spirit of the holidays

Note: The photos heading each section were taken during the year being reviewed. That doesn’t impact the content in any manner but we thought you’d want to know.

Four inches of snow lie on the ground outside as I begin writing this week. More snow is coming. Assuming this publishes on Sunday, December 22, Hanukkah starts tonight and after that, it’s one seemingly endless stream of holidays right through January 1. This is, in theory, the most festive time of year, a celebration not only on religious terms but also of the ending of the year and the decade. There are lights blinking everywhere, including the racetrack, but you have to pay an ungodly amount to see them. Same for the art museum. Same for the zoo. No one wants to drive from neighborhood to neighborhood to look at lights anymore because you might accidentally stumble into gunfire. 

Holidays are here and with them, we’re supposed to feel happier spirits, a sense of thankfulness for having survived and a delight in being able to give to others. Yet, too often that’s not what happens. Charles Dickens, a person with an abidingly deep love for one holiday, in particular, wrote:

Christmas time! That man must be a misanthrope indeed, in whose breast something like a jovial feeling is not roused – in whose mind some pleasant associations are not awakened – by the recurrence of Christmas.

If Dickens is correct, then we have perhaps become a population filled with misanthropes. The end of our years now are filled more with dread than decadence, worry more than wassailing, regret rather than rejoicing. Many approach the holidays in sorrow, moaning the loss of one unjustly taken from them this year. Each calendar exchange seems to take us another step further away from the giddiness and anticipation that came not only with opening presents but also with seeing our favorite relatives, enjoying the company of cousins we hadn’t seen all year, and setting aside the stresses that had kept our brows furrowed the rest of the year.

Some might suggest that as thoroughly modern individuals we are simply more in tune and aware of reality than were our predecessors. We are too keenly aware of earth’s problems, from foreign wars that have no purpose to climate change that threatens our existence to the burden of insurmountable debt before one even claims their first job. Being “woke” comes with a price that leaves our spirits and our wallets too broke and broken for celebration.

I feel oddly obligated to at least attempt to correct this malaise that is set upon us. Surely, somewhere in the ethos of time and space there still exists some overriding reason to spend the remainder of this decade a little less curmudgeonly, a little more spritely, and perhaps, dare I use the word, happy. Taking a cue from Dickens’, I’ve summoned the Ghost of What-The-Hell-Happened in a search for meaning that might lighten our spirits just a bit. I’m not necessarily looking for a Frank Capra ending, but at least, perhaps, a grin.

It Started In 2010

 Spirit of 2010
2010

The decade started with the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Having the games so close without having to actually suffer the insurmountable costs ourselves made the games so much more fun for Americans, and the Canadians, being everything that they are, did a wonderful job playing host. American skier Bode Miller finally won gold, and the US took gold in the snowboarding halfpipe as well thanks to Shaun White. The Olympics were a good start to what seemed as though it might be an outstanding decade.

We were listening to everything from Eminem’s Recovery to Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now, Drake’s Thank Me Later and Lady Gaga’s Fame. We watch a lot of sequels, from Toy Story 3 to Shrek Forever After and started the long and emotional process of ending the Harry Potter series. 

New Orleans made permanent enemies of the Colts when they beat them 31-17 in the Super Bowl, something many will never forgive. When it came time for baseball, the San Fransisco Giants made short work of the Texas Rangers, taking the World Series in only four games. The Lakers dominated the NBA and the Blackhawks took home the Stanley cup.

This was also the year that President Obama was able to sign the Affordable Care Act into law, giving millions of previously uninsured people a shot at healthcare coverage. While politicians have been arguing over it ever since the bottom line is that a lot of people have benefited and would be severely hurt if it is ever taken away.

All in all, it wasn’t that bad a year if you don’t look at the bad stuff. Most of the bad stuff happened on other continents making it easier for Americans to ignore. Sure, we had that one guy that crashed his plane into an IRS office in Austin and a brief bomb scare in Times Square, but we also ended the military’s Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell policy and put limits on the use of nuclear weapons. So, overall, as years, go, this wasn’t an especially bad one, which makes it good. Right?

