We aren’t so much leaping into the New Year as we are fleeing the old one.
Yeah, it was a helluva bad year. And as I struggle to find some inspiring memories (requirement for all New Year’s columns), my needle gets stuck. Oh yes, getting all 12 boys and their soccer coach out of the flooded cave in Thailand was both thrilling and life-affirming. It was a cinematic moment, a heroic story playing out in real time, holding the world in thrall.
It was, however, only a brief reprieve from our national anxiety. Many of us have been waking up with our hearts pounding, choking on the morning news even before our first sip of coffee. If you’re reading this, then you and I have survived to live another year, and that’s good, but 2018 has not gone gently.
I don’t know how your life has been over the past 12 months, but mine has been marked by disturbances in the field. We have been strong enough through it all, and we begin 2019 on better footing than we started 2018. But the succession of bumps in the road has banged us up a bit. Like all families, we’ve had other challenging years, but this one tested us. Maybe you’ve had a year like that, too. It would be fine with me if 2018 had had only six months instead of the required 12.
Still, my private life has been Trumped by the public tragedy of America in free fall. I can’t remember a year in which every single facet of our American culture and history and reputation has been so efficiently sullied by a dangerously inept and corrupt administration. Everything President Donald Trump touched is worse now than it was before he was elected.
We all know by now the litany of offenses: Russians putting their weight on the scale during the 2016 election, possibly with the encouragement of the Trump team; a dumbing-down of personnel in high-value government positions; a disregard for carefully tended alliances; a White House-for-profit mindset; an ignorant resistance to scientific evidence that predicts looming climate-change disasters; an abandoning of the neediest among us; and a contempt for the principles that have held up this democracy for 243 years.
Above and beyond the mayhem the Trump administration has wrought is the sickening realization that American voters elected a chimera of a man, a strange phenomenon of a human being without a decent intellect and absent a moral core.
Week by week we have witnessed a withering of the stature that America earned through brave and bold leadership. The president obfuscates and diverts and waves shiny objects at the world press, even as he ignites the embers of racism and xenophobia that are our national shame.
His tenure in office has changed the workings and ethics of the government, but it has also changed us, making us meaner and more divided. We have become desensitized to crazy decisions and gutter talk.
“What have you got to lose?” Trump asked African-Americans in a 2016 bid for votes that was both charmless and racist. Well, now we know what we all had to lose: a hand up for those in need, pride in our leaders, clean air and water, respect among our allies, a robust economy, and perhaps most important, peace of mind.
So, goodbye, 2018. We capped the year with paralysis in D.C. and a plunging stock market. Still, hope is etched into the American soul; it is in our nature to imagine a better future. In that spirit, and with heartfelt wishes for a better year, I share a poem I have always loved, by Sheenagh Pugh.
“Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.
A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.
Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.
Copyright 2019 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.