I come to bury 2021, not to praise it.
2021 is now officially on my list of All-time Top 5 Worst Years. It may even be in my top (bottom?) three—who knows, today is still not over—but it is certainly among my least favorite.
This year everything, it seems, broke. My hand. The refrigerator. Our car (three times, actually). Democracy.
There’s a 100 ft. ponderosa pine in our neighbor’s yard that snapped in two—and is still hanging across our property months later— after being strangled by a wisteria vine so thick it looks like a python. The same snaking plant is entangled in an electrical line and is currently, slowly, pulling down a nearby street light at the top of a utility pole. The power company has sent out a number of people to look at the problem, but nobody has done anything about it. (Feel free to insert your own Trump/Jan.6/Antivaxxer metaphor here.)
While 2020 was a blow to the system, with plenty of jokes about the Before Time, 2021 feels like a hard break with the past.
This summer I broke with a mountain religious retreat my family has been deeply involved with for over 120 years, selling off the last of our shares and interests after I found out they had blatantly ignored public safety during the pandemic (and after assuring everyone they would). Word was a few of its board members still believe covid is a hoax. Yeah, no.
Newspapers — an industry I always wanted to work in, and did so for almost a quarter century— are deliberately being broken by hedge funds and vulture capitalists, whose sole interest is smashing open journalism and sucking out the money until only a desiccated shell remains. That this also allows corruption in politics and business to spread like a cancer, freeing bullshit and big lies to flourish, is seen by them as fringe benefit.
Once it was believed that billionaires could save newsprint, but 2021 made it clear that no one was coming to the rescue.
Even the reputation of the Pulitzers Prize shattered this year, when they refused to name a winner in the category of Editorial Cartooning — after a grueling 2020 when political cartoonists did some of the best work of the last century. Supposedly the gold standard for great journalism, the Pulitzer committee undercut the validity of their own award with the snub, and showed they were just as chummy, self-important, and out of touch as the Grammys.
I could go on. I am sure you have your own list of broken bodies, beliefs and institutions from this year.
2021 also revealed what we suspected all along: that Facebook is clearly broken … wait, come to think of it, that’s actually a good thing. We don’t need no water/let the motherzucker burn!
So it wasn’t all bad.
That I am able to test out my hand by slowly writing this post 3 weeks after surgery is a good sign. And I’d be remiss if I did not point out the one mitigating factor that kept 2021 from being a complete disaster:
We would not have been able to make it through this year without the unflinching generosity of friends, family and complete strangers. That is not an exaggeration. We would have lost everything. Everyone who helped us this year made a real difference, one that we eventually hope to pay back or pay forward.
I must even thank —and I can’t believe I’m saying this— several large corporations who stepped up and stepped in to assist us of their own volition, proving that some businesses have finally begun to realize they won’t have customers in the future if they don’t help out people now.
We’re not out of this yet, but thanks to y’all we made it to 2022. You bought us time.
For the first time since I was probably in the crib, I’m not going to celebrate the new year — I don’t want to jinx it — but I will raise a glass …hopefully with my right hand … to everyone who helped us this year.
Insurrection photo credit: Jim Urquhart/Reuters