It’s been quite a year, after quite a year.
The funny thing about 2017 was, we were still recovering from 2016. We still haven’t recovered from 2016 today. Here’s an example:
If you observe casually that the 2016 presidential race pitted two of the most disliked public figures in America against each other, people will become furious with you for comparing Trump and Clinton. (Trust me; don’t do it unless you want to lose two thirds of your friends.) Never mind that there’s copious polling data to support the literal truth of the statement; two thirds of America is still so obsessed with their chosen candidate that they become enraged over any perceived slight.
Congress is slowly maneuvering into a position where each side can once again converse with the opposition. Oh, they’re not compromising — not quite yet, not with the midterm elections coming up — but they’re at least talking. Which may bode ill for any potential mutual adversaries… but that’s ahead of us, and I was planning to take a quick look at what’s behind.
It’s a quick recap: One of the most universally loathed people in the world is still president. He’s making loud noises, but we don’t seem to have invaded anyone recently. Much of the world is angry with us; quite a few groups appear to hold us in contempt. Canada is going up in our estimation; Iran and North Korea are going down.
The world hasn’t been destroyed by Mr. Trump, not quite yet. The courts keep ruling against his attempts at executive overreach, but Congress and its corporate sponsors are pushing things through that the average citizen isn’t terribly fond of. There’s a budget and there’s a tax plan, but there’s no legislation to connect the two, which isn’t great for the markets; on the other hand, the economy seems to be booming just a little. And white males in positions of power are busily resigning in disgrace, while opposing camps of feminists are at war with one another about just how much flirtation is a good thing.
It’s a bad time to live in southern California. First wildfires; now mudslides — and all because forty million people are living in an area that was designed to be seasonal lake bed and transient watercourse — talk about manmade climate change! Speaking of which, Global Warming seems unreal when one checks the thermometer — though to be sure one must not confuse weather with climate. Scientists keep taking political stands, which really ought to get more attention when one considers just how bad they usually are at communicating, and just what extreme forces must be acting on them to take them away from their cushy grant money and toward the microphones.
And through it all, we’re still blithely spending more than we earn and taxing more than we can afford, yet doing nothing to prevent the cost of living from continuing to rise, rents to increase, the food supply to run short, the oceans to acidify, the population to age past sustainability, and modern music to trend toward incomprehensible noise. Oh, and— Get off my lawn!
In short, We The People seem to be more or less where we were two years ago, when Trump was on every newscast and nobody would even acknowledge our problems, much less do something about them. You’d think we’d learn.
And yet, there’s bright news. The economy hasn’t tanked, the threat of liver cancer is vastly diminished, and nobody’s been nuked. The world still spins on bravely, in spite of all those who a year ago predicted it wouldn’t.
I don’t mean to be flippant… well, I suppose I do, but it’s more a matter of perspective than anything. There are things that I take very seriously, and I plan to do what I can about them. On the other hand, there’s very little to be done about the past couple of years at this point, so I figure, why not laugh a little? (Besides, some of this stuff, whether it’s Garrison Keillor’s ignominious retirement or the mudslides in places like Montecito, it’s either laugh or cry, and all things being equal I’d rather laugh, thanks.)
Now that’s out of our systems, let’s talk about what’s still chasing us — that nasty toothy object in the mirror. We’ve got several pressing problems that can only be dealt with by a sober and informed electorate. The biggest one, in my opinion, is that the “Land of the Free” still imprisons more of its population than ever saw the inside of the Soviet Gulags, and more than any modern nation — including North Korea and Iran.
How it happened is pretty simple: Every time there’s an election, someone from one party or the other runs on the platform of “Tough On Crime”, and we vote for them. The trouble is, the tougher we get, the more of our people go to prison for really stupid things. We’ve got so many laws on the books that you can’t cross the street without breaking half a dozen, and yet every election we still vote for the people that are “Tough On Crime”.
On a related topic, the Mexican Drug War has gotten so hot that most of the border counties are a war zone — all because they’re fighting over who has the better right to smuggle drugs into the United States. If we legalized drugs today, ten thousand Mexican citizens would escape death by violence this year, and it’s probable that American drug deaths would drop dramatically.
Remember: In this nation of We The People, the government answers to us. And there’s an election coming up.
Let’s fix a few things.