Practically every columnist in America writes end-of-year pieces expressing relief as the old year, bruised and battered, heads out to sea, coupled with the hope Baby New Year won’t turn out to be Chucky, or Damien, or little Rhoda, the phony-sweet, pigtailed killer in “The Bad Seed.”
But 2017 has, once and for all, cured me of the habit.
Cured like Lazarus.
Just thinking about 2018 feels a little like a scene in a cowboy movie where the hero, trapped behind the bar, holds up his hat, only to get a bullet hole through it.
Because of our innate, can-do optimism, we assumed that after 2016′s bare-knuckle election, America eventually would find her way back to the center, the way she always has.
No one dreamed the center would crack, bend, splinter and nearly come undone in 2017.
How crazy was it? Well, Oxford Dictionary quaintly chose “youthquake” as its 2017 word of the year, when everyone knows it should have been “groping.”
Mark Twain is credited for coining the phrase that “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.”
If one of the purposes of history is to help warn us away from past mistakes, why does it feel like we’re in the middle of a U-turn?
Next year, there will be thousands of articles published commemorating 1968, one of the most turbulent, pivotal and crucial years in our modern history. Yet, here we are, still squabbling over race, social justice and poverty — like we were in 1968.
We’re still at war in a foreign land halfway around the world.
In 1968, we had a president who declared the free press an enemy of the state, cheered on by loyalists as his administration lobbed assaults at the First Amendment.
At the start of the 20th century, America’s wealth and resources were controlled by a handful of titans under the guise that monopolies were for the greater good.
We have Americans in 2017 who no longer make a pretense of country over party, who have shown their hand and made their priorities clear while trying to convince the rest of us their motives are for the greater good.
They show no humility, no fear of losing their power.
America is still young and wild and still in the throes of growing pains. Our squabbles have always been our own. Now comes word that one of our perennial adversaries is threatening our ability to govern ourselves. We’ve always pushed against such incursions, even to the point of hysteria and paranoia because we collectively understood that country meant more than political camps.
This time feels different. There is a curious absence of outrage among some citizens, who don’t seem at all concerned, who seem dubious of claims that there are been attempts to hijack our system through money and propaganda.
Americans begging to differ are the last, best hope of ensuring they will not be successful.
Let’s all hope 2018 is more than just more of the same, otherwise “Hold my beer” is going to look like “Dilly, dilly.”