Good Riddance, 2005

Good Riddance, 2005

It wasn’t a good year, and we’re glad it’s almost over.

Perhaps we should have heeded the terrible omen of 26 December 2004, when a tsunami killed over 200,000 people in one of the world’s worst natural disasters. Under a quarter of a million people gone – extinguished by the forces of a planet that we recklessly disregard.

From that terrible starting point, things only got worse in 2005. The violence in Iraq continued rather unabated, directly proportional to the lying of the U.S. government about its reasons for launching that invasion. Thousands of people have been killed by insurgent attacks, security is still faulty, and the Iraqi infrastructure continues sputtering along without any secure footing.

The American media continued its disservice to the public by refusing to tackle the Bush Administration’s worst offenses, including the recent admission by the president himself that he authorized the National Security Agency to spy on Americans without a warrant and seems to revel in it. By the lack of anger by the public, Mr. Bush and his cronies have nothing to fear.

Right-wing pundits continued their assault against everything they hate, circling the wagons around Bush and dissembling in the most low-brow (dare we say Clintonesque?) manner about how everything is justified because of the war on terror and 9/11. It seems that awful day has now become part of The Big Lie, which, as we know, if it is repeated enough, it becomes true. All the while, it’s assured these people and their unending reservoirs of hate get weekly absolution from their clergymen because after all, the silence of God is proof positive that he in on our side.

The oddest spectacle occured in 2005, a year replete with bizarre happenings: the world came out in force to attend the funeral of the Pope. For a brief moment, it seemed like the world truly was catholic in paying its respects, but the attention focused on the papacy seemed very out of place, almost surreal. Undoubtedly, the wall-to-wall coverage of both John Paul II’s funeral and the election of his successor, Benny the Rat, irked more than a few Protestant fundamentalists who regard Rome as the true Whore of Babylon and the Pope as the anti-Christ. But they certainly would have killed for all that free press.

The year 2005 was also a renaissance for religion. A world populated by sentient beings with an ever-increasing capacity to forget seemed to want even more religion, despite a track record for dividing people and causing them misery. In Iran, the mullahs remain firmly ensconced in power; in Iraq, the religious parties seem well on their way to assuming power, and in America, the public wants even more arrogant religious types to run the country. "We are Republican, godly, and unstoppable!" proclaims one Web site, a sentiment that plays less like parody and more like a fatwa. The unbridled and unapologetic abuse of power is not an aberration in American politics: it is the norm, criminally abetted by a populace that neither cares nor has the time to worry about trivial things like the separation of powers or an outdated document like the U.S. Constitution.

Never a stranger to malfeasance, corporate greed also continued a winning year, best exemplified by the sloppy kiss given by Congress to the credit card industry in the Bankruptcy Reform Act, which lashes out at the middle class and makes it even harder to get out of debt. Yet you have to admit, it takes a special kind of talent to strangle consumers with one hand, and beckon them to get into more debt with the other. We have become indentured financial slaves and we appear to want more of it.

It was a bad year for science as well, increasingly under siege by the aforementioned fundamentalist forces who want to turn back the clock and encourage a generation of American youth into being stupid by promoting "intelligent" design. While a judge recently ruled that "ID" was not science and could not be taught in a Pennsylvania school, the forces of orthodoxy have gotten very strong in the last few decades that it’s probably not going to end the problem of dumbing down people into giving up looking for answers and just saying that God did it. Chalk another one in the win column for religion, whose distaste for natural explanations for the natural world is the one thing that can unite all creeds and theological differences. Think of it as a universal brotherhood against science and learning: verily I say, we can all be one when we just check our brains at the door.

Yes indeed, 2005 was not a good year for any number of reasons, either personally or professionally. It was year out of whack, and deeply unsettling. But at least Michael Jackson was acquitted.

That makes it all better.