Bah and Humbug, Inc.
BY KELLY JEAN COGSWELL | Thank God the holidays are over. I used to be freaked out by the whole psycho happy family display. Now, it’s the ode to the passage of a dozen short months that drives me nuts. Seriously, who but farmers organize their projects in convenient twelve-month bundles with sparklers that go off at the end? Most of us are lucky if we clean the house a couple times, do a weekly load of laundry. Get our monthly bills paid. One year is much like rest.
Not that I’m sad to see the back of 2012. It was so unusually crappily full of natural disasters, illness, and death, I haven’t come close to finishing my to-do list yet. Or maybe I’m just inadequate, pathetically slow in an age when info arrives instantaneously on your smart phones and events are livestreamed. Pretty soon, we’ll know about things before they happen. Get texts before they’re conceived of. The present is officially obsolete.
I knew it was over when the four-year election cycle in the US began speeding up. We got 24 meager months of governing. Then a two-year blur of nonsensical whispers presaging the full-blown hysterical campaign that left little time or integrity for the creation and implementation of long-term plans. Hence the preponderance of cliffs. Fiscal and otherwise. That means nothing to CEOs who all have golden parachutes cushioning their landing on the bankrupt beach.
On New Year’s Day, the LA Times had a story about the young revolutionaries in Egypt. Two years ago in February, they took to the streets and in a political heartbeat saw Mubarak’s entrenched corrupt authoritarian government fall. Thirty years gone, kinda. An authoritarian military government took its place until the recent elections, when generals were succeeded by Islamists apparently determined to put another repressive lid on things. Anyway, the kids are depressed and pissed that there hasn’t been a total transformation, that the evolution of their country isn’t up to the speed of the Internet.
While the stakes in Egypt are higher, they reminded me of all the queer demos after Prop H8 got passed in California — the media declared a new movement, Stonewall 2.0, and all these kids (briefly) discovered the joy of the street, waxing lyrical and grateful before disappearing from view. Probably for a lot of reasons, chief among them that you have to have a mix of short and long-term tactics, short and long-term goals. Social change is a lot of work, though there’s a future in it.
The Occupy movement spawned by the Arab Spring faced much of a similar morass of entrenched, complicated problems. And they’ve likewise largely disappeared except for Occupy Sandy in New York, which seems to have done as much as FEMA in areas like Coney Island. They’re good in a pinch. Enthusiastic. Ephemeral. Like most activists, great at calling attention to problems. Not so much at getting a handle on them.
The thing is human societies have more in common with the earth we walk on than the devices in our bags. Rivers sometimes flood and change course, but mostly they dig their old bed deeper. Then lie in it. Raspberries, when they take over a field, persist nearly forever in the margins, re-growing thorny tangles every spring. Even those rapidly evolving birds that change their beak size every generation don’t suddenly abandon wings or grow teeth.
In America, we’ve gotten used to corporations running around hand in hand with congresspeople. We absolve ourselves of our absence from the pavement with year-end donations to professional groups. Queers hit “add” on the automatic petition programs denouncing another dyke murder in South Africa, another governmental pogrom in Uganda or wherever.
I propose we pause for a minute. Take a couple of Alka-Seltzers and reconsider the calendar. Days are okay, pretty much inescapable with the matter of lighting. We can keep weeks, too, because without them there’s no weekend. But I think we should resolve to skip the year in favor of the decade. Demote the celebration at the end of 365 days to something more like a super-duper Friday night with an extended happy hour, the two4one’s coming all night long. Only head out to Times Square once every ten years.
Urgency is so last year. I suspect we ignore intractable problems because they can’t be solved immediately, wiped from the balance sheets. Though they’re urgent as anything. Like housing queer youth. They still comprise a huge chunk of homeless kids out on the street. And for that matter, LGBT seniors (and even straights) all deserve safe, clean, respectful homes, too. I’m still traumatized every time I enter one of those long-term care facilities, formerly called nursing homes, and see make-up slathered on the old ladies, no matter how butch. That’ll be me soon. When time is really money and I’m all out.