Terrorism Takes A Bullet

Spirit of 2010
2011

Without question, the biggest news of 2011 was the killing of terrorist-in-chief Osama Bin Laden. The photo of President Obama in the war room as the event unfolded gave many people confidence that we had a competent Commander in Chief who was making good on the quest to hold responsible the person who masterminded the 9/11 attacks nearly ten years earlier. There was a lot of celebration in the US… and a lot of other people went and hid under their covers.

Oh, and Britain’s Prince William married Kate Middleton, which the biggest wedding since William’s own parents’ event. There was all manner of discussions about succession and tradition but at the end of the day, it was the bride’s sister’s butt that got a lot of attention and sold a lot of dresses.

I should probably mention the hope and joy and came with the Arab Spring movement, but given that ten years later we’re seeing how that didn’t turn out so well, maybe we’ll just skip that part.

More to our liking, the White House defined the Defense of Marriage act barring same-gender marriages as unconstitutional, saying that the Attorney General’s office would no longer defend it. On cue, the state of New York says “thank you, very much” and passes a law allowing same-gender marriages, setting off a tidal wave that would dominate conversations on holidays for the next four years.

We were still watching sequels in the movie theater, still listening to Adele, Gaga, Drake, and Lady Antebellum, and a whole bunch of people picked up The Help by Kathryn Stockett which set off a reading frenzy that lasted a couple of years. Not a bad thing at all.

Rangers made it back to the world series and this time it took all seven games before the Cardinals disappointed the Texas team again. Packers took the Super Bowl, Mavericks won their first NBA championship, and the Bruins took the Stanley Cup in a brutal beating of the Canucks. 

The downside to this year came in the loss of some wonderful people, such as Amy Winehouse, Steve Jobs, and Christopher Hitchens. We wouldn’t have minded had they stayed around a while longer. Still, overall, the year was positive enough to leave most of us feeling good about ourselves and about the future. We were going to the New Year’s Eve dance with a positive outlook.

Some Years Are Just Rough

Spirit of 201
2012

Being a presidential election year made 2012 a tough one from the very beginning and while the end result was positive it took a toll on the American psyche that is still playing out. This was a tough year to be in charge of anything, anywhere, and by the time it wrapped pretty much everyone, myself included, was glad it was over.

This was a bad year to be a kid. The horrible mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut was preceded by the mass shooting at a movie theater in a Denver suburb. This was a turning point in the national conversation on gun control that ended in mass frustration as elected officials across the country ran and hid.

The topic of same-gender marriage was frequently in the news. President Obama expressed his support for it and the state of Washington made it legal, but the state of North Carolina banned it. The Supreme Court agreed to take up the matter and while everyone in the LGBTQ community was publicly positive, there were still plenty of state initiatives to provide angst to the whole scenario, and nothing started a family argument any faster, except maybe gun control.

We did find some bright spots. The Summer Olympics in London came along in the middle of July and distracted us slightly for a couple of weeks. The biggest news was American swimmer Michael Phelps breaking the record for most gold medals ever. Yay! In fact, the US dominated swimming events for both men and women, which made us quite proud. We were also quite proud of Gabby Douglas for taking the women’s all-around gold in gymnastics and US women for taking the team gold. There was plenty of good news here and we were quite welcome for all of it.

Our music taste became questionable as Brit boy band One Direction dominated rather uncomfortably in what some wanted to term as a second British invasion that, thankfully, never materialized. The one highlight was Lionel Ritchie’s Tuskegee but too many people missed it and the opportunity to benefit from the conversation was lost. 

On the big screen, we watched our backs while Batman, James Bond, Spiderman, a Hobbit, and a talking teddy bear captured our imaginations. Security was a lot tighter in movie theaters the second half of the year, but we coped by buying more popcorn.

