Well, what do you know? I was beginning to think that through some sort of mysterious other-worldly spell or ritual we were going to get stuck somewhere in the year. Not Groundhog’s Day, obviously, as that motif is a little sleepy, but some odd other day, October 3rd perhaps.
But no. We’re gettin’ outta hea’, as we say in certain parts of the great state of New York. We are kicking the dust of 2020 from our sandals, (that’s the Bible, yo!) and flipping multiple birds, (not from the Bible – well there’s birds, but – you know).
So let’s deal with whatever-sized animal in the room. (Elephants? Gorillas? Are there other awkward animals? Like is a camel in the room uncomfortable? A manatee? Help me out here!)
Look, anyway, the obvious thing we have to deal with is that 2020, the year itself, was a turd. Right? The pandemic leads the crap parade, followed closely by a racial unrest, and even the majority of white people got fed of with a loud, idiotic minority of white people who still think that their inadequately pigmented skin endows its wearer with some innate superiority. (In case no one’s told you recently, it doesn’t.) We had a presidential election that was one of the most embarrassing displays of lunacy the world as ever witnessed. And I assure you, the world stood in witness.
In light of all of that, I rejoice at the end of 2020. If I never see another year like this in my lifetime, (which I’m expecting will extend another 100 to 190 years), it will be fine. Totally fine. And remember, I’m also a survivor of 1968. I was just a boy then, eight years old, but that, believe me, was old enough to know that my country was a scary place for a lot of people. I mean think about it. Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy were both murdered. The war in Viet Nam was raging, and that itself was a criminal tragedy – a crime perpetrated not by individuals but by states – where the participants were every bit the victims, along with civilians slaughtered like animals by combatants on both sides of the pointless struggle. By the time November rolled around in 1968 the American voters dragged themselves numbly to the voting booth, and in the vacuum left by President Johnson’s decision not to run for re-election the United States ended up in the hands of Richard Milhous Nixon, and we all know the sewer that took us down.
But I would remind you of something kind of cool.
Because at the end of 1968 something else was happening. The United States, that flawed experiment in self-government, on the heels of one of the worst years in the nation’s history – in the same league as the 1929 stock market crash or the 1861-5 Civil War era – was coming to a close, with as many people eager to see it off as there are ready to close the door on 2020. And, in an effort to fulfil the vision of the late president John F. Kennedy to put astronauts on the surface of the moon by the end of the decade. Apollo 8 was orbiting the moon on Christmas Eve. And the three crewmembers of that historic mission, the first time humans from the planet Earth orbited the surface of an alien world, read from the book of Genesis, to adequately relay to the people back on that planet the wonder of their home as it appeared to them from that singular perch. The told the story of the Earth’s creation and they wished the people – all the people – peace, pleading for unity by their pioneering actions in the name of all mankind.
Like I said, I was eight. But even then I knew a perfectly written vignette when I saw one. That shit was killer. In the words of Queen and (frequently) my high school friend Rick Harth (who signed my yearbook to “Mr. Human Refuse,”) – Dynamite with a laser beam. And I don’t know if Borman, Lovell, and Anders intended what they did to dust off some of the tarnish the year had left on the country and, indeed, upon the planet. I don’t know if they expected to give us hope.
But they did.
By the summer of 1969 men were walking on the moon, and hundreds of thousands of hippies were sitting together in the mud listening to the voices of their generation call for the end of war, for the end of hate, and for the rule of love. The answer seemed to be dangling seductively in front of us, not quite within reach but tantalizingly close to the vanguard molecules of our fingertips.
We didn’t grab the answer. For a while it felt like we were still moving in that direction, but almost at once it was clear that it was all uphill for as far as any of our eyes could see. But even in light of it’s ultimate shortfall, 1969 was a shining jewel, pushing back the shadows of the prior twelve months. It felt as good, ultimately, as 1968 had felt bad.
What, then, is your long-winded, convoluted, self-obsessed point, Varengo, you rat-bastard?
Basically what I’m saying to anyone who happens onto this post is, let’s 1969 the shit out of the upcoming year. Let’s see if we can get any closer to the goal. Let’s see if our fingertips can at least brush against the answer. Let’s put the madness behind us and remind each other again the we are all positively unique on the inhale, and molecularly almost indistinguishable on the exhale. Let’s look for opportunities to anti-hate. Let’s find ways to anti-oppress. Let’s stop standing on the porch yelling at the kids on the sidewalk. Let’s grow the fuck up.
Because if you get enough people saying words of decency at the same time, over enough of the surface of the planet I keep going on about, the world start to sound a lot less shitty and there’s room, at last, for something like…