Yearly wrap: Handful of good, loads of bad, onslaughts of ugly

Thus, the ugliest consequence to wasting billions on Pentagon missiles rather than funding education—stupidity—is a greater threat even than climate change.


Health check: What’s still working, what’s broken down, what’s besieged

What mirthless guffaws don’t confirm 2021 a monumental loser? After all, despite tilting leftward, we faced the rerun horror movie,The Revenge of the Endless, BorderlessPandemic, plus the rerun election farce, How history’s sorest loserremade epic losing. Only twisted wishful thinking bets that regurgitating the last election ad infinitum magically makes Trump the winner. Desperate losers only look more desperate when trying to avoid looking desperate.

However, since only the endless pandemic outruns endless election fraud nonsense, the fond belief in Yankee progress seems badly stalled, as if we’re doomed to relive Ground Hog Day. I argue 2021 signaled the beginning of the end for this fading freak show. The certified 50 state loser who cannot concede and forego delusional selfishness befits a padded call where his 2016 victory can be harmlessly relived.

If we hadn’t gone leftward, a scary alternative loomed: a sharp turn towards strongman fascism, where elections are out and chaotic violence is in. Yes, what worked is that, blood aside, elections worked, over 150 million votes were precisely counted, and enough officials held the line against the infamous farce of the century. The walls may still fall in, and law and order remain dicey, but we do have electoral continuity and the facade of civility. Indeed, fewer per cent consider Biden illegitimate than the tens of millions who were convinced Dubya stole the 2000 election or that Trump’s 2016 win was an even worst travesty of justice, if not good sense. Some respite: the only opposition to Biden proposals come from twisted fanatics who vilify government, aside from deregulation, low taxes packed with loopholes, and hefty, taxpayer support subsidies to chosen industries. The GOP mantra couldn’t be simpler: winning is when the rich accumulate more than they ever share in the people’s pot. And that train is still on track.

Okay, we endure a Biden interregnum, with a well-meaning, weak uncle who can’t or won’t risk enough to overcome the awful lethargy of the status quo. Why not push hard against the filibuster? Why not add to the Supreme Court, to offset years of McConnell’s despicable machinations. Why did it take Biden a year to extend student loan payments? Where are any reforms on immigration, by executive order or Congress? When do we curb the robust industrial-military complex, funding obsolete armaments geared for unwinnable wars? And will not systemic reform stagnate until all citizens get to vote and suppression is deemed wicked, rejected as un-American?

One step forward, some backwards?

The best thing about 2021 is that it’s over, thus unrepeatable and out of sight. Or is it? Is hell on earth the prospect of repeating more January 6s, or the folly that a twice popularly-rejected jerk deserves the White House only because he says so? Fortunately, time and old age favor the rational majority: after all, dumping Trump did not produce revolution in any meaningful way. Back to what passes for normality, though all remains vulnerable unless there is absolute legal accountability against threats to civility and civilization.

What’s badly broken? That Democrats don’t immediately resurrect tarnished voting rights, even bad gerrymandering. Priority #1. And why is wimpy Attorney General Garland immobile against indicting presidential lawlessness as the only guaranteed deterrent? After the fascist takeover is too late. Ditto, where are New York and Georgia indictments of crimes more obvious than the 30K Trump lies? If criminal presidents are shielded from scrutiny, all bets are off. Nothing then restrains medieval red governors from running amuck, whether on abortion, voting or vaccine denial. Reality: the people got sick. The people were hospitalized. And the people died. Doomsayers I challenge would be right if last year’s most conspicuous mass killer were not held responsible for such preventable terrorism.

More bad from 2021

* White male supremacy remains untoppled, thus women and minorities (blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, Muslims, Jews) are still besieged with racial prejudice and hatred, direct violence and voter disqualification;

* The corruptly-loaded Supreme Court remains the extremist gang from hell, slashing and burning social progress, civil rights, and voting rights key to majority sovereignty;

* The Senate is almost beyond hope, creaky and comatose, filled with backward figures who scorn true representative government, buttressed with reform-killing archaic rules;

* The Electoral College, another decrepit 18th C antique, matches the backward Senate. Yet where’s any call for a Constitutional amendment process? What’s simpler (and less vulnerable to state interference) than elevating the sovereign popular vote? We must remove this status quo dinosaur, nothing less than an unstable, electoral roulette wheel.

* Defense spending, stealing from positive social programs, is the unkillable monster from horror movies. Special interest controls match the frequency of seasonal cycles, unchangeable by either party.

Now to the manifestly ugly

Hard to tell which is the most disruptive, immediate body blow to human civilization: climate denial or vaccine denial? They are cousins in mental primitivism, aligned to Trump’s election fraud fabrications. All three share the unspeakable ugliness of a dreadful education system (fueled by poverty, provincialism, and bad parenting). How did millions “graduate” school without being able to count, understand the simplest statistics model, plus why and how majority rule works. These are catastrophic gaps. But these are more fixable than planetary disruptions. 

How do a hundred million ignore the 97% of independent environmental scientists who prove the world is hitting the wall because of global warming thanks to human industrialism? How hard is it to get that fossil fuel corporate denial only protect assets and unconscionable profits? Ditto, when selfish know-nothings deny official numbers on disease spread, hospitalizations or COVID deaths, they reveal their brains simply don’t work, the modern world be damned. If losing a parent or close friend does not prove COVID a mortal threat, nothing will. Proves you can’t fix the fixated, especially when they make the irrational leap to “it must be God’s will.” Hooey! Wasn’t that who created far more viruses than human beings?

The truly ugly transcends sound bites or cultural wedges or the latest propaganda: the willful abandonment of reason, thus expertise, thus science, and thus reality based on the best, independent tool yet devised—the scientific method. And if knowledge, expertise and science are desecrated, then of course democracy, elections and majority rule are not far behind. Instead of the single act of humanistic faith—that majority rule isn’t perfect, just better than all others—right-wing fundamentalists default to untestable commandments, to distorting the Constitution (on guns, abortion, voting), or the latest billionaire, trickle-down propaganda.

Thus, the ugliest consequence to wasting billions on Pentagon missiles rather than funding education—stupidity—is a greater threat even than climate change. If logic and reason, evidence and proof are not trustworthy guides, forever tested and refined, then the next dark age looms—but only if the irrational, fanatical and deplorable gain the upper hand. Welcome to 2022: we still have as much work as when 2021 started, but success will occur if January 2023 faces a tad fewer global threats. Hey, it’s a plan and it beats fascism.


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For over a decade, Robert S. Becker's independent, rebel-rousing essays on politics and culture analyze overall trends, history, implications, messaging and frameworks. He has been published widely, aside from Nation of Change and RSN, with extensive credits from OpEdNews (as senior editor), Alternet, Salon, Truthdig, Smirking Chimp, Dandelion Salad, Beyond Chron, and the SF Chronicle. Educated at Rutgers College, N.J. (B.A. English) and U.C. Berkeley (Ph.D. English), Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, then U. Chicago) for business, founding SOTA Industries, a top American high end audio company he ran from '80 to '92. From '92-02, he was an anti-gravel mining activist while doing marketing, business and writing consulting. Since then, he seeks out insight, even wit in the shadows, without ideology or righteousness across the current mayhem of American politics.