The Year in the Rear-View
A week is proverbially a long time in politics. A year is 52.177 times as long as that. Our own lives occupy the fronts of our minds, while public affairs rumble in the background. To most of us this was the year that Jimmy went off to college, Suzy got married, Dad lost his job, or Grandma died.
It is right and proper that this should be so. Of course public affairs matter: Events that happen in Congress, or in the Persian Gulf, might determine whether Jimmy can go to college or Dad can keep his job. There isn't much any one of us can do to affect those events, though, so to give more than twenty minutes' thought a day to them is a waste of one's life.
If follows that by the end of a calendar year, normal people have forgotten most of what happened in the public realm. Here, as a public service, I offer a month-by-month summary of 2011. You're welcome.
January. Gabrielle Giffords, a U.S. representative from Arizona on the fairly sane side of the Democratic Party, was shot in the head when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire on a meeting she was holding. Rep. Giffords survived and is making a good recovery, but six other people died. The political Left blamed the shooting on "eliminationist rhetoric" (Paul Krugman), Sarah Palin (Daily Kos), Jared Taylor (the Department of Homeland Security, apparently on the theory that all persons named Jared must be in cahoots with each other), or the Tea Party (wellnigh everyone). It turned out that Loughner was a maniac with no discernible political ax to grind.
February. A great month for scales falling from eyes, at least in Europe. Angela Merkel had got the ball rolling in October 2010, telling a gathering of her party's youth wing that, quote, "Multikulti ist gescheitert" — multiculturalism has failed. This month British Prime Minister David Cameron, at a panel discussion with that same Frau Merkel in (irony alert!) Munich, said: "Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream." A week later, here was French President Nicolas Sarkozy in a TV interview, quote: "If you come to France, you accept to melt into a single community … and if you do not want to accept that, you cannot be welcome in France."
March. Preparatory to receiving open homosexuals into the ranks, the U.S. Marine Corps issued training materials to officers containing imagined scenarios they should ponder so that they will know how to proceed. Sample:
You are the Executive Officer of your unit. While shopping at the local mall over the weekend, you observe two junior male Marines in appropriate civilian attire assigned to your unit kissing and hugging in the food court.
What should a good Marine officer do in this situation? "Retire to his quarters with a bottle of scotch and a loaded side-arm" is not an acceptable answer.
April. Congress passed a budget deal to avert a government showdown. The deal was advertised as including cuts to federal spending. On close inspection the entire extent of the cuts was some trimming of programs in health, labor and education, and reductions of our contributions to the U.N. and various international organizations, for a total savings of a billion and a half. That's one-tenth of one percent of the federal deficit.
May. Osama bin Laden was killed by a Special Forces unit of the U.S. military at his house in Abbbottabad, Pakistan. According to Wikipedia, "The city is well-known throughout Pakistan for its pleasant weather, high-standard educational institutions and military establishments." The Pakistan government denied to our own government that it knew anything about bin Laden's presence thirty miles from their capital. They then denied to their own people that they knew anything about the U.S. operation.
June. The first full-dress televised debate among the G.O.P. candidates took place in New Hampshire, with local people asking the questions. There were 35 questions altogether, the top two broad categories of questions being (1) Nationality issues (immigration, citizenship, diversity), and (2) War & foreign policy — 5 questions each.
July. Ice People couple Rupert and Wendi Murdoch were in London in a committee room at the Houses of Parliament. Rupert, 80-year-old press baron, was giving evidence to the committee: reporters on his newspapers had been hacking into people's cell phones. Suddenly a man stood up and tried to custard-pie Murdoch. Wendi leapt from her chair, leaned forward over Rupert, and gave the assailant an almighty smack upside the head. Formerly unpopular with London society hostesses as an unscrupulous gold-digger, Wendi is now received in all the best houses.
August. Police in north London shot dead a black drug dealer. That ignited several nights of rioting and looting all over Britain; or at least, in all large cities with big racial minorities. The British Prime Minister made a speech blaming the disturbances on "Irresponsibility. Selfishness … Children without fathers. Schools without discipline. Reward without effort." That was a bit unfair to the rioters, who had expended considerable effort in breaking the windows of stores so they could reward themselves with the merchandise. Cameron further said: "Let's be clear: these riots were not about race." Well, thank goodness for that!
September. A certain Obama Onyango was arrested outside Chicken Bone Saloon in Framingham, Massachusetts. Mr Onyango's vehicle nearly collided with a patrol car, and on being breathalyzed he was found to be three sheets to the wind. Mr Onyango turned out to be a half-uncle of our president. He also turned out to be an illegal immigrant: he'd been ordered deported in 1989 but had just ignored the order. He's still here.
October. The Occupy Wall Street movement, in situ at Zuccotti Park in Downtown Manhattan, forced city authorities to back down from a plan to clean up the camp. A mix of union agitators, professional anarchists, and middle-class kids disgruntled that their degrees in Art History hadn't opened the doors of employment to them, the OWS rabble had been squatting in downtown Manhattan since mid-September, stating their intent to make the city spend more on public services by shutting down the financial sector, whose taxes fund most public services.
November. The "supercommittee" of six Republican and six Democrat congressfolk that was set up to resolve the nation's debt problem failed to agree on anything and went home. The Democrats had wanted more taxes and hikes in benefits; the Republicans had wanted tax reform and benefit cuts. The last few sentient Americans who believed that anyone in Washington gives a fig about the national debt — or at least, a fig more than they give about political positioning — were disabused.
December. The Justice Department reached a settlement with Bank of America, under the terms of which BofA would pay $335 million to 200,000 plaintiffs for having done what the last three administrations had demanded they do under threat of Justice Department lawsuits: trash credit standards in order that minorities could be sold loans they couldn't afford to service. Hey, somebody had to take the blame for the housing crash, and you don't expect politicians to blame themselves, do you? Ha ha ha ha ha!