Monday, January 16, 2012

Of One Year Gone

2011 has slithered off into the nether regions of history and I, for one, am glad of it. For me, it was a year marked mostly by heartbreak (at my friends shuffling out of my life for one reason or another) and frustration (at the incessant fuckmuppetry of humanity in general and our government in particular).

It isn't that nothing good happened; it's that those moments were mere punctuation in the novella of raucous bullshit that was 2011.

I've been in the habit of watching the Daily Show for a few years now. I should probably stop, because the cost of being informed (even by fake news) is unending rage. There is no good news to come from our capital, be it state or nation. Politicians are the idiot alchemists of humanity, turning success into failure and inevitable triumph into sure defeat. We ended Don't Ask, Don't Tell, a policy which is eminently disgusting. I will let Admiral Mike Mullen, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speak on this: "No matter how I look at the issue…I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens…For me, it comes down to integrity – theirs as individuals and ours as an institution." Emphasis mine. This is a no-brainer. There is no valid argument against it, none whatsoever. And yet it required a hard-fought battle in our cretinous Congress. In fifty years, when the greybeards are still giving us the benefit of their ripe stupidity, children will read about this in school and be mystified that anyone was ever able to look at the idea and think, "Yeah, that is both just and fair." That is, assuming they teach it at all; this country has a disturbing habit of pretending that the uglier parts of our history didn't happen.

We learn nothing.

The Arab Spring was truly heartening, but in this country, people seemed obsessed with deciding whether to ascribe responsibility to Bush or Obama. This is a stupid question, so obviously stupid that I'm forced to wonder if it's all a big joke (a recurring theme of the last decade, by the way). Are we so arrogant, so starved for success, that we must claim victories from thousands of miles away as our own?

Even the death of Osama bin Laden, what should have been a catharsis for our nation, seemed to divide us. You do not need for Bush to have been responsible (as he clearly wasn't; he repeatedly said that they weren't even trying to get him); you only need someone to have been responsible.

"Mess with the US, and we will shoot you in the head, then throw you in the ocean."

That should be enough.

Like the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement was encouraging. I thought, for a moment, that this might be my generation's Vietnam protests. I dared to hope that, unlike that movement, our leadership might listen. And when the media reluctantly covered the story, they claimed that the movement had no message. I would suggest that only someone with a horseshoe-shaped divot in their skull could honestly have this opinion. I want to grab hold of Bill O'Reilly's reptillian neck and squeeze and squeeze, shaking him crazily, screaming, "How can you make that claim? Were you struck by lightning? How is it possible for a person to be so willfully obtuse?" Achewood will serve; this is the shortest possible way to explain what the Occupy movement is about, in the tone most appropriate to this most braindead question:

What followed, after the movement exploded, was a blatantly unconstitutional series of police breakups. Some of them persist; here in Seattle, they soldier on, though the group has been completely co-opted by our homegrown anarchist kooks. Early on, when forced to abandon Westlake Park, Mayor McGinn offered to let the group camp in City Hall. The group declined for reasons I'm not aware of, but I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that it probably had something to do with the vague distrust of The Man that is the hallmark of anarchists the world over.

They recently held a vote endorsing the use of violence in their protests.

I am no longer hopeful.

2011 was the year before a presidential election year, which brings with it a particularly sinister brand of insanity. The media spent the year pretending that Mitt Romney won't win the nomination, giving the spotlight to a cavalcade of crazies, not one of which has convinced me they know which end of the spoon to use. Excepting Jon Huntsman, who, in a thinking universe, would win the nomination without hardly trying. He is the only one in the clown car who seems to have any idea how to drive, the only one who isn't proudly hostile to science, to the very idea of thinking. If memory serves, he just came in third in the New Hampshire primaries. Mitt Romney came in first; the media tried their hardest to act like this was surprising, like the wealthiest, most business-friendly candidate has a chance of losing without any hilarious flameouts. Romney, more than any past candidate for any election I can think of, represents the politician stereotype: a rich old white male who says whatever he needs to say to whoever he needs to say it in order to get elected. I doubt very much that even in his heart of hearts he knows why he wants to be president, or what his opinion on, say, abortion really is. Newt Gingrich, that perrenial bogeyman, has tumbled into the national spotlight once more. I have little to say about him except that I find it both hilarious and disturbing that he is the GOP's semi-official Smart Idea Guy. One example is enough: Newt Gingrich has suggested that a good way to combat poverty in inner cities (by which he means, a good way for black people to combat poverty) is for schools to employ their students as janitors.

