Happy New Year?



The new year is nearly upon us, sure as the towering wave at Jones Beach that caught me in its undertow when I was a child and kept me there for what seemed a lifetime until it spat me out, mewling and terrified, no more a Jonah than my cat Jumpy would have been.

Last year was certainly bad, even awful in spots, a year that will be known – as long as there is anyone alive to know anything – as one of homelessness and terror, millions of refugees fleeing certain death to be met with ejection and deportation by the democratic nations of the western world, and terrorists of every stripe blowing up people more or less for the fun of it.  That’s the old year.  And the new one?  It has me more terrified than any year I’ve encountered or even thought about in more than seven decades of conscious living.  It is the annus horribilis of Queen Elizabeth II (when every one of her children was divorcing and the tapes of Prince Charles on the phone with Camilla Parker-Bowles, revealing that he would like to be a tampon in her you-know-what were made public) and then some.  The world has moved so far to the right that most citizens of the west – and many outside it – are certain to be deprived of rights and services, of essential needs and of liberties they had taken for granted, much as the air they breathed or (certainly here in the Land of the Free) as the gum they chewed and toilets that flushed.  I have spent the time since November 9 in hiding, trying to bury my head like an ostrich.  I don’t read newspapers, watch t.v. or listen to my habitual morning NPR.  I can’t stand even to hear the name, that thumping, humping sound, the morning’s plop in the potty.

“Happy New Year” has become an oxymoron.  In case some readers are unsure of the term, and unlike what popular derivation might come up with, an oxymoron is not an eight-armed or 8-headed idiot (though the idiot part is right.)  An oxymoron is a figure of speech meaning sharp (“oxy”) dull (“moron”) with both “sharp” and “dull” having their other meanings of “clever” and “stupid.”  It is a contrast in opposites, like “a wise old Texas saying” or “British cuisine.”  A happy new year with the orange Dump as Leader of the Free World is another example, and the one that is worrying me now.

I can explain it to my friends – many of whom, thank god or their own generosity, are readers of my blog.  But when someone in the elevator wishes me a happy new year as I step out on my floor, what kind of grouch or pedant would I have to be to go into the intricacies of the oxymoron, a term in itself questionable since it is not found anywhere in ancient Greek texts, but came into being much later, via 5th century Latin?  And so I answer automatically, “Happy New Year” and I smile, but as well Hamlet knew (“one may smile and smile, and be a villain”), behind that smile I am sneering like a long-mustachio’d scoundrel about to steal either the house or the girl.  I talk the talk, I mouth the words and in my heart of hearts (which heart is that?) I am half-convinced these people are all insane, the great wave is rising up in front of them and they cannot see it, the revolution (not the revelation), is at hand; we have come full circle back to where we started from, or at least where I started from, my parents getting out while they still could, leaving behind others who couldn’t and who burned or were gassed or both or jumped rather than ride the boxcars to hell.  I see dictatorship in the USA, as Philip Roth did when he postulated the election of Lindbergh over Roosevelt and the resulting fascism in The Plot Against America.  Or as H.L. Mencken wrote in an article for The Baltimore Sun in 1920 (!),  As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

