During the last weeks of 2021, I simply didn’t want to write. I knew I wouldn’t be able to strike a light, optimistic tone befitting the season; trying to would come off as counterfeit. So instead of pretending cheer, I saved up some items to share as we roll into 2022.
Do you remember how we felt when we said goodbye to 2020? A huge wave of relief swept over me and many I know as we passed into 2021. Who could have imagined then that the next twelve months would be as miserable, chaotic, and dispiriting as the previous four years. The big issues that gnaw on those of us who follow current events (as opposed to the majority who don’t bother to) are still threatening us, intractable as ever.
- Climate Change: The announcement late in 2021 that the Biden administration had given up the fight to prevent a massive sale of new oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico was a grim coda to a year of kicking the can down the road. The inexorable warming of our planet demands resolute, urgent, collective action by industrialized nations like ours. Instead, we got hand-wringing, a mostly symbolic summit meeting, complete with group shots of its weak-kneed attendees. Meanwhile, extreme weather events, like the tornadoes that flattened parts of Kentucky, are hallmarks of warming. Violent weather is expected to clobber us with increasing intensity and frequency. Despite the near-certainty of the cataclysm that lies ahead, we backed away from the best opportunity we had to steer around it. A proposal to significantly slow global warming (the Build Back Better plan) withered and finally was killed by one senator — Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia. (More on Manchin in a future blog.) We talked the talk on climate change in 2021, but that’s about it. Half of our polity is OK with that — the half dedicated to making sure we continue doing nothing.
- Income Inequality: Any chance that we would take a step in the right direction on this score also died with the demise of Build Back Better. As originally proposed, BBB would have raised taxes on the most wealthy individuals and corporations in order to provide tax relief and significant social benefits for people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. The measure could hardly be termed excessive, yet it lies stricken and dying because every single Republican and one Democrat opposed it. The all-powerful Manchin struck the death blow again.
- Gun violence: Let’s be blunt: Not only did nothing happen, but we stepped backward. The Supreme Court’s decision to hear a New York gun case -— New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen — was a win for the court’s 2nd Amendment boosters, Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. It gives them the chance to strike down a New York law that limits the carrying of guns.
- Race Relations: The Republican Party came up with a way to further poison race relations with unscrupulous scheming, aimed at diluting the voting power of non-white Americans. I am not a person of color, but I would be livid if I were. On one flank, Republicans are redrawing congressional districts to ensure that Republican voters maintain majorities. On another, GOP-dominated state legislatures are rewriting election laws, ostensibly to prevent fraudulent voting, but really to stack the deck against Democrats candidates and their supporters. A combustible stew of racially divisive politics is brewing, all aimed at reducing the influence of non-whites. It’s a safe bet that electoral activity in 2022 will be more racially charged than ever.
- The Big Lie/The Trumpification of America: 2021 could not have been imagined a year ago. Maybe I was unrealistically optimistic, because I really thought Trump’s influence would wane. Instead, his hold on all things Republican is rock solid. Democrats, under the “leadership” of an enfeebled President Biden (by age and popularity), have all but conceded both houses of Congress to the R’s in the midterm elections. Everybody with a brain can read the playbook. The Republicans either actually win or narrowly lose, then they contest the elections they lost. In the latter cases they’ll be aided by a passel of new laws passed in 2021 to give red state legislatures more power over elections and by a bunch of new Trump toadies appointed or elected to offices that control elections. This is the Trump/Bannon plan and it is working so far.
- Militarism/Foreign Interventions: Our latest and longest military adventure ended with a chaotic pull-out from Afghanistan. While the withdrawal itself was humiliating, the entire 20-year war was an even greater embarrassment for the US and her allies. We accomplished nothing and killed thousands upon thousands of combatants and civilians in the process. Without diminishing the sacrifices made by our soldiers, candor demands that we acknowledge that they died in a war that shouldn’t have been fought. We owe it to them and to future soldiers to speak the truth. Now we’ve entered what we proudly call the era of “over the horizon warfare”. In this not-so-brave new world, we kill from great distances with technology. In an exhaustively researched article in The New York Times on Dec. 19, Azmat Khan lays bare the fact that our aerial warfare (mostly drones) regularly killed civilians. It is a chilling read that should be required for any informed citizen. Here is the link:
With the Afghanistan disaster fresh in our minds, one might guess that our government will be less eager to send troops abroad anytime soon. And that is probably true given the weight of public opinion. Does that signal a new, more peaceful era for US foreign policy? Not necessarily. While there may be a groundswell of public opinion against more “boots on the ground” warfare, I see no such opposition to continuing waging war in the new “over the horizon” fashion. In that sort of warfare, the horror is thousands of miles away and our forces are safe in their bases. And, should Republicans retake Congress and the White House, don’t expect any restraint.
Happy New Year?