The New York Giants offed the Patriots in the Super Bowl, the World Series got tense as the SF Giants took game seven after ten nail-biting innings, Miami Heat took the NBA championship, and perhaps one of the most emotional games came when Roger Federer took the Wimbledon Championship from Andy Murray. There are Brits still heartbroken over that one. 

President Obama won his bid for a second term, of course, but one could feel the division growing across the country. This whole American experience began getting really uncomfortable and in the midst of it all, we lost Dick Clark, Etta James, Donna Summer, Whitney Houston, Andy Williams, Sally Ride, Davy Jones, Don Cornelius, Dave Brubeck, and Ray Bradbury. 

On the plus side, Kat and I met at a not-a-holiday-party party on December 6. That’s working out well, so far [evil grin]

Love Wins, Sort Of

Spirit of 2013
2013

The most important event of 2013 came on June 26 when the US Supreme Court determined that the Defense of Marriage Act prohibiting same-gender weddings was unconstitutional. Celebrations occurred. There were still battles to fight, though, as the decision tossed authority back to the states, damnit. 

Much of the rest of the year was a wash, though, as we saw blatant stupidity grow as the National Voting Rights Act was gutted, George Zimmerman was somehow found not guilty of murdering Treyvon Martin, and the whole Bradley/Chelsea Manning thing went down in one of the biggest debacles ever. Ick. Let’s just move on.

There was a 34-minute blackout during the Super Bowl, and no, it wasn’t because everyone had too much beer. Baltimore Ravens eventually won the game, but no one outside Baltimore seemed to care. Boston Red Sox took the World Series in six games and the Miami Heat took the NBA championship for the second year in a row. This was a great year for East coast sports, but the rest of the country responded with a massive, “Meh.”

Movies this year were so disappointing I’m not going to bother listing any of them. Music was slightly better, although we, nationally, listened to far too much Justin Timberlake. The rest of the time we were listening to Pink and Bruno Mars and Imagine Dragons and Florida Georgia Line. We read Dan Brown’s Inferno because we can’t stop. We also read Bill O’Reilly’s, Killing Jesus, Veronica Roth’s, Divergent, and John Grisham’s, Sycamore Row because we were largely scared of new authors.

Stuff falling from the sky was particularly big news this year, to the point one might begin to wonder if the deities were hurling things at us, quite literally, from their distant thrones. Debris from a meteor hit Siberia, killing 1,000 people. One doesn’t expect that on a normal day. Ever. A massive Category 4 tornado flattened Moore, Oklahoma again. Why they bother rebuilding at this point defies logic. They keep getting flattened. They’re not getting the hint. Then, to round out the year, November 17 comes alone and Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Tennessee see at least 60 confirmed tornadoes. 119 tornadoes were reported. The damage across the Midwest had FEMA managers feeling quite confused as to where they should be. 

We understand that feeling far too well.

There is practically nothing else about 2013 that is uplifting except Kat and I move in together and three weeks later I hurt my leg and haven’t walked right since. This year was a bitch.

Spies Love Us

2014
2014

2014 was the year the whole CIA domestic spying scandal broke wide open. When it was found that they had hacked and spied on the Senate Intelligence Committee and everyone else. As a result, Congress unanimously passed a law requiring a search warrant to access information on anyone’s cell phone. What that had to do with the Senate Intelligence Committee is still baffling but it made everyone feel good at the time.

The Supreme Court struck down laws in several states, including Indiana, making same-gender marriage legal in more states. This was a HUGE win for the LGBTQ community but simultaneously sparked another debate over transgendered people using public restrooms. Republicans ride the fear-mongering train to re-take the Senate and increase their dominance of the House in mid-term elections. This should have been seen as proof that the majority of Americans don’t give a shit about anyone’s civil rights but their own.

This is also the year the NFL gets nailed for failing to deal adequately with the violence issues of their players, primarily Ray Rice and Adriene Peterson. There are a lot of charges, a lot of press conferences, and in the end, nothing demonstrably was changed to reduce the amount of violence within the league. 

