Wednesday, December 26, 2001

For Auld Time's Sake

Save for that "What if They Gave an Election and No One Conceded?" affair, the year 2000 was monumentally uneventful. Unless the sheepish expression worn by the millions of people left wondering what to do with (and where to store) some 32 tons of generator batteries; 40 trillion liters of purified water; half a billion lightsticks, and enough cold, hard currency to buy Panama and a few dozen kilos-worth of Noriega's pet GNP counts as an "event." Or, rather (as was the dawn of Y2K itself) "non-event."

I imagine most everybody wishes 2001 were as uneventful, or, at the very least, that September tenth had been so inexplicably long the calendar was forced to skip to September twelfth just to keep the cosmos on track. God knows I've had similar flights of fancy.

But the grim truth is that 2001 will go down as the year that Evil nearly triumphed over Good, the year that Good - and, in retrospect, Complacency - took a ghastly beating.

Yet I would also hope that the tail end of 2001 goes down as the season that put the brakes on pandemic self-absorption; reflexive litigiousness; indifferent profiteering, and Jesse Jackson's audacious pursuit of immortality. For it was, it really was.

Which isn't to say all was Nirvana. Why should it have been? The world's never been without hubris, hostility, and horse you-know-what, though no one ever said it would be. For that matter, no one ever said life was supposed to be fair, and it's probably safe to say no one will ever promise me a rose garden. The important thing is, Evil merely 'nearly' triumphed. And from this unspeakable misery, a good-sized number of us quit behaving as if it already had.

For the first time in I don't know how long, "what can I do for you's" outnumber "but how does it apply to me's?" something like five-to-one. People are beating more and joining less, trading in their shrugs for strength of character. Money still talks, just not as loudly.

Even locally, where "special interests" and special interest groups often reign supreme, there are signs of better things to come. The most recent one came in the form of a cogent letter to the editor, written by a reader who shall rename nameless - lest my esteem for his point of view reflect badly on him.

Indeed, it's not out of the realm of possibility that a person might look upon an endorsement from me the same way he would a Trojan horse. And I know firsthand how unsettling it is to earn the wrong person's affections. About 20 years ago, an obsessively flirtatious friend of mine was going through her self-described "slumming" phase, which entailed dating a series of unsavory characters. One character, however, was particularly unsavory. Though he, like the others, was "Botticelli-faced" (again, her description), simple-minded (by anyone's description), and well acquainted with the words, "bail shall be set at..." he knew even fewer colorful adjectives than her other overgrown delinquents and used a single word - begins with an "F" - for all of his noun, verb and adverb needs. Worse, any bodily functions best kept suppressed in public were, to him, cause for celebration. Therefore, when he "gallantly" told my friend he thought I was more his type than she was, I was torn between wanting to beat him up and throw up. But I digress.

In no uncertain, albeit diplomatic, terms, this reader made mincemeat of the notion that Evil is ever warranted. When we make excuses for depravity, he concluded, we're no better than the depraved.

I couldn't agree more. It's that sort of mindset that kept us from being severely, instead of nearly, beaten last year. To him, and to everyone else who took stock of what we almost lost in 2001, I offer a hearty auld lang syne.

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