Thursday, December 31, 2009

What a Long, Strange Year It's Been

Beginnings and ends of years are only a convention, of course. The Gregorian New Year we're about to observe is particularly weird, it seems to me, though I suppose you could make a case that the roaming Chinese lunar new year (January 26 in 2009, February 14 -- hey, that'll be Valentine's day! -- in 2010) is more so.

In any case, it's true that you might as well take stock of your life, or your year, at any point in the year, but January 1 is good enough for me, not least because it's also my birthday, another one of those stock-taking days.

Jon Swift is no longer blogging, and one of the lesser losses as a result of his retirement is that he's no longer inviting other bloggers to nominate their own best posts of the year. Like Avedon at The Sideshow, then, I'll blow my own horn here. My favorite post of 2009, the one I most wish everyone would read, is "Dude, I'm a Fag," my discussion of the cost of gay respectability and assimilation. ("Assimilation" is a dodgy word when applied to gay people, I know, and if I made New Year's resolutions, one would be to follow up on that statement soon.) It got more attention in terms of links and readers than any other single piece I've written for this blog, and I'm proud of it. (Along with its followup.)

I sometimes feel -- not guilty, exactly, but I'm not sure what the right word would be -- I feel strange that I live in a city where unemployment is much lower than the national rate, and that I have a stable job with benefits, when so many people don't. During the break, when I've been out and about a lot, I've become aware of how many of the people who hang out around the public library and the bus station are homeless. Yesterday afternoon, for example, I saw a man with the telltale overstuffed backpack and heavy clothing asking a couple, "Do you have a place to stay tonight?" The temperature dropped from a not-too-bad 37 to this morning's 10 degrees F. Another resolution-if-I-made-one is going to be to start making some regular donations to the local food bank and free kitchens.

Anyone who's read this blog will know that I haven't been disappointed by President Obama's performance: my predictions from before he took office have been borne out abundantly. The only thing that disappoints me, just a little, is my own inability to do the "I Told You So" dance at his supporters. But on the whole, I suppose that shows me to be a better person than the Obama fans, who've behaved just as badly since he took office as they did before. It's significant, I think, that this blogger at The Nation, listing "some under-appreciated progressive victories that should inspire hope for 2010", doesn't mention Obama once. Which is the best attitude to take, I think -- as I've pointed out before, the real victories aren't the occasional crumbs the rulers throw us, it's the ones we take for ourselves. Time to abandon Big Man worship in favor of mass action. If I can just find the right mass to join...

And that reminds me, I finally found one of the articles I've been looking for about the effectiveness of Democratic abusiveness to voters on their left. This is an interesting interview from Counterpunch in 2003. Obviously, Sam Smith's question was never answered, and unfortunately, given Obama's victory in 2008, it's unlikely that the lesson was ever learned:

What I tell my Democratic friends is that if they want my vote they have to treat me at least as nice as a soccer mom or one of their corporate campaign contributors. How come, I ask, Greens are the only constituency in history that you think you can convince by hectoring them? What are you going to do for my vote? I ask. And they look at me perplexed.

Another good line from the same interview: "Polls are the standardized test used by the media to determine how well we have learned what it has taught us."