Hobby Lobby showed that privately-owned businesses can get away with any stupid thing they want, particularly failing to pay for contraception as required by law, as long as they claim a religious exemption. That they’re still in business doesn’t say anything positive about the American people. 

This is also the year an unarmed Michael Brown was shot by a cop in Ferguson, Missouri. We’ve yet to solve that problem, either.

The Seattle Seahawks win their first Super Bowl ever, which made something like 15 people happy. Giants barely defeat the Royals in seven games to take the World Series. San Antonio prevents Miami from doing the “three-peat” thing in the NBA. No one watched any other sports because we were either hiding from spies or afraid of the police.

We did go out to see Guardians of the Galaxy and Big Hero 6. This was also the year that Disney took the “on ice” thing literally and the song “Let It Go” became firmly ingrained in the minds of every six-year-old in the country, making it impossible for any adult to ever use that phrase again, ever. We also listened to Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and for reasons yet to be explained, One Direction. We went to the bookstore and became obsessed with John Green’s novel, The Fault In Our Stars and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.

I should probably also mention the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. They were the most expensive ever and more people began questioning whether it was worth hosting. Women’s hockey was a big deal, but so was doping on the part of the Russian national team, which eventually caused a number of medals to be vacated. This is yet another problem that continues to plague the games even into 2020.

We lost a lot of cool people this year. Robin Williams, Maya Angelou, Oscar de la Renta, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Joe Cocker, Pete Seeger, Ben Bradlee, and Harold Ramis are top among a very large list. 

We did land a space ship on a comet this year, though, so we have something of which we can be proud.

No Place To Hide

2015
2015

2015 sets a new bar for being scary. From massive earthquakes in Nepal to terrorism in Paris, this year was all kinds of fucked up in ways we hadn’t seen before. A co-pilot locked the pilot out of the controls of a Germanwings aircraft and flew the plane into a mountain, killing all 150 people on board. “Death by cop” became a real problem, and then some smarmy white kid walked into a black church in Charleston, SC and started shooting during a Bible study. A reporter and cameraman were murdered live, on-air. 

The Supreme Court finally made same-gender marriage legal across all 50 states. The feeling of glee was almost immediately ruined, though, when a self-righteous court clerk in Kentucky said it was against her religious beliefs to issue marriage licenses to same-gendered couples. She spent a week in jail and lost her battle but not before soiling what was rightfully a major win for humanity.

The Pope came for a visit. Catholics went nuts, but everyone else kept saying, “Hey, while you’re here, why not do something about that whole pedo-priest problem ya’ll have?” He didn’t. It’s still a problem.

Mass shootings were a bigger problem than ever. 10 people killed on a college campus in Oregon. Five people killed at a military recruiting office in Chattanooga. Three more at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs. Then, to round out the year, a married couple shot up San Bernadino. After all this, try telling your kids that yes, it really is safe to go somewhere. Anywhere. 

We were feeling a bit nostalgic as Star Wars, Mad Max, and Jurrasic World took over the box office while Inside Out introduced our kids to their inner emotions, giving them a sufficient vocabulary with which they started therapy. 

Adele said Hello, Rihanna wants to know if you have her money, and Silento ruined ever wedding reception with this whole whip and nae-nae thing that just got completely out of hand. We got all excited when a second Harper Lee book, Go Set A Watchman was published, but then came the question as to whether Ms. Lee was tricked into signing the papers allowing the book to be published. We felt confused, so we turned our attention to Paula Hawkins’, The Girl On A Train

Patriots cheated their way to a Super Bowl win. Kansas City finally got the World Series win they’d been wanting, then silently slipped into relative obscurity. The Golden State Warriors took the NBA Championship from Cleveland. A surprising number of people didn’t know the Warriors were a team.

This is the year we lost Leonard Nimoy, B. B. King, John Nash, Christopher Lee, Omar Sharif, Yogi Berra, and Jackie Collins. 

The year finished with a second terrorist attack in Paris. We never should have left our beds.

