I mean, how could I? There was just so much going on. Every single day since at least Halloween has been a white-knuckler: the run-up to the presidential election, with all the hysteria over mail-in ballots and the sudden, engineered unreliability of the Postal Service adding to the angst; the election itself and the whipsaw days following until the results were announced; every single day after that in which those results were denied and disputed; the minute-by-minute suspense of the Georgia runoff elections; and the gut-wrenching spectacle of the Capitol swarmed by hate-crazed, heavily armed domestic terrorists.
By the time January 20 dawned, I was unconsciously holding my breath. Would another spasm of violence destroy a 200-plus-year history of peaceful transfers of power? Would this be a day to celebrate or another ghastly national nightmare? Like everyone, I’d seen photos of the thousands of National Guard troops deployed all over D.C. and I’d read about the security precautions. I was pretty sure it would be okay — but only pretty sure. …
Not a white supremacist, mind you, nor an active racist — though as Isabel Wilkerson points out in her life-changing book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, no one who’s grown up in America has escaped some level of exposure to the toxins of racism. I have been one of those pleasant white ladies who means well, deplores overt bigotry, and lives her life within a protective shield of white privilege. Like most white people, that shield was largely invisible to me: I only caught glimpses of it from the corner of my eye, under certain circumstances.
Like the time when my teenage son and his (also white)pals were caught shooting paintballs at road signs in an affluent Southern California neighborhood. The police let them go with a stern warning. When my son came home and confessed his adventure, he expected to be grounded. He didn’t expect to see his mother overcome with a nauseating combination of fear, rage, relief, and guilt, or to listen to her blister his eardrums with what would have happened if his skin was a different color. …
Or maybe not: Wikipedia points out that while “conventional belief” holds that the first month of the year is named after Janus, ancient Roman farmer’s almanacs said it was named in honor of Juno. But with one face looking to the future and one to the past, and being the god of “beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, frames, and endings,” Janus seems the clear choice for January’s Spirit of the Month. Anyway, who reads ancient Roman farmer’s almanacs?
The first week of January 2021 set many of us to whipping our heads back and forth with such velocity that we feel like we’ve got two faces pointing in separate directions ourselves. The tension between hope and dismay, progress and regression, creation and destruction has never been so taut. …
I’ve heard others say much the same thing over the past four years, and I’ve often chalked it up to overconsumption of news — even though the news has so often been very, very bad. But now I find myself buzzing, semi-numb, and reeling, trying to integrate the events of January 6, 2021.
Seeing photos and footage of an armed mob storming the Capitol, grinning insurrectionists trashing the bastion of American democracy — one of them looking particularly gleeful with his feet up on Nancy Pelosi’s desk — was sickening and surreal.
I thought I’d braced myself for outrage spawned by Trump’s fervid incitement of his home-grown terrorists. But seeing it happen has shaken me to my foundations. …
Many of us weren’t sure what that meant exactly, but it was going to make life bigger, better, and ever so much more exciting. Unlimited access to information, from everywhere, for everyone! The world at our fingertips! Knowledge, wisdom, and truth would expand our opportunities, our perspectives, our minds. Totalitarian governments wouldn’t stand a chance.
In 1995, William Gibson breathlessly compared the advent of the Internet to the birth of cities:
“It’s really something new; it’s a new kind of civilization. …
Despite the harsh contrasts between this Christmas and its predecessors, and despite its restrictions and isolation, the day at least offered a pause. With churches, restaurants, and even movie theaters closed down, many of us had the opportunity to pull in our energy, to grow quiet, to detach from the outside world. Maybe we Zoomed or FaceTimed with family. Maybe we streamed Wonder Woman 1984. Or maybe we simply cocooned, ignoring this Christmas to the best of our ability.
However we got through Christmas, it’s been gotten through. Next on the horizon is New Year’s Eve, another occasion that must be muted. No traditional bacchanal this year; no crowds standing elbow-to-elbow in Times Square, no champagne-and-caviar late-night soirees (at least, I hope not). …
At least, for Donald Trump and his fervid, alternate-reality-embracing minions. Despite having a hand-picked, conservative majority on the bench — most notably Amy Barrett, whose appointment was ramrodded through so fast she’s probably still trying to catch her breath — the most recent and perhaps the most bizarre effort at overturning the election got shot down in record time.
In case you had other things to pay attention to this week, the Lone Star state’s attorney general (a Republican, natch), in a display of breathtaking hypocrisy for a polity that takes pride in its “don’t mess with Texas” stance, asked the Supremes to throw out the results in four battleground states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Biden won 306 Electoral College votes: those four states accounted for a total of 62. …
In time gone, when the big house filled
With children and food and the breath of relatives
Marking together the sparkling zenith of
Days and weeks set apart
All for the purpose of coiling a sense
Of urgency, of expectation,
Limned with brightness glowing or garish,
The annual yearning toward magic
And belief that it could be. So much to
Be done, I would start months ahead
Hoping to manage the spiraling build
Toward that one day
Gifts purchased and hidden, cards
Addressed and stamped, dates held
In reserve for parties and visits, school programs,
The ritual drive to witness the…
More to the point, I’m a female human of a certain age, long schooled in the importance of niceness. Niceness and emotional honesty only go hand-in-hand when life’s waters are calm and shallow. So when, ten years ago, it developed that my brother-in-law had been cheating on my sister for about a dozen years, I was cast among storm-tossed waves, far past the breakers of niceness and hopelessly over my head.
Let me be clear about the cheating: I’m not talking about an affair here and there. I’m talking full-tilt, sex-addict-level, hound-dog-lust fests with a web of anonymous women. Some of them were professionals, which explains why my sister drove around with the bumper of her minivan secured to the chassis with electrical tape despite her husband’s thriving business and her own teaching career. …