Greeting the new year
By Charles M. Blow
The New York Times | December 30,2013
This is the season of lists: roundups and recaps, forecasts and resolutions.
What was the biggest story of the year? Snowden.
The best movie? “12 Years a Slave.”
The splashiest pop culture moment? Twerk, Miley!
Will the health care rollout roll over the president’s second-term agenda? Who’ll win in 2016? Who are the people to watch? Can Pope Francis top his 2013 cool points?
We resolve to go back to the gym and lose a few pounds, to pay off that credit card debt and up our savings, and to tell that overbearing boss to “chill out!”
I must say that as corny as it all is, I’m always entertained by it. In fact, “entertained” may be too mild a word. I’m enthralled by it, mostly because I connect with the more profound undercurrent of the moment: the idea of marking endings and beginnings, the ideas of commemoration and anticipation.
For that reason, the new year has always been my favorite time of the year.
When I was growing up, we had our own rural, Southern ways to mark it. Some folks spent New Year’s Eve at watch night church services, singing and praying and testifying. My brothers and I spent ours in front of the television, waiting for the ball to drop in Times Square. Then, as the clock struck midnight and folks on television kissed and cheered and celebrated in a blizzard of confetti, we stepped outside to listen as old men blasted shotguns into the perfect darkness of the Louisiana night sky. Finally, we ate black-eyed peas (for good luck) and cooked greens (for good fortune). As the saying went, “Eat poor on New Year’s, and eat fat the rest of the year.” Things didn’t always work out that way, but hope was always heavy in the bowls of those old spoons.
To me, New Year’s was always a time of lightness and optimism in a world full of darkness. Anything could be, no matter what had been.
I never really made resolutions when I was young. But the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve felt that resolutions are necessary, as much for the forced articulation of goals as for the setting of them.
So this year, these are my resolutions:
1. To stop treating politicians like sports stars, political parties like teams and our national debate like sport.
Politics is not a game. There are real lives hanging in the balance of the decisions made — or not made — by those in power. Often, those with the most to lose as a result of a poor policy move are the most vulnerable and most marginalized. Those folks need a voice, and I will endeavor to be that voice.
2. To force politicians to remember, with as much force and fervor as my pen can muster, that they are servants, not rulers.
A democracy is a government by the people, for the people. Politicians too often bend in the presence of power. They believe that it is they who possess power, rather than the people who elected them. And power and money are kissing cousins; you will rarely find one not cozied up to the other. Money is corruptive, and power addictive. Together they work against the greater good. That cannot stand.
3. To remember that justice is a natural aching of human morality.
In the core of most people is an overwhelming desire to see others treated fairly and dealt with honestly. That is not a party-line impulse but a universal one. I will do my best to highlight that basic quality. For instance, I believe that there will come a time when we will all look back at the brouhaha over same-sex marriage in disbelief and disgrace, and ask: Why was that even a debate?
4. To focus more fully on the power and beauty of the human spirit.
Regardless of their politics, the vast majority of the people I meet, when they can speak and listen and act of their own accord and not in concert with a group, are good, decent and caring people. Most work hard or want to. They love their families and like their neighbors. They will give until it hurts. They fall down, but they bounce back. They are just real people, struggling to get a bit and get by, and hoping to share a laugh and a hug with an honest heart or two along the way. That is no small observation and not one of little consequence. I believe that I can write more about those traits.
Those are my resolutions, ones I will strive to keep, ones I’ll reflect on even if I fall short. What are yours?
Happy New Year.
Charles M. Blow is a columnist for The New York Times.