Electing Rich Oranges

2016
2016

2016 picked up where 2015 left off, further cementing the concept that, collectively, we’re a bunch of dumbasses who think killing innocent people solves things. The worst included three simultaneous bombings in Brussels, Belgium (35 killed); a shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida, (50 killed); a bus that plowed into a parade in Nice, France (80+ killed); and a truck that ran through a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany (12 killed). How did we respond? Why, with thoughts and prayers, of course. 

We weren’t the only killers, though. Hurricane Matthew came along and killed approximately 1,600 people before it was done. I can’t help but note that we’re getting a lot better at forecasting when and where these storms are going to hit but we’re not getting a lot better at preventing deaths. The disconnect there is rather bothersome.

We were afraid of catching the Zika virus that was running around everywhere and that kept some people from attending the most disastrous Olympic games ever in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This was the perfect time to highlight the impossible burdens the International Olympic Committee places on host cities. Venues weren’t ready. Where venues were ready, guests and athletes had to venture through slums of people living in lean-to shanties without enough food to eat. Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, and Usain Bolt still put forth amazing performances that inspired everyone, but shortly after the games word of abuse on the part of the gymnastics team doctor began to spread and the fallout is likely to be felt at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

There was some softening in US relations with Cuba but since most of those have now been rolled back they’re hardly worth mentioning. Don’t you hate it when you do something good and someone else comes along and ruins it for everyone?

Broncos (Denver) beat the Panthers (Carolina) in the 50th Super Bowl that was more spectacle than game. The world nearly ended, though, when for the first time in over 100 years, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. The curse was broken! Everyone was happy for about three minutes. It was the Cavs and the Warriors again in the NBA championship but this time the Cavs took the series, thanks largely to MVP LeBron James. 

Our taste in music this year was as questionable as our electoral choices. We listened to a lot of Beyonce but we also listened to far too much Justin Beiber. Sia, Ariana Grande, and a bunch of dudes all named DJ something-or-the-other were in the mix as well. This was a year when Shakira and Rihanna made more sense than most musicians.

We were much more content to escape to the theater, where Moana was inspiring, Dr. Strange was mystical, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them kept our Karry Potter hopes alive. Then, Marvel brought us the one hero with which most of us could relate: Deadpool. THIS was the hero we needed and we embraced him.

2016 was also the year most of America became aware of Lin Manuel Miranda’s musical, Hamilton, which largely swept the 2016 Tony awards. The impressive work inspired us to not only take interest in Broadway again, but also US history as we checked out who this Alexander Hamilton guy was. The roadshow continues to sell out theaters everywhere it goes.

Our reading got introspective and somewhat convicting as Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad took most the attention and Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Mathematicians by Margot Lee Shetterly were the hottest things on bookshelves. We were also rather interested in Max Porter’s Grief as social media puts a new spin on how we work through the loss of a loved one.

Then came that damned election. Reasonable people failed to understand how an orange made its way to the nomination. They certainly didn’t expect it to win. But then, to demonstrate that stupidity isn’t just an American personality trait, the UK voted to leave the European Union as well. Both countries have suffered ever since. 

Wait, What?

2017
2017

2017 was the year of the double-take as the reality of our 2016 errors set in and news came at us so fast we hardly had time to react to one thing before we were being hit upside the head from something else. Once again, there was way too much violence and this time the numbers were among the most shocking ever. This was the year some jackass took to the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel and killed 58 people attending a country music festival. The focus quickly turned to how-the-hell no one saw him taking an arsenal of weapons up the elevator, but no one did and a lot of people died, so Congress responded by eventually getting around to banning bump stocks. Yawn. That wouldn’t have stopped the jackass who walked into a church 35 days later and killed 27 more people. Congress responded by saying, “Well, maybe we’ll ban bump stocks.”

Oh, this was also the year that a bunch of fucking Neo-Nazis took to the streets of Charlottesville, West Virginia carrying fucking tiki torches and wearing polo shirts and chinos. Things did not go well. They met with considerable opposition. Then, one of those fucking Nazis drove a car into a crowd of protestors, killing Heather Heyer. Emboldened by the election of the orange, these fucking imbeciles seemed to think this was their time to shine. They seemed to have forgotten that we have a license to kill Nazis, a practice we might consider taking back up.