And here he is.  A President-elect who is supported by the Ku Klux Klan, for Christ’s sake!  By all the white supremacist groups.  By that British monster Farage who, along with a number of politicians, master-minded Brexit.  Because people voted for what they did not understand (Brexit should never have been offered as a referendum, since it was voted against by those who supported British exceptionalism, in the sense of Britain First – just like the America First crapola we’ve been given – but had no idea of the economic and political fallout that would follow), the British electorate voted for what they thought it was about and not for what was in front of them.  In the same way American workers, hoping for better jobs and easier lives, felt relieved that someone was crashing through the barrier of privilege that stood between them and the political establishment (represented by Hillary Clinton), and voted for a man who had and has absolutely no values at all, no consistency, no logic except for his need to be worshipped, his need to be the center of attention at all times, his three-year-old’s greed and iconoclasm, his inability to tell reality from illusion, his continual mirror-gazing even though we know mirrors reflect things backwards,  his alliance with foreign dictators, his total corruptibility and history of past corruption, his stiffing of workers, rape of children (13 is still a child), his refusal to pay debts (he owes Deutsche Bank half a billion dollars for starters), and so much more that I have almost forgotten it by now, after having been driven to near-madness by all of it during the unbearably long and inescapable live feeding-to-the sharks known as the Campaign.  So America went the way of old Germany, and Germany went the way of goodness, taking in far more refugees than it could absorb, imperiling Angela Merkel’s position as Chancellor.  She spoke with her heart, the only world leader to do so.  Pope Francis too has been a champion of the poor and oppressed and the expanding waves of refugees.  If he were our president now, with Angela at his side (The Pope being the heart and the Chancellor the brains), it would be a Happy New Year indeed.  Or if Obama just hangs out, refuses to leave, doesn’t recognize the Orange dishrag as commander-in-chief.  Or if Joe Biden steps in, as he should have, could have from the start – my choice for Democratic candidate.  Good, solid, squeaky clean Joe, a man of the working class who might have won his fellow workers away from the loudmouth billionaire or perhaps no billionaire at all, just a windbag in the Billionaire’s New Clothes, a man with no credentials whatever for the job he won in that crazy lottery we called our Presidential election.

The New Year begins. . . Will we become satellites of the great Russian Empire? Will we blow up the world? Whatever happens, all we can do is tend to our own lives – those who can are already out there, collecting alms, making progress, devising a new future, uniting in protest, joining in solidarity to save the earth, save Roe v. Wade and Brown v. the Board of Education, prevent slavery, protect plants and animals, save souls, plant seeds, re-commit to old commitments – and keep our love alive by whichever means we can. Love for our friends and all growing things, for kittens and elephants, for Alpine glaciers and hidden streams and for one another; love of our bodies, love of peace, of humor, absurdity, books,  songs, pictures, words, music, wine and fresh baked bread.

And so, I must weasel my way out of this blog, no Happy New Year or Bonne Année, just  c новым годом  and let it go at that, at least until the Big Bang, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Washington to be borne.

8 thoughts on “Happy New Year?”

  1. I learnt long ago not to think, “things can’t get worse than this….” as they always can. But I have learnt too, as you say, Kathy, that there is always something to keep working hopefully at, even if it might seem we can only make a difference in a small way. Here’s to finding the hope in the bottom of Pandora’s box in 2017.

  2. Last year was our Annus Horribilis and next year (starting tomorrow night – hopefully with Moet & Chandon in Waterford flutes and Malossol and chopped egg and minced onion on toast points) will either be better or worse. We can’t do diddly about the Presidency of Donald Trump (your plop in the potty, Kathy), and so we drift unhappy and depressed between Scylla and Charybdis, between a rock and a hard place, between fearful memories of Das Dritte Reich and the heavenly view of Manhattan from the top of the Empire State Building or from Windows on the World at the top of the Twin Towers before they were smashed into human rubble and smithereens by the Islamists in Boeing airplanes 16 years ago. Since the election of Donald Trump – his campaign lasting from here to eternity – 17 miserably dreadful months – and what a vile shock his upset election was to all of us who could never imagine such a ruthless and smartass, dumb as a pot, but wily and scamming con man like The Music Man and his 76 trombones carney-barker winning OUR Presidency like the Schicklegruber won the Chancellorship and Fuhrership of Germany 82 years ago! And yes, Kathy, no doubt Biden or Obama would have made great #45 Presidents instead of the oldest man to become President – this Donald Trump with his papaya-coloured complexion, hair as fluffy as a croissant the colour of an orange creamsicle, an avoirdupois that grows daily, and an intelligence that dims daily and beggars comprehension. The man is a Twitterer of Tweets, one of the most execrable forms of social media that has been visited upon all countries in our world, that forces adherents to assume the position of prayer, always looking downward into their handheld plastic cyber-widgets. Our duty this coming year, 2017, is to ignore social media, unplug, and just inhale and exhale. Just keep breathing and as Bobby Ferrin sang decades ago – “Don’t worry, Be Happy!”. Even though happy new year greetings are oxymoronic, we continue to wish one another well con amore in the coming year. Dear Kathy, “Gong Xi Fa Cai!” – Happy Year of the Fire Rooster 2017!

