The good news. I’ve finally stopped making a list of resolutions for the new year. The ones I never faithfully accomplished and grew tired of feeling guilty about, like not flossing every day or letting my writing goals slip.

What I do want for myself is to say goodbye to the oppressive universe of two choices –left/right, us/them, love/hate, clearly right/totally wrong, vaxxed/unvaxxed, and more.

I’ve been thinking about this post for some time—how to express my concern. And then it finally all fell together after bumping into someone I knew several years ago. As we caught up, she asked if I was still intent on moving to the Olympic Peninsula and if so, where? When I mentioned a certain town, her voice lowered to a cautionary tone – “You know a lot of Trumpers live there.”

I didn’t have enough composure then to ask her these questions: Other than the red hat which is also like my Cardinal’s baseball cap which I wore in Missouri, how can she tell? What scary attributes can she spot?

How is it no longer possible to focus more on what human attributes you have in common, rather than on the manufactured discord we are living through now? Whatever happened to “we the people?”

We’re starving from a steady diet of fear schemes, political and media censorship, being told what to think, and who to avoid. This steady, mainstream narrative has turned the past few years into more like living in a proxy war zone than in a community.

In early December I watched a congressional hearing where a tranche of documents provided by a whistleblower revealed yet another “anti-disinformation” group called the Cyber Threat Intelligence League or CTIL. The so-called volunteers in the League are applying snooping tactics, typically used by the CIA and NSA and the DoD on other countries. Now they are being used on us. Included in CTIL’s cyber strategies are: “Name and shame” and “Use banking to cut off influence.” In a transcript, a lead volunteer states that “The real problem in America is the people who watch Fox News.” And is followed by “What do we do about that?” *

In preparation for the new year, which to me looks like a shitstorm on the horizon – economically and politically – I’ve gone back to some of my recently read and reread favorite authors for grounding while I batten down my hatches.

First up – James Baldwin.

He’s lived through enough terrible times and personal disregard that would have broken the spirit of most of us.

Here is a gem: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” [No Name in the Street].

And: “Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.” [Notes Of a Native Son]

Next up – Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve put his Slaughter House Five on my most favorite books list. One list I don’t mind making.

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
[Mother Night].

And “I wish that people who are conventionally supposed to love each other would say to each other, when they fight, ‘Please – a little less love, and a little more common decency’.”
[Slapstick or Lonesome No More]

And my favorite: “When things are going sweetly and peacefully, please pause a moment, and then say out loud, ‘If this isn’t nice, what is?’.” [Advice to the graduating class of Agnes Schott College, Decatur, Georgia, 1999]

Next up – Mark Twain.

Me and Mark outside the local bookstore

Here is his part of his unpublished verse set to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”*

Mine eyes have seen the orgy of the launching of the Sword;

He is searching out the hoardings where the stranger’s wealth is stored;

He hath loosed his fateful lightnings, and with woe and death has scored;

His lust is marching on.

And on the lighter side of Mark…

“Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.”

“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.”

“Let us endeavor so to live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.”

Wishing you the kind of year you would like.

*The information on CTIL can be found on “US Military Contractors Used Counterterrorism Tactics Against the American People, New Documents Show.” December 4, 2023
* The Battle Hymn of the Republic. The poem remained unpublished in Twain’s lifetime and did not appear in print until 1958.
Photo credits: January – Maddie Bazzocco. We the people – gene gallin, Happy New Year – Kostiantyn Li. All others from authors’ various websites.