Mother Nature wasn’t much kinder to us, though, as we were hit with hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria all back-to-back. Massive failures of every kind happened, the most egregious of which came in the government’s lack of aid to Puerto Rico, apparently forgetting that they’re US citizens as well. To this day, we’re still not sure exactly how many people were killed by the storms and their aftermath.

Women factored strongly this year, starting with the Women’s March on Washington, DC one day after the orange was inaugurated as president. There were arguably more people at the march than there were at the inauguration. Women were pissed and that didn’t stop as they decided that if they were going to call out the president for his dirty and immoral deeds, they’d call out everyone else, too. The #MeToo movement began and while Harvey Weinstein was the biggest name to be held accountable, there was a crap ton of other men involved as well. For once, we listened and all those men immediately found themselves out of positions of power. It would be fantastic if this was the one thing for which 2017 is known.

But it’s not. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick had decided a year earlier to take a knee during the national anthem to protest police violence against blacks. It made some people a little uncomfortable but the opposition seemed minor. In 2017, football players across the league joined in and suddenly the protest was mislabeled by the orange as being disrespectful to the flag and the movement became a problem for the NFL. What did the NFL do? Blame Kaepernick, of course. The quarterback was blackballed and hasn’t worked since. Meanwhile, police violence against people of color continues unabated.

There was a huge solar eclipse this year which got everyone excited. There were, of course, the demented leftovers from the Dark Ages who warned the world would end (it didn’t) and despite countless warnings from every medical source on the planet, the orange looked directly at the eclipse without any eye protection. Other than that, though, it was fun to see everyone get excited about science for a couple of weeks. 

We were listening to Ed Sheeran, Imagine Dragons, DJ Khaled, and occasionally Taylor Swift or Salena Gomez, but there was a significant imbalance in the number of music awards given to male performers over women and when we realized that we … just kept listening to the same things because that’s what we do.

At the theater, we were thrilled with Gal Godot’s portrayal of Wonder Woman and scared in a whole new way with “Get Out.” We were largely confused by the 8th installment in the Star Wars sage, though, and despite the Academy Award win, “The Shape of Water” still leaves a lot of people wondering if the movie is promoting sex with fish. The answer is no. 

To escape the lunacy, we read George Saunders, Lincoln on the Bardo and Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward among many, many others. 2017 was a good year for book sales.

After 51 years and only their second Super Bowl appearance, it looked as though the Atlanta Falcons might win one for once. No. The Patriots came back from a 25-point deficit and disappointed the entire nation. The Astros took the World Series for the first time ever in seven games against the Dodgers. In a routine that was starting to get boing, the Warriors beat the Cavs again for the NBA Championship. Hey guys, maybe let someone else play?

There was a whole giant truckload of political trash as well. Things we’d just as soon forget, such as the orange using Twitter to set policy. Delving into that mess would just be too depressing at this point. 

Getting Out Of This Mess

2018
2018

There were actually some decently good things happen in 2018, though they’ve largely been overshadowed in our memories by all the stupidity and nonsense in Washington. Let’s start with the fact that it was a united Korean team competing in the PyeongChang Olympics. That was a major milestone of diplomacy that hasn’t been seen in Korea in over 60 years. Norway’s Marit Bjørgen ruled skiing, taking home five medals. American Shaun White repeated as champion of the snowboard halfpipe, and Japan’s Yazuru Hanyu was the first figure skater to repeat gold since Dick Button did it in 1952. The games were a wonderful break that hardly anyone remembers anymore.

Fortunately, there was also a wedding to distract us and this time American’s felt as though they had a stake in the game as Britain’s Prince Harry married American actress Meghan Markle. There was some controversy, of course, because we can’t let love be love. Some were upset that Ms. Markle is biracial. Others were upset that she was divorced. Drama with her family didn’t help matters, either. In the end, though, the wedding was a spectacle and the couple wasted no time making babies that have practically zero chance of sitting on the throne but still get to go to the parties at the palace.