  3. I love your blogs, always. I love the all-out passion and disgust and anger of this one. You’re saying what lots of people think, but daring to say it loud and clear. As your British correspondent (pedant), the annus horribilis was 92, not 97 when Diana died, and I think Cameron, Boris Johnson and even, for different reasons, Jeremy Corbyn were as responsible for Brexit as the ghastly Farage – a mess in many parts – but I agree with the rest of the British stuff, and ‘British cuisine’ is certainly an oxymoron. As for Trump the Dump, I feel just as strongly, but haven’t put it into words – your divine words – and, unlike you, can’t stop reading, obsessively, about it, even as the horror mounts. We are in a major fix on both sides of the pond. Well, the globe is, thanks to the utter insanity of having the orange one in the most powerful job in the world, and yes, let’s watch the axis tipping towards Russia. Extraordinary times. You have summed up so much of it, and reminded me. The horror, the horror. I can’t say happy new year, but I say your fans all love you xxx

    1. Thank you, Johanna, for exposing my ignorance. Gives me a chance to remove it – which I am about to do, and therefore not look like an idiot or even an oxymoronic idiot savant. Thank you for your love and your warmth and your knowledge. I shall not presume on the British political scene again without first consulting you. I can’t say happy new year either, not even in Russian, but I hope that you and your family find new joys and pleasures in the coming weeks and months despite all that.

  4. Thank you for expressing so beautifully (as you always do) my deepest feelings when I hear or feel I need to say ‘Happy New Year.’ Happy New Year — really??

  5. One good thing to look forward to, is this blog–that keeps on giving on every level, connecting us in a time that feels cold – isolating, with wit, art, and a real sense of our shared humanity. I love the stories, the images and moods, and experience a widening of being, knowing, and yes, joy.

    Thank you Kathy for your beautiful writing.

  6. Kathy, you have done it again! Expressed all of our feelings most beautifully. We will continue fighting for a righteous world and country, no matter what turd is in the White House.
    Right on!!!!

  7. Happy New Year! I’m not as terrified as you my darling. There are senators and justices–and the Democrats will start picking where to block the Maniac in the same way that the Republicans did to Obama.
    What liberals don’t seem to understand is that Trump will say anything. What he will do is something else and we just have to wait and see. We are so used to mocking the moral outrage of the Right with its obsession with abortion and gay rights that we fail to see our own moral outrage, which is setting everyone’s hair on fire at the moment. ‘How could he say that?’ ‘He’s got to take those words back” and ‘We’re being run by a man who says X’. I’m just as annoyed as everyone else at the low level of public discourse but I’m more concerned about the cozy relationship with Putin. I suspect there was a monetary payoff: if Putin offered him $billions he would’ve accepted. But we have Republicans calling for investigations, so he’s not going to get an easy ride. The CIA, if ignored, will take that into account and not share everything with him. I believe Article 25 is going to be invoked at some point–the one that says we can remove from office for insanity or treason. Trump cannot continue to deny intelligence–even though in general that’s what his ‘movement’ is all about–know-nothings who deny what they’re doing, even against videotaped evidence.

    So let’s see if our Constitution will prevail. I remember thinking the world was coming to an end when an ex-actor with Alzheimer’s took over, and we somehow survived. Now we have someone who says anything at all just so we don’t know what he’s really thinking. It’s quite unusual to see someone say things as if they’re the first step of a negotiating process, but that’s who we have. We have to stop taking him literally.

    I know you won’t agree and I’ve got to acknowledge I was more optimistic than I should have been about the twit George W, but we did indeed survive and I think we’ll survive this as well.

    Love, Pollyanna-Mahana

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