In precisely 40,988 minutes from this writing it will be 2010. I've done the math.
And by "done the math," I mean "checked an online countdown clock and took their word for it."
In layman's terms, that's 2,459,288 seconds. And for those who can't count that high, I'll round down and say it's already 2010.
Yeah, that doesn't help anyone. However, when the date does roll around, I do celebrate New Year's in fashion most typical -- by drinking too much and high-fiving total strangers. I've been known to take part in the occasional "Woooo!" on the subway ride home, as well.
I know there are people who hate New Year's Eve, primarily because it never lives up to expectations. Well, rarely. I once got to kiss a girl on the bow of a boat in New York harbor while fireworks went off over the Statue of Liberty. That pretty much lived up to expectations. The point is that we tend to place all of this pressure on this one night to overcome whatever disappointments we faced in the preceding year. Which is silly.
My expectations for New Year's have tended to lower the bar significantly the older I get, in large part because I am, in fact, older. These days, much like other annual milestones, I just use New Year's to celebrate having made it through one more year relatively intact. This is a tradition I started the year I survived cancer; it was a great party (and, interestingly, held in what's now the first floor of my company's new offices), but I was mainly just celebrating being alive. Generally, this is also my feeling on my birthday, Passover, and, to a lesser extent, International Talk Like a Pirate Day.
It also tends to be a time to contemplate the year past. In Judaism, our New Year falls around September, and begins what are known as the "Days of Awe" (awwww...), culminating with the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. We are tasked with reflecting on our actions since the previous Yom Kippur, making our peace with God, apologizing to those we wronged over the course of the year, and generally taking stock of where we are in life. Regardless of your personal opinion concerning organized religion, it's tough to argue with the basics of this approach.
So with the secular New Year arriving in several weeks (four, to be precise), I figured it was time to do a little looking back at 2009. Also, and this is maybe related, the publisher of Intrepid Media asked us to.
For me, maybe the single overarching theme of the past year has been the nearly abject failure of government to appear to have the best interests of the American people at heart. Nor is this issue just one at the national level. As recently as the day prior to the writing of this column, the New York State legislature voted down a gay marriage bill. And I'm pretty sure the city council passed a law making it a felony for two men to hum in harmony. How is that helping anyone?
I might have made up that last one.
What's really gotten my goat over the past year, though, has been the partisan bickering. I know I'm not alone in this; it's been front-page news. Talking heads from cable news networks have, with no hint of irony, routinely complained about talking heads from cable news networks. The President, arguably a liberal centrist (to anyone who doesn't take his or her walking orders from the fear mongers who happily labeled him a socialist), has found his hands tied at various times by both the right and the left. This is absurd.
It's not just we moderate liberals who are fed up. I recently read a very thought-provoking collection of responses from conservative clergy as to what's caused such a huge rift in our national identity. And the compelling thing is, while they did appear hesitant to point fingers in one direction or the other, I tended to agree with their responses, as well as their frustration.
Unfortunately, this is the current state of politics in our country. Most of what I've read on the topic tends to trace it back to President Reagan, who was really the first politician to open the GOP to the religious right, which, until the 1980s had more or less opted to remain removed from politics, quite possibly because the Bible told them to (Romans 13:1-7, I believe). Since then, the definition of "good Christian" within the evangelical community, at least, seems to run the gamut from "political activist" to "private militia member," with "abortion clinic bomber" somewhere in the middle.
And people wonder why the country is so politically divided. Maybe they don't wonder. When the level of political discourse devolves down to such sound bytes as "death squads" and "the President hates white people" it's pretty obvious that something's fractured.
Understand, by the way, that I'm not pointing fingers only at the right. The left has its share of pundits speaking in broad, annoying hyperbole, as well, though they have yet to have someone yell "liar" at the President during an address to both houses of Congress and the American people. I thought I saw Hillary start to do it once, but I might have been wrong. (That might have been during her husband's presidency.)
Regardless, this is what my memories of 2009 will be -- a country and legislature divided by what, ultimately, can be ascribed to election politics. I imagine that most of us know, deep down, that the point of the hyperbole is to pander to the public to get one's party into power. The vast majority of dogmatic differences between Democrat and Republican aren't really so insurmountable, and yet important legislation routinely gets bogged down under a huge pile of "win at any cost."
I know I'm not alone in hoping that maybe, just maybe, the moderates, the centrists, who -- as far as I know -- still make up the majority of the American voting public, will be able to wrest control back from the extremists on both sides. If our country's politics have gotten to the point where the freakin' "teabaggers," for example, are actually influencing anyone's policy, I can only weep, for we truly have a long road back to political sanity.
Also, in 2009, I joined a gym.
A native of Elkins Park, PA, Adam Kraemer spends way too much of his time repeating "K-R-A-E..." He moved to New York City in 1998 and earned Master's in Journalism at NYU; don't let his writing fool you. He feels he is best known for saying the things no one is thinking, but afterwards wish they had been. He spends his free time wondering where all his free time goes and why he can never come up with a decent kicker for the ends of his articles.
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
12.10.09 @ 2:16p
For the record, I'm amused that this column has started conversations on e-mail and on Facebook, but not actually on Intrepid Media.
Speak here, folks! That's what the big box is for.
But I'm glad you all like it.
dr. jay gross
12.11.09 @ 10:18a
2009, no matter how many minutes count down to its demise, was semi-lousy for many things. The key word(s) for our democratic politics are; greed, immaturity, and misrepresentation. The religious right, fanatical left and those in between, need to get back to the guidance of our Constitution. The stagnation, repression and reactionary attitude in government is disgusting and exacerbated by the appathy of the American people. The fracturing of our way of life may be traced directly back to the over population burden on democracy and the institutions who are taking advantage of the glut.
Thanks for your provacation and commentary of this ongoing debate and discussion, Adam.
12.11.09 @ 10:42a
Overpopulation, interesting. I guess that does figure. Too unweildy for a true democracy, the Republican version we have does tend toward sound bytes instead of substance.
Another friend of mine pointed out that the extremes tend to mobilize much easier than the moderates. If you want to get elected, you can't count on a centrist vote as much as you can on rabid leftists, for example. I mean, heck, Ralph Nader grabbed 97,000 votes in Florida (to ironically give the 2000 election to Bush).
12.28.09 @ 8:02a
"We moderate liberals" - We are such an ignored category.