That’s pretty much where the uplifting news ends, though. Robert Mueller’s special prosecutor team handed down dozens of indictments and sent people to jail. There were two more school shootings that no one did anything about because apparently, kids’ lives only matter before they’re born. Sears and Toys ‘R’ Us both went bankrupt, driving home what we’ve known for several years that brick-and-mortar retail has a massive problem that no one’s solving. A racially-insensitive rapist was given a seat on the Supreme Court for the rest of his life. And then, to top everything, the government started separating immigrant children from their families and holding them in cages. Sure, there are some subtleties there but history doesn’t give a shit about subtleties. When Democrats took back control of the House of Representatives in November, the rookies started immediately making the Speaker uncomfortable with talk of doing something about the orange. Someone mentioned the word “Impeach” and all of Washington went nuts.

So, we looked for distractions. We listened to Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper over and over because their remake of “A Star Is Born” made everyone feel all gooey inside. Donald Glover countered that with a gritty “This Is America” that made us uncomfortable facing reality but not enough for us to actually do anything. Again. There were a bunch of other songs but, honestly, 50 years from now no one is going to remember them.

In addition to “A Star Is Born,” we were thrilled as Wakanda came alive and the “Black Panther” became everyone’s hero. “Avengers, Infinity War” left us crying, but fortunately there was “Spiderman: Into the Multiverse” and the long-anticipated “Incredibles2” to dry those tears and make us happy. The theater was a great place of escape in 2018.

We emersed ourselves in books such as Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry, Confessions of The Fox, by Jordy Rosenberg, and Lisa Brennan-Jobs memoir, Small Fry, which is so raw that at times it feels as though she’s carving up her father, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, and feeding them to the wolves, then immediately apologizing for the just criticism. 

The Philadelphia Eagles denied the Patriots a comeback and won the Super Bowl, showing some cracks in the Belicek/Brady armor that may hint at the decline of the Patriots empire. The Dodgers returned to the World Series but this time it was the Red Sox who took the series in an uneventful five games. NBA finals were a repeat of 2017 and the entire world is wondering if anyone else in the league even matters at this point.

Solidifying our angst was the number of really important people who died, people who shaped our youths and our understanding of the world. By the time we reached December 31, many of us were wondering if we could just skip 2019 and go straight to 2020. The answer would be “No.”

Crushing Any Spirit Left

2019
2019

Let’s be honest, by the time we got to this year, many of us were feeling beaten, discouraged, and ready to give up. This decade has been hell and we entered it without much spirit or hope for anything more than what we’ve seen every year: bad politics, mass shootings, international terrorism, racism, gender inequality, bigotry, religious abuse, and a deeper ideological divide than any of us can remember.

This is the decade that took David Bowie and Prince IN THE SAME YEAR. It also took Maya Angelou, Aretha Franklin, Stephen Hawking, and Neil Simon. All the nice people, all the people who encouraged us to think, all the people who made us happy, were gone.

Suicides skyrocketed this decade as well and it did so on every level, in every age group, among every socio-economic condition. As a result, there was practically no one in the US who was unaffected. Everyone lost someone.

Even sports didn’t have a lot to offer. The Patriots beat the Rams in the Super Bowl, the Toronto Raptors finally beat the Warriors in the NBA finals, and the Washington Nationals won their first World Series, but all those seemed to be little more than background noise thanks to all the garbage being spewed not only by the orange but everyone on Capitol Hill, resulting in an impeachment investigation that made it clear that not only is everyone in Washington a crook, no one outside Washington gives a damn as long as their team seems to be winning. 

So, where do we look for hope? Now that we’ve suffered through this exercise is there anything left that has a chance to lift the spirits that we pretty much buried in 2016?

