Holy Shit! Is it over?
Honest to Christ and His Sacred Codpiece, 2016 was a total shitshow, yeah?
Things started out like any other year and even had a huge plus with the nuclear deal the Obama administration made with Iran. Then the portent of bad things to come hit us with the passing of Bowie and the longest, most ugly year in recorded history settled onto us like a shroud.
There are a billion year-end retrospectives to ingest so I'll do a quick hits off the top of the Literate Ape noggin:
- Bowie, Lemmy, Prince, Leonard, Gene, Alan, Ali, Harper, John, Ron, Alexis, George, Carrie and an odd list of people who made our lives better all took the ride along the River Styx this year.
- Lemonade, Hamilton, Brexit, Deadpool, #OscarsSoWhite, record homicides in Chicago, exploding cell phones, Cubs win, Feel the Bern and We the People got the President we deserve.
- Standing Rock, Aleppo, Black Mirror, Stranger Things, safe spaces and trigger warnings on campus, lots of cultural appropriation, fake news, Russian hackers, Making a Murderer and earthquakes in Kansas.
And Rogue One.
For myself, it was a year of reinvention. It started with the realization in the first half that I was fifty years old. It started with the idea that I had completed the first half of the marathon through this sometimes dazzling sunrise to sunset cornucopia of bliss and sometimes fetid swamp of spider traps and had survived intact. The first half of 2016 was, for me, filled with an epic birthday party, an epic in-person interview with a personal hero, a trip to New Orleans with the Love of My Life, a lifetime goal of seeing the Rocky Balboa statue in Philadelphia in person.
Then, at the turn of the summer, in a black malevolent stew of identity politics, false victimization, petulant reactions and the ugly bullying potential of social media, Lydia "Trump" Lucio ripped into me with a cadre of morons and syncophants and managed to knock down my house of cards with a baseball bat named Petty Vengeance.
Out of that noxious tempest came some eye-opening moments, shining light on unattended corners where the detritus of poisonous intent and casual self interest had been festering. A bizarre conspiracy of dunces set to take me down. A friend who was no friend at all, content to watch me twist and dodge in controversy, shrugging his shoulders as the bus rolled over me. Who then, when given the opportunity to shiv me when I was down, went on the offensive when he saw that I was aware of his duplicity.
I had my Trump moment some four months before most in this country did—the unlikely but almost pre-destined moment when my illusions of who the people around me were was shattered by their allegiance to a Lilliputian opportunist or their fear of standing up to her. I watched my micro-Trump win at my expense and spent several months trying to figure why and how and who was to blame. (Ultimately I concluded it was probably my lack of campaigning at all in the Rust Belt states...) Bouncing back is a genuine effort - to remain trusting, to remain true to my beliefs, to remain untouched by bitterness.
Perhaps that is the source of my lack of angst of the election. Perhaps that is the source of my solemn expectation that the hammer was/is going to drop regardless of my horse-blinder inability to see it coming. You see, Trump (the figurative Elephant in the Room of 'Merika) is not unusual or particularly dangerous. There are bullies and tiny dictators all around us, from Rahm to O'Reilly to the random kid who creates a meme making fun of the fat, gay kid in gym class, and to pretend otherwise is to be leveled by our own delusion that it is otherwise.
In the microcosm of the Internet piling on are the seeds of the macrocosm of a neo-McCarthyism against those we have ignored or pilloried ourselves or simply allowed to suppurate in those unattended corners.
In several conversations with those a bit older than I, the discovery I'm making is that this is just how the world turns. People die every day. In fact, around 54 million people croak every single day. The odds that a few among those who have made our lives just a bit more livable would be among them. My mother has lived through the deaths of Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Katherine Hepburn, Liberace and John Denver, and these meant every bit as much as my grief at the passing of David Bowie and Prince.
The war of ideas will continue to cycle back and forth and we will either engage in them or endure them. An older black man—who distinctly remembers the days when he couldn't urinate in bathrooms marked for Whites Only—has a broader perspective on the debate about making all bathrooms unisex than anyone confronting this issue for the first time in their lives. An older white woman who fought hard against Nixon, a coalition builder for the marginalized in fervent support of McGovern, has a deeper understanding of the fight for Bernie, then Hillary, and the eventual ascendency of the Tangerine Real Estate Magnate.
Was 2016 the bugaboo that we all seem to want to make it?
Was 2016 worse than 1918 which heralded in not only the butchery of World War I but a worldwide influenza pandemic? It’s possible that influenza killed more people in September, October and November of 1918 than AIDS has killed in all the years since it entered the human population.
Was 2016 worse than 1943?
Was 2016 worse than 1968?
Right now always seems either far better or far worse than our collective memory reflects because the pain right now is Right Now. The remembrance of pain and frustration of years past fades and become the scars we can trumpet like the skeleton crew of the Orca.
My conjecture is that 2016 wasn't that much better or that much worse than most years but the sting of proximity sure makes it feel like the longest year in recorded history. We use dates to mark time but time doesn't recognize our mechanizations. 2017, like 2016 and 1968, 1943, 1918 and on and on are just signposts for us to note and reset. People will die because death is just one part of the deal. The world will turn and the thing I'm holding onto is that 1919, 1944 and 1969 all happened in spite of the years that preceded them. What we do with 2017 is entirely up to us.
Let's not fuck it up, OK?