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Friday, December 30, 2016

guest columnist: a message from 2016

So here we are, after a very long time.

The nice thing about having a generally defunct blog-that’s-not-a-blog is that when you write something that you think is good enough to submit somewhere, and you do, and that somewhere does not necessarily agree with your estimation… you have somewhere to put it. The writing does not go to waste. This “web…blah…log” ensures that no part of my creative buffalo is lost, for better or for worse.

I was awoken by this initial thought at 4 AM on Monday morning (before the deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds). I wrote this a few hours later. I submitted it to a place I am too embarrassed to name. It wasn’t good enough for this particular place but I did want to share it with whomever of you might still be out there.

Note: In the days that have passed, I have seen some similar sentiments on Twitter. But I swear that I didn’t copy ‘em. I have not edited the piece since I wrote it.

Happy New Year to you all (few as you may be). Let’s keep a good thought for our uncertain future, whilst doing whatever we can to help that along. Hope is not a passive endeavor.

And now, I’ll hand over the reins to our guest:



Now that my days are dwindling, I’d like to say something to you all, if I may. I know that none of you like me. I’ve read the headlines and hashtags. I’ve heard your expletives hurled at me. And I saw that John Oliver piece where I was literally set ablaze.

This week is always the hardest time for years like me. Everyone goes into review mode, making endless lists of bests and worsts, and they ultimately go on and on about what a horrible year it’s been and place all of their hopes and dreams on the incoming new year.

It’s been harder than you can possibly imagine to be 2016. It’s been a tough me for me. 

Every day, seemingly, whenever something bad happens, whenever a celebrity or legend passes away, whenever there’s a tragedy or other occurrence that leaves you all incredulous, everyone shakes their digital fists at me: “Curse you, 2016!” (Except you don’t use the word “curse.”)

I want to make it clear: I didn’t “take” your icons and legends. I didn’t kill Prince. Fentanyl did. I didn’t kill Bowie. That was cancer. Your anger should be directed at them, and at heart disease, and Parkinson’s disease, and all of the other diseases and addictions and disorders, as well as the inevitable passage of time and sheer mortality.

You do know that I don’t have that kind of power, right? That I’m just a specifically timed cluster of days, yes? That I am merely a marker of events and not the cause of them?

Because I don’t think you do. I think you’re making me a scapegoat because it’s far more convenient than looking at the harsh truths about yourselves. You blame me for the loss of your artists when you should be wary of those powerful enough to take away their art. You blame me for catastrophic events when in fact the blame lies elsewhere. 

I didn’t come into the world rubbing my hands together with an evil cackle. I had no master plan to wreak havoc. Frankly, if it were up to me, I would have shoved another year ahead of me on January 1. I would have gladly yanked 2017 or 2018 up to front of the line and let one of them take the fall for all of this awfulness. But here’s the thing: you can’t change the hard-and-fast rules of time and space and truth because they aren’t conveniently suited to your particular needs and desires. 2016 comes after 2015. Nothing and no one can change that.

We all have to do things we don’t want to do. We can’t wriggle out of them, even when they’re painful. We all have to face things we don’t want to face. We can’t shove aside the harsh, ugly realities, because when we do, they pile up and fester and get worse. 

You need to know that I was just as shocked and crushed to hear about Gene Wilder and Garry Shandling and Alan Rickman and everyone else as you were. So think about how painful it was on top of that to have all of you piling up on me and beating me up for it. I didn’t want any of this to happen. No year does. (1968 still cries every night.)

No year wants to be known as the year in which humanity lost its hope. But I suppose that’s my sad legacy. I did mark some good things, but you never seem to notice the good things. There were some great people born this year but you won’t know it for a long time. One of them is bound to be as eloquent as Ali and Albee and Leonard Cohen combined. Another just might be as prolific and beloved as Garry Marshall. And there’s a future author who could be as influential as Harper Lee. Just you wait. Not that I had anything to do with it, but if you’re going to blame me for the bad stuff I might as well try to take some credit for the good stuff.

No. No, I’m not going to do that, either.

Because you can’t blame the when-it-happens for the what-happens. Misplaced blame comes at the cost of accountability, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about you humans in my short time with you, it’s that when you allow someone to get away with something horrible and not be held accountable for it, the door is open for others to do the same, and worse.

So if you keep up this blaming-the-year game of yours, 2017 isn’t going to be any better than I was.

I know that you’re done with me. I’m done with me, too.

But please try to be better to the new year.

Yes indeed. Welcome (back) to me.

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