A handful of things come to mind. Probably chief among those is the fact that SAME-GENDER MARRIAGE IS LEGAL across the US. Ten years ago, I doubt even the most ardent LGBTQ activist thought we would see this milestone happen so quickly. Transgender rights have improved dramatically as well, though there remains a lot of work to be done on that front. Acceptance has increased to a point where those who still want to argue the point are quickly shouted down by a chorus of LGBTQ allies before those directly affected ever get involved.

There were some serious medical breakthroughs this decade as well, particularly when talking about cystic fibrosis and Ebola. Where AIDS was once a near-certain death sentence, we have reached the point this decade where the disease can be prevented in most cases simply by taking a pill. 

While much of sports have seemed repetitive and dull, the US Women’s Soccer Team proved that they’re worth watching and deserve to be paid just as much as the men, pushing forward the debate about pay equity not only in sports but across the table for all women.

A teenager taught us about global warming when we refused to listen to actual scientists. She stopped flying in planes, made train travel popular, and, perhaps more joyous than anything, beautifully trolled the orange when he tried to belittle her. We’re still dangerously close to reaching the point where we cannot backtrack on the damage done to our planet, but there’s one voice of reason that’s shining bright in the darkness.

We’ve come to understand and accept a lot more about autism and how to respond to people who have it. As a result, schools have become places where therapy and help are available, kids are getting assistance rather than being kicked out for being disruptive. We’ve also paid more attention to nutrition and how food deserts affect kids’ ability to learn. We’re still not paying teachers anywhere close to a sufficient wage but we’re making improvements that mean kids that were left out in previous generations will survive in this one.

We’ve become more conscious than ever of the food we eat, thanks in part to a number of listeria and ecoli breakouts that forced us to pay more careful attention. At the same time, though, we’ve continued to overeat and are looking at nearly fifty percent of the country being obese by the end of the next decade. We have a long way to go, but raising awareness is the first step to solving the problem.

We’ve realized that there’s more to life than work and that a college education doesn’t mean you’ll get a job that pays enough to cover the debt created getting that degree. This led to a sharing economy boom with Air B&B and ride-sharing companies taking off in ways few saw as possible. Travel has once again become big business as more people are concerned about the quality of the experience over other concerns.

We carry in our pockets or our purses the answer to almost every question ever asked and it’s all available at a touch thanks to the new generation of smartphones that double has handy cameras. As we create memories, we capture and share them not only with family but everyone. We see more of how people want to live and sometimes that drives us to improve our own lives in the process. 

There ARE good things here. There are ALWAYS good things, every year. The problem is that the noise around all the bad things is so loud we lose the sound, and the memory, good things. That cheerful spirit of the holidays isn’t gone or dead, it’s being drowned out by a choir of Scrooges who want us to fear them and the possibility of what they might do if they don’t get their way.

Perhaps, just maybe, the way to get that spirit back is to respond to the Scrooges by turning down their volume, don’t give them the platform, and reducing their importance in our lives. Sure, we’re going to vote for president this next November, that is important, but we don’t have to let that conversation dominate our lives anymore. We know the orange is a thief and a crook and that there are other fruits that are just as bad and we need to remove them all. So, come November, we fix that.

In the meantime, we can work on regaining the happiness and the spirit we lost this decade. We can tell more stupid people to fuck off, focus more on getting good things done, supporting more medical research, being allies for those who are disadvantaged, buying more art (not just looking at it), singing more songs, meeting more people who are different than we are, and paying more attention to our own health so that we’re not killing ourselves off faster than we can procreate. Perhaps we can also take this opportunity to stay the fuck out of other people’s business, let people love who and how they wish, care more for the children after they’re born than before, do more to make healthcare universal for everyone so that no one is dying because they can’t afford to live, and getting more exercise for ourselves because we’re too damn fat and we’ve got to deal with that. 

We can do this. We can make the next decade so much better than this one we just barely survived. We can create more good things, do more things that matter, and shut down the old men who have lost their usefulness as our country’s leaders. 

On your mark, get set, LIVE!

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