New Hope for the New Year | Opinion | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

New Hope for the New Year 

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Bah, humbug! That's my holiday greeting to you. While we're wondering how we can make the coming year a bit better, our idiot-in-chief is trying to come up with a plan to stick another wrench into the workings of American democracy—by finding some way to avert cleansing the White House and incarcerating the entire Trump clan. I guess you all remember our president's campaign promise to drain the swamp; now we understand that most of D.C. (and Moscow) would be caught in the vortex.

I remember, as a boy, carefully looking over each charming Currier and Ives Christmas card illustration. In their predictable perfection, those paintings revisited America's sometimes-dreamy-and-gentler past: A time when the simple things of life were what the holiday season was all about ... a time before annual holiday indebtedness had become the accepted routine, when children's impatient sense of entitlement hadn't yet taken over ... and a time when a fat Macy's Santa Claus and tinsel trees weren't yet substituted for Christmas' real meaning. It's about love, pure and simple. It's not about things. Frankly, Christmas is enough to make me cry.

In addition to the corrupted holiday message, the brightly-lit, snow-drifted, scrolling scenery of the holidays, with its messages of joy and hope, is the pleasant, but fleeting, backdrop for a great deal of pain and suffering in a world where deprivation, hunger and fear abound. Just like those Currier and Ives cards, illusion is used by rulers and administrations to reassure the people that all is well. It isn't.

Sure, it's true: We didn't have a year of mass exterminations in Europe; the breadbasket of our nation didn't blow away, sending hordes of displaced country folk to California; the flu didn't kill between 20 and 50 million people like it did back in 1918; the Black Death didn't sweep across Europe and Asia like it did in the mid-1300s; and wars, though they exist in little pockets across the globe, have not been so grand as to bring everything to an apocalyptic end, with only a bloodthirsty bunch of zombies running around a barren wasteland. Short of such devastating happenings—or ominous prophecies—the world has actually made it through yet another year. That may, or may not, be a good reason to celebrate the season.

Happy Hanukkah? Merry Christmas? Happy New Year? Today, they're the holidays that only the deaf and blind can heartily celebrate—no offense, please, to those who are actually hearing-and-sight-impaired. But, get real! For the living, the breathing, the thinking, there's the understanding that the past year(s) has left us all in a miserable funk. Instead of celebrating, we find ourselves angry each time we pick up a newspaper or power up the flat screen. For me, it's an unpleasant departure from my normal optimism, which ended, mostly, when Trump started his perpetual stream of oral diarrhea and turned our democracy into a science experiment where creating noisy explosions seems to be his only real purpose.

Since his inauguration, Trump has never once stopped the flow of unmitigated, hateful vitriol and nonsensical knee-jerk responses to the complex problems of our country and the world. People who didn't vote for the S.O.B. can wear their smug smiles with the message of "I told you so." The others have been forced to either plunge from the deck as the ship of state slides into the depths, or pretend to be unaware of the water around their ankles, joining the orchestra in the rousing music of "Hail to the Chief," and "Come On In, the Water's Great." There's no question: The Titanic is going down. The only question is whether the U.S. has enough life preservers to save some of its greatness, and unless the Democratic Party is composed mostly of chunks of Styrofoam, I'm not sure this will have a happy ending.

So I haven't exactly been my optimistic self. A dear friend of mine sent me a book, claiming that it had changed his view of a largely negative planet, allowing a little hope to seep through the clichés of the doomsayers. I read the book recently, Enlightenment Now, by Steven Pinker. I can't say it was easy reading—and it sometimes bogged me down with scientific explanations, graphs and statistics. But it did give me a sense of greater hope for our world. I highly recommend it, and I can almost guarantee it will alter your understanding of what's actually happening.

I swore, when I was younger, that I would never allow cynicism to sour my outlook. I have found that to be a difficult commitment to keep. Talking about commitments, it's time for each of us to consider our New Year's resolutions. I have settled on one that will make me a better human being, and I've come up with one for someone else, as well. In a sense, it would be the end of a lot of the country's problems, and it will make the impeachment of Trump a moot point. POTUS should repeat these words: "My New Year's resolution is that I will never tell another lie."

Now, one can only imagine what would happen if Trump makes that commitment. With the lies all gone, only the man's real substance will remain—a little pile of clothing, a pair of expensive shoes, and a smudge of orange on his chair. (And who says New Year's resolutions are meaningless?)


The author is a former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and one mongrel dog. Send comments to comments@cityweekly.net

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