The rest of the field is utterly unworthy of specific mention. Suffice it to say, they are uniformly stupid and possessed of nothing less than the most spectacular hypocrisy.

Tim Kreider, cartoonist, polemicist, and one of a handful of men I would want to have a drink with, has suggested that Plato was right, and the best form of government is an oligarchy of philosopher-kings. But he acknowledges that there aren't any left; "Johnny Cash and Carl Sagan are dead." We lost one more this year with Christopher Hitchens' passing. I did not always agree with him; in his old age, he became uncommonly hawkish. But it was always obvious, even to his worst enemies, that he was a thinking person, and a complicated one at that. This is what we need, and I fear that his passing has left us with precious few.

Locally, we privatized our state liquor in the dumbest possible way. For consumers, liquor will wind up costing more unless you've got a Costco card; that company wrote the legislation and in so doing included exemptions for themself from the extra costs that will be levied against anyone else who wants to buy or sell liquor. The state will lose money. Consumers will spend more. This during a billion-dollar budget shortfall, which has succeeded a year with a  multi-billion-dollar budget shortfall. And we are currently under the effects of Tim "Piece of Shit" Eyman's legislature-neutering antitax initiative. What's particularly frustrating about that vile parchment is the fact that everyone in Olympia knows it's unconstitutional, that they could ignore it if they wanted to. But they do not, because they can point at it as an excuse for accomplishing nothing.

Meanwhile, the state supreme court has ruled that the legislature is failing to meet their constitutional obligation to adequately fund basic K-12 education. Shocking.

But onward, to the good, that little punctuation, then ever-so-quickly we'll be back again to my bread and butter.

When the year started, I was optimistic. My associate's degree was nearing completion and I seemed to have a good shot at getting into my university of choice. As it turned out, I was right; the acceptance letter from the UW was the high point of the year. Winter and Spring quarter at EDCC went quickly, filled as they were with the sort of class that you take when you've gotten most of the required, instantly-forgotten wankfest classes out of the way.

I wrecked my car shortly before finishing at EDCC. I see this less as a spot of frustration than as a mixed blessing--not having to pay the costs of driving is nice, but not having transportation in the heart of suburbia essentially means that you can't leave the house, at all, ever. Luckily, the bus stopped close enough to my house to get me to school. I tend to space out while I'm driving, anyway. I'm better off; so is everyone else on the road.

The UW is incredible. I take classes with interesting people who want to learn, who do not look at school as a chore to be gotten out of the way. I overhear arguments about Nabokov and feminism.

And I live in Seattle. I love it here, so much. My bed is under a skylight; most nights, I fall asleep in cloudcover, lit a soft orange. Our days are mostly half-lidded, never really waking up, until one morning you go outside and the sky is so blue you can hardly stand it, and you stare at it as you walk to the bus stop, just wanting this one moment to stretch out forever.

Life is not without its comforts.

And I need them. I started the year with two of the best friends I've ever had, the only friends I've had that I truly felt like I belonged with, and now I haven't got either. I'd hoped we'd be friends for life, and when the year began it seemed like this wasn't unlikely. But one of them seemed dead-set on forgetting about me; I couldn't handle the heartache, and I walked away. The other walked away from me. Hardly an hour goes by in which I don't think of them.

I miss them both so much.

Such is life.

Lately, the music I listen to seems always to be about We: We Built Our Own World; We Broke Free; We Still Kill the Old Way; We Both Go Down Together.

We Carry On.

That's all for now.

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