Even the most disorganized among us require certain boundaries, and we assign them naturally. Spring is for cleaning, summer for vacations, fall is for reflection, and the new year is traditionally the time when we decide to impose big changes in our individual lives. Never mind that most psychologists agree that if you’re not prepared to make your changes immediately, regardless of the time of year in which you enact them, you won’t be able to see the changes through and thus illustrates the futility in most “New Year Resolution” attempts. Yet the illusion remains of that demarcation in time; out with the old and in with the new even if the two are only separated by days or even hours.
I feel like there are a lot of changes ready to be made in 2013, many not for the better so much as for flat survival. As I write this on December 27 I am reminded yet again that Congress in its never-changing intractability has elected to charge off the “fiscal cliff” we’ve heard so much about. That means tax increases for all, unemployment payment cutoffs, draconian cuts across the board, and a necessity for all to start preparing as though the double-dip recession is upon us. Some say that a lot of this will be rolled back in the new year with the new Congresspeople taking their seats, and this is just more posturing for the benefit of one’s expression of political party purity. And once we’ve passed this bump, we can get ready for the next ginned-up standoff with Debt Ceiling II.
The political brinksmanship is but a part of what has caused me to believe 2012 to be the year, at least in my lifetime, that has exacted the most “actual aging” from me. In the U.S. we had massacres in Colorado and Newtown, CT. Across the country a crippling drought toasted farm fields and boiled down waterways. Early in the year powerful in-line storms known as derechos chewed up large swathes of the country, and later in the year Hurricane Sandy saw to spitting out the ocean into areas that had never seen such a storm before. Debate commenced on what it was actually: a hurricane, a nor’easter, a cyclone? At a loss for proper descriptions, most decided to through up hands and call it a superstorm, whatever that means. That storm effectively cancelled Halloween throughout the northeast. Not to be outdone, tornados tore through the southern end of the U.S. on Christmas Day as the central and northern states were pummelled with a blizzard. The devastated coastal northeast, now without the protection of sand dunes and other barriers, was once again beaten up by high winds, high tides and flooding rain.
With the worsening weather there seemed to be a worsening decay of the public identity. Unthinkable scenarios occurred. Murdered children, moviegoers, people attending their places of worship prompted tears and some of the most infuriating rhetoric yet heard. A blistering presidential election brought out the worst in so many who, in the last days of the campaigns, seemed content to drop gauzy veils and just let the bitterness all hang out. There seemed to be an overall crudeness in what we as culture consumers were taking in. As a backlash to that old holiday specials like the Charlie Brown series of cartoons, as well as airings of films like It’s A Wonderful Life showed remarkable viewership ratings spikes this year. I like those programs too, but this year the attraction to them seems less like persistent nostalgia and much more like despair. How did we swim so far out into this ocean and how the hell do we get back to that shore?
So it is with the new year, though there actually is no magical separation between 2012 and 2013. It is a man-made creation, not a natural occurrence. Time does tick away and the earth does cycle around the sun, but we named the clusters of days and called them months, the clusters of months we identify as years. We’ve defined the end points and the beginning points, and did so because we need to have that cutoff. Without it, everything seems like continuance, and with persistent continuance comes the feeling that change cannot be possible. 2013 seems like the chance for a clean break. I certainly hope it is. I know we as a culture and a society will survive with or without that chapter division, but it feels like if we allow 2012 to seep into the soil much longer what grows from it will only be more bitter and troubled, and haven’t we had enough of that yet? Aren’t we yet fed up with the disrespect, if not the discord?
Welcome, 2013. You haven’t arrived soon enough.