Leaving 2016 Behind

Puerto Aventuras   Spending time recently with my family, I was surprised at how unanimous they were in their relief that 2016 was almost over. Ok, the election was a kick in the butt, though as Trump has advised, we need to “get over it,” so we can be in fighting trim for 2017, though I’m not sure that was what the President-elect was advising, but was 2016 really all that bad?

The economy improved and joblessness was down to levels we haven’t seen in years. Housing prices have recovered in most markets to pre-meltdown levels. We didn’t end any wars, but we didn’t get in any new ones either, so that’s something, isn’t it? We didn’t close Guantanamo, but it was largely depopulated. Mysteriously the Bundy’s got off, but Obama still protected millions of acres of in the West, the Pacific, and along the Atlantic and Arctic coasts. We didn’t reverse climate change, but enough private and public sources are moving in the right direction that even the deniers may not be able to reverse the field. We didn’t secure affordable health care, but more people benefited in 2016 than ever before, making it harder to destroy. We didn’t solve the immigration conundrum, but even Trump may not be able to deport the Dreamers.

What am I saying? 2016 was mas y menos, more and less, a glass half-empty, but often half-full, two steps forward, but only one step backwards. I get it. This isn’t an argument, just an observation. Some surveys are saying that the level of optimism by many is at record highs over 98%, so maybe it’s not that 2016 was so horrid, as the expectations for 2017, are so much better. You figure.

So much of how we feel is personal. My family was healthy and well throughout the year. No one made big money, but all were fully employed. My mother made another birthday without major health setbacks. The fish weren’t jumping in Montana this summer, but neither did any hurricanes hit New Orleans, so I’ll call that a draw.

And, face it, how we feel about our work also determines how we see the year. The work was hard, but despite its ups and downs, I end the year thinking that we moved the ball down the field farther than when we started, and I call that a win. We may have scaled back in Argentina and Ecuador, but we doubled down in Honduras and hung on in Peru. We had big victories in the United Kingdom, even if we still can’t seem to rub two quid together. We opened well in Paris, and France moved forward. Work in the Netherlands was important and invigorating and opportunities in Germany were tantalizing. I was stymied by visa problems in India, but our meeting of organizers in Cameroon was a breakthrough for our work in Africa. Canada continued to be the rock on which we stand, but we nudged forward with strong initiatives for mental health consumers in Alaska, for rural electric cooperative members in the South, and, hopefully soon, for victims of predatory contract-for-deed scams in cities around the USA. We finally secured the ACORN Farm with only the title remaining to come to hand. The New Orleans radio station cleared its last obstacles to go on the air in 2017, KABF made progress, and we brought a station in Greenville, Mississippi under our wing. Here’s the key: more doors opened, than closed for us in 2016, and that’s an important measure of progress.

Hey, nothing is perfect, but all of that adds up to good pieces to polish and push to the new year in 2017. I’m sitting on the balcony in a small Mexican port town in Quintana Roo a couple of miles from the water with a light breeze, mi companera is lying behind me with a smile on her face, and I’m drinking an excellent cup of coffee and chicory from our own Fair Grinds Coffeehouse. I may be ‘splaining, but I’m not complaining.

Here’s to a great new year in 2017!


Here Come the 50s Again, Complete with a Cold War

Ad from 1950s

Puerto Aventuras   Reading the news online doesn’t count as a pleasure these days, if it ever did. The upshot in the domestic and international news seems to be that we are going into 2017 and ending a presidency of the 21st century by dialing the clock back to inaugurate a presidency of the mid-20th century.

The incoming administration and many of its cabinet positions and a frightening number of state houses are hopeful that women have forgotten what it was like to be standing up, leaning in, and having some modicum of control over their bodies and selves. A major conservative war party is coming after Planned Parenthood to not only deny them federal funding, but kneecap the Health and Human Services Department which has been the bulwark blocking states from also cutting them loose. We get to read credible reports that when Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi raises women’s issues to President-elect Trump, he literally hands the phone over to his daughter, Ivanka, to handle the call. Doesn’t that just take your breath away! Even after this campaign in which almost everything Trump did or said about women was called into question, he can’t even pretend to be interested enough in women’s issues to manage it through a phone call. We’re going to have a First Lady, who doesn’t even live in the White House it also seems. We’re going back to the 50s, so get ready for reruns of “Father Knows Best.”

On health care, it looks like they may want to take us back to the pre-Roosevelt 30’s rather than the 50’s. Dump the Affordable Car Act covering 30 million Americans, maybe with block grants to the states so that no one living in red states will live past 65, while blue state folks hang on to their 80s. Oh, but they are also going to try and privatize the Veterans Administration in order to take a slap at the sacrifices made by soldiers and cut back on Medicare for seniors as well, those freeloaders, so maybe no one will make it that far. It goes on and on.

Equality of the races and religions: forget about it! The efforts to move voting rights back to the 50s has been going on for years now, but expect it to go wild now. Respect for other religions? So far the attitude seems to be, why bother? Those Palestinians are Muslims, right?

Heck, it looks like we’re even going to dust off the Cold War again. We already knew it was coming when so many retired and often cashiered former generals were taken out of mothballs and the Fox News circuit to head up one agency and position after another. Now that President Obama has finally given a hand slap to the Russians for the hacking and interference in the recent elections and they have replied in kind by throwing 35 of our folks out to match the 35 eviction notices Obama served, it all seems so déjà vu. Castro may have died, but they want to bring back the Cold War with Cuba, too, it seems. And, let’s not forget about China.

For those of us who don’t remember the 50s being so swell, the next couple of years could be a bit of hell.