Happy New Year!
Goodbye 2021—don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.
Hello 2022—there you are at last, beaming with hope and dripping with warm, wet aspiration.
There’s a time in each of our lives, of course, when everything is possible, and there comes a time—too soon—when nothing is possible anymore. In between we invent and create, resist and rise up, make magic and music and art—we endure. The same is true day-by-day and year-by-year.
A year ago, 2021 beckoned. Of course we were riding the horror and suffering of a pandemic kept alive by a predatory capitalist health market, and a decimated public health system, but we were looking forward. And then January 6 was on us in a hurry—a fascist, white-supremacist insurrection, and an attempted coup that not only came close, but is ongoing. White supremacy—baked into the country’s DNA, and as American as apple pie—has not been this well-organized in over a century. And the organized fascists are walking determinedly toward power on two-legs: one leg is the paramilitary shock troops, the cadre, the organizers and the mobilized masses, and the second leg is “normal politics,” in this case the full capture of the Republican Party, the federal courts, and the mechanics of elections.
I’ve missed the crowds this year—the ramble and the rumble, the crush and noise, the motion and the movement. The sense of experimentation and daring that a vibrant city inspires, the feeling of freedom embodied in the public square. I’ve missed random encounters on the bus or the train, I’ve missed talking to strangers, up-close and personal, and I’ve missed face-to-face dialogue and discussions. And no, there’s no acceptable silver lining—any alternatives I may prefer could have been devised without this crushing catastrophe.
I’m concerned about my students, my children and grandchildren, and the young throughout the world. The blow they’ve endured is unspeakable. And it’s on-going. I know many, many who are suffering mightily—learning is social action at its core; isolation hurts. One of the central myths of corporate school reform insisted that high stakes standardized testing, relentlessly administered, are the best or only way to identify good teaching and effective learning—without the testing regime, the sky would fall; well folks, the tests were suspended and the world went on. Bury that myth, and kill that practice.
Efforts at mitigation are everywhere: mutual aid, communal action, community solidarity. But we also need to be mindful in all of our organizing of exposing and opposing the underlying logics of capitalism, the cultural expressions/underpinnings, and the dogma of “common sense:” Toxic Individualism (“Only you can prevent forest fires”); Consumerism as Democracy (You are what you buy; vote with your credit card; there is no alternative to Facebook or Amazon); American Exceptionalism and Constant War (“On veterans day, lets salute those who sacrificed for our freedom”); The Rule of Law (“Alert: Endangered Person! Look for a Chevy Silverado…” you are now deputized into their posse).
Our capitalist government won’t do the right thing, but still, we push hard, organize and mobilize, agitate and educate: We need collective action toward housing, food, water, health care as human rights, guarantees of income, education as a right not a product. And more. Civic and community groups are our great hope, as long as they see their good works as including research, study, and popular education. We are more connected, more caring—practicing “physical distancing” and “social solidarity.”
It’s the best of times; it’s the worst of times—a time like all others. I choose hopefulness as a politics, and I reject all determinisms—from the optimists and the pessimists, the idealists, the Marxists, the cynics, and the Pollyannas. I choose hopefulness precisely because I don’t know what will happen, and I’m willing to dive into the unknown, swimming as hard as I can toward a distant and indistinct shore.
The old verities are dead. We are in a time of conflict and contradiction—a great time to be alive, on the move and in the mix. The stakes are high, and the bullshit can be exposed and shredded.
At least we tried, and let’s try again. I agree with Bob: I’m not sorry for nothin’ I’ve done; I’m glad I fought—I only wish we’d won.