme Court for many years, making decisions that affect women, in spite of the fact that during the hearings, his contempt for women was only barely veiled, if at all.
This year was the year that we were regaled with pictures of children separated from their parents, sleeping in large rooms covered with aluminum foil blankets and deprived of the basic rights that accrue to human beings. Children misplaced after being put into foster care because they entered the country without permission, and their parents being sent home without their children because our government did not know where they were.
This year the investigation of the Trump administration continued, with 33 indictments issued. Guilty pleas have led to sentencing for key Trump officials, and evidence that Russian government officials interfered in our 2016 election continues to collect. The Mueller investigation is moving closer to the White House, and we do not yet know what 2019 will bring, but it appears it could be big. Though to be honest, moving from a Trump presidency to a Mike Pence presidency is definitely in the category of be careful what you ask for, because you may get it.
This year marks the first time ever that the United States has entered the list of most dangerous places for journalists. We tied for fifth place with India, joining such illustrious company as Yemen and Afghanistan. Many people believe this is attributable to the near daily attacks on the press by the United States president, not shying away from suggesting that the annihilation of unpleasant journalists would be welcomed. While US presidents have traditionally had a difficult relationship with the press, no president has ever launched such a broadside against one of our basic freedoms, the freedom to be informed by a free press. In addition, a journalist who was dismembered and killed at the Saudi Embassy in Turkey roused indignation throughout the world, but not in the White House, who did acknowledge it was a bad thing, but refused to take any actions against the man most likely responsible for the murder.
The year continued…Trump rallies. Syria. Russia. China. Turkey. Saudi Arabia. The Wall. ICE. #MeToo. Stormy Daniels. Government shutdown. Climate talks. Women’s rights. Abortion. Religious privileges recast as rights. Neo-Nazis and Antifa. EPA eliminating the science advisor. Wildfires because the forests aren’t being raked. National wilderness areas shrinking. Unions being hamstrung by the Janus case. The list goes on…and on…and on, while the orange one tweets insults at those he considers his enemies (anyone remember Nixon?), broadly defined as anyone who questions his superior brain, his superior deal making ability, his knowledge of government, and his stable genius status. Many of the insults are racially and/or sexually charged, and his base eats it up…because he hates virulently, he erupts in regular spasms of rage, and the people he hates are the same people they hate.
Somewhere in all of that there were good things that happened, some of them big (rejection by Supreme Court of Trump’s changing of asylum rules comes to mind), some of them small (I had some minor successes, and I imagine you did, too – I certainly hope you did). I won’t detail those, because they cannot offset the monstrosities of the year, and listing the pittances that were positive will only set off the extreme negatives in greater relief.
So go ahead and celebrate the arbitrary beginning of another year, the day that nothing will change except the last number on the year, but don’t expect too much. 2019 will continue the continuity of human history, with wars and rumors of wars, with hatred and love, with one step forward and two back, with warming climate, with government by tweet (at least until such time as Trump might leave the WH, which might not be this year), and we will continue to limp along, hoping to salvage as much as possible of the human experiment. If you were planning to drink too much for the celebration, this is a really good year to get temporary amnesia.
Happy New Year to all my dear readers. I hope the year meets all your brightest hopes.