The clock is ticking down on 2012 and the “Fiscal Cliff”. The event is something like the weather – everyone talks about it, but no one does anything about it. Out my front door in St Paul it is 18F on a moonless night, the stars drifting by as they would on any other night. Nothing is happening here, just as it is in Washington. But nothing means many different things at different times.
Could the nothing of Washington be any worse? We’ve only recently learned that the lack of a Farm Bill will likely double the price of milk, among other strange effects that will roll across the stillness of this Minnesota night like an approaching Alberta Clipper. If we learn one thing in the middle of a big continent it’s that it could always be worse. And yes, there is something horrible lurking in the silence of inaction – the death of the most effective anti-corruption watchdog Congress has ever had to deal with.
This is the time of year to look back and reflect. What happened in 2012? A lot of things happened, and yet when we look at the political and economic situation it appears that almost nothing happened at all. About US 1.6M jobs were added during the year, but growth (change in GDP) remains at a near-recession 2% or less. Politically, the election produced the same President and Congress who remain mired in gridlock, currently unable to get out of the “Fiscal Cliff” trap of their own making. Europe has gone from bad to somewhat worse, proving that austerity isn’t going to help anyone.
What should we make of this year? Not much, really. There was not a big story in politics or economics that is worth re-hashing. But there is a small story that has not been told. Where did those 1.6M jobs come from, anyway?
Oh say, does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave
O’er the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave?
Not according to Wayne La Pierre of the NRA, it doesn’t. He has a vision of a nation imprisoned and afraid, an America I simply cannot recognize. His call for a new security regime with armed guards posted at every school, every place where the vulnerable cringe with fear from gun violence, has drawn detractors from every corner of the country. That’s only reasonable, of course. But I have to thank him for starkly painting the picture as to exactly where we are going if there is not a change of some kind.
A school in Connecticut, a church in Pennsylvania, a trap set for fireman in New York – every week it seems there is another event or two. The corrosive action of fear creeps in like rust, never sleeping and eating its way gradually to our core. A change must come because this is intolerable. The change, however, must not just be one of law. The change has to be one from deep inside us as a people.
Christmas is easy to dump on – and I’ve been as guilty of that as anyone. It should be a sacred holiday, but it’s been turned into an orgy of consumerism. This year, there are so many news items that deserve reporting and discussion, ranging from the NRA’s response to the Connecticut shooting to the fiscal cliff to Prince Harry getting his first official “kill” in Afghanistan. It’s all so … not Christmassy. And the only defenders of Christmas appear to be the ahistoric lunatics at Fox Nooze.
Let me be true to the motto “I don’t break news, I fix it” – and let me make that a subtle pitch for your contributions to keep this humble blog going. Christmas needs a lot this year. It needs defenders, it needs reinvigorating – it needs to be fixed. Let’s do it.
My friends ask me all the time about the Fiscal Cliff. The assumption is that, as a person who watches these things, I am supposed to know what is going on. I don’t, I admit it. The most reasonable thing I have heard on the negotiations came long ago from a source I can’t remember – that the staffers had more-or-less worked out a deal weeks ago, and it’s simply down to the final posturing by their bosses before something is finalized.
That’s probably over-stating it a bit, but certainly once the election was over the relative strength of the positions was known and there was little point in “negotiating” any more. Politicians in high office don’t get there by being stupid (usually). So before we head into the endgame of the year, we can look back on how the Republican position became weaker and weaker – and why they will probably wind up caving on all the most important things before this is over.
Winter Solstice arrives right on schedule this Friday, 21 December, at 11:12 UTC – 5:12 in the morning here by mythical Central Time. It’s being celebrated as the end of the world, probably not because anyone believes that’s going to happen. No Mayan actually predicted such an event, but it is the end of their 13 Baktun cycle. My guess is that the Mayans would have used this as an excuse to celebrate too, although their idea of a “party” often involved horrific acts of violence. It’s a staple of the day.
What really happens is that this is the moment when the North Pole is pointing directly away from the sun and starts its wobble back. The exact moment of change in the orbit is also the moment when the long nights change the least, in keeping with the nature of cycles. Light defines the season for us even more than dark notions of destruction because it is the light that will return. That is more worthy of a party to me.
As we digest the news from the Newtown, Connecticut shooting there is not a parent who is not ravaged deep in their soul at the horror of this event. The reaction so far tells us that this one is different – that this rampage will be the one that finally changes things. I have thought of many things that I want to say to add to the discussion, but all of them feel inadequate.
Let me try to find just a little to add.