2017 was the kind of year when no amount of showers could wash off the feeling of existential yeccchhhhh that crept over you day after day like jungle rot. You needed to go through the carwash without your car… or maybe an acid bath would get the stink off. Cinematically, if 2016 was like The Eggplant That Ate Chicago, then 2017 was more like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, a gruesome glimpse into the twisted soul of America. And by that I do not mean simply our dear leader, the Golden Golem of Greatness. We’re all in this horror show together.
2017 kicked off with the report by “seventeen intelligence agencies” — did you know there were so many professional snoops and busybodies on the US payroll? — declaring that Russia, and Vladimir Putin personally, tried to influence the 2016 presidential election. “Meddling” and “collusion” became the watch-words of the year: but what exactly did they mean? Buying $100,000 worth of Google ads in a campaign that the two parties spent billions on? No doubt the “seventeen intelligence agencies” the US pays for were not alert to these shenanigans until the damage was done. Since then it’s been Russia-Russia-Russia 24/7 on the news wires. A few pleas bargains have been made to lever-up the action. When and if the Special Prosecutor, Mr. Mueller, pounces, I expect the GGG to fire him, pardon some of the plea-bargained culprits (if that’s what they were and not just patsies), and incite a constitutional crisis. Won’t that be fun?
Anyway, that set the tone for the inauguration of the Golden Golem, a ghastly adversarial spectacle. Never in my memory, going back to JFK in 1960, was there such a bad vibe at this solemn transfer of power as with the sight of all those Deep State dignitaries gathering gloomily on the Capitol portico to witness the unthinkable. From the sour scowl on her face, I thought Hillary might leap up and attempt to garrote the GGG with a high-C piano wire right there on rostrum. The “greatest crowd ever” at an inauguration, as the new president saw it, looked pathetically sparse to other observers. The deed got done.
Five days later, the Dow Jones stock index hit the 20,000 mark and began a year-long run like no other in history: 50 all-time-highs, and a surge of 5000 points by year’s end, with 12 solid “winning” months of uptick. You’d think that would make a few thoughtful economists nervous, but there are no thoughtful economists left anywhere around the mainstream media, so this epochal bull market just received polite golf-claps at every new record. Apparently, the concept of financial risk had been bundled in a lead-lined box, flown 12,000 miles away from Wall Street in a Lockheed AC-130 military transport plane to some lonely valley of Turkmenistan, and buried under the shifting sands by local tribesmen sympathetic to America’s noble aims in the region.
Oh, and in the first months of the year, Mr. Trump announced it was “game on” once again in Afghanistan. Now there’s a place that ought to be the poster-child for America “winning” (not). Operations in that “Graveyard of Empires” are going on — what? — fourteen years now? Can one out of ten thousand Americans name a single battle that took place in this now-longest-running war in US history? Me neither. But, by the way, that’s what we’re doing in nearby Turkmenistan, in case you wondering.
The dog days of mid-summer were made grimmer by the riots in Charlottesville between a ragtag white supremacist corps and a battalion of Antifa warriors. One dead, which is a pretty low casualty number by US national standards for public mayhem. Statues of Confederate heroes came down all over Dixieland, and a few were ignominiously ushered out of Statuary Hall in the US Capitol under cover-of-night. It looked for a while there like some of the Founding Fathers — Washington, Jefferson, Madison, et al — were going to get the bum’s rush, too, for once owning slaves. But that hysteria died down and is now pretty much forgotten — to be replaced by new hysterias!
Fall kicked off a round of hurricanes in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico like nothing we’d ever seen before — a long train-wreck of storms that nearly drowned Houston, put several Caribbean island out-of-business for years to come, and climaxed with the near-total destruction of Puerto Rico, where, months later about 40 percent of the island’s electricity is still off and the news media has lost interest in the story. Feliz Navidad, everybody! 2017 was the year that Cable News went All Opinion 24/7. The News channels no longer employ reporters out in the field. Every night now, they just “go to our panel.” Is it any wonder the public is so clueless?
Another story that dropped into the memory hole was the Mandalay Hotel massacre in Las Vegas. Fifty-eight killed by a mysterious gunman and 546 injured, a US record for civilian mass murder. All kinds of lingering loose ends dangle from that one, including the motives of the solitary, rather wealthy identified shooter, Stephen Paddock. The number of lawyers for the victims in that case may exceed the number of active players in the NFL.
Speaking of which, “the knee” is still an ongoing ritual, after a great deal of national kerfuffling inspired by tweets emanating from Golden Golem Central. For the record, I don’t give a fuck about it, nor generally for the NFL, since I think the days of professional mega-sports are numbered in this land. I will be happy when my little town in upstate New York has its own softball league.
Oh, there was a bit of good news this year: Russia Russia Russia (with the wicked Vlad Putin at its helm) managed to put an end to the Syrian civil war, without a whole lot of help from the US-Truly, which has been sending arms to various ISIS clans for years, even though they were our reviled enemy. What you have to admire in this case was how clear-cut the situation actually was without us muddying and bloodying it up — namely, who needs another failed state in the Middle East? (Apparently we do.)
2017 slid down the autumnal chute with a lively witch hunt for sexual predators and abusers in public life. Much as some of them might have deserved censure and perhaps prosecution, it was kind of sad to see their talents stuffed down the memory hole, most of all poor old Garrison Keillor, a truly great American who didn’t have to be vilified for petting some lady on her back, did he? I don’t think the story is over. I suspect an army of lawyers is at work in these cases behind the scenes and there will be a second act in 2018.
Surely I left out quite a bit of the action from the year now passing. Forgive me. I will be busy preparing the perhaps more interesting forecast for the year to come, while you citizens of Clusterfuck Nation gather around your hearths (or flat screen TVs) in the dark nights ahead, waiting for the Sainted Nicholas to bring your tax cuts, and sugar plums for the little ones. I’ll be back here on the morning of the Day-of-Days, preceding my annual journey to dim sum in the quaint old Dutch town that is New York State’s capital. Merry Christmas to all!