At year’s end, it is customary to create lists—favorite movies, music, memories of the previous twelve months. So, I thought I’d compile the posts which are most memorable for me in 2019 to reflect on where we’ve been and where we might be going as a people.
Clearly, Donald Trump dominated the year both in the media and in the quotient for emotional exhaustion. Fittingly, then, the first entry in my list was actually a post from last December, Trump’s Overcoat, which recorded—throughout the year—the most page views by far of any entry. I wrote then, “the black overcoat seems to harbor a man in despair…The coat’s fabric seems the only thing to have weight as it shields the President, armor-like, from the American people…Donald Trump’s overcoat has become a symbol of the President’s covering over the truth, diminishing the rule of law, promoting an administration that lacks transparency in governance and shielding him from his own self-destructive proclivities. One can almost feel bad for him. And yet, winter is coming…”
On January 9 (Impeachment—Where Do You Stand?), I prompted readers to consider their position on what was to become the most important political issue of the year. I wrote, “my challenge in this post is [for you] to be prepared: do some research, talk to trusted friends, make a chart of pros and cons, form a cohesive position and then be an advocate for that opinion. It is important that we not shy away from this difficult topic, but rather engage in courageous conversations, listening actively to one another and then be prepared to defend our position before any legislative action takes place…Thoughtful, respectful, caring conversations are just what we need. But first, each of us must figure out where we stand.”
Tragically, 2019 was a year filled with stark and horrific incidents of violence. On March 20, I wrote about the murderous attack on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. “When the gunman first approached the Al Noor mosque, he was greeted from within with two simple words, “Hello, brother.” If there are lessons to take from this horror, they may be embodied in this greeting. The words are simple, but the implications are profound. What does this moment mean for us?
“First, the word—hello—is meant to welcome someone into a conversation or a private space…So, this simple greeting carries with it unspoken courage by welcoming someone in without knowing where that invitation may lead. But when we do not say “hello” we are driven into silos of isolation. Fear increases, beauty is eclipsed, negativity abounds, hope is quashed. Take the risk, therefore, and say ‘hello.’
“The second word—brother—speaks to our commonality as human beings. When we call someone brother or sister without knowing them, it signals a willingness to engage on a basic human level. It is a word that, by definition, implies hope.”
I received countless expressions of support from you throughout the year, though not all my posts were received positively (as it should be). On May 2, Biden’s Presidential Run was the entry that drew the most negative reaction. I expressed doubts about the former Vice President’s latest gambit. I wrote then, “We need heroes in this country. Joe Biden is such a hero in both working class neighborhoods and progressive circles. It is correct that a true hero does not shrink from a fight; but true American heroes must lead with their heads as well as their hearts, and not be seduced by a burning desire for power and position. Even if he is able to stick to the script and run a dignified campaign, there is a great chance that this decent man will become nothing more than fodder for late night comedy and be forever relegated to the scrapheap of those who have been destroyed by Donald Trump.” At this writing, polls continue to support Biden’s decision, but I contend that this story is not yet fully written.
A recurring thread throughout a year of postings revolved around events at our Southern border. July 11, Ongoing Tragedy at the Border was but one occasion when I wrote of both the horror and the hope of this story. “Words fail me. Day after day, I feel mounting anger, shame, frustration. What is unfolding at our southern border becomes increasingly hard to witness and even harder to understand. Is this how far our government has fallen?”
But the post was also hopeful as I spoke of countless volunteers who donate time and treasure to help the migrants who seek asylum in our country. In fact, the post was inspired by members of my church, Union Congregational UCC in Montclair, NJ, who traveled to the border to lend a welcoming presence. Others followed and as I write this post today, yet more volunteers from our church are again in Texas on this mission.
My posts over the past year touched on events both global and deeply personal. The week of September 12 saw more of you respond than in any single week. The post, Arlene Chase—In Memorium, was written on the death of my mom and in celebration of her life. I continue to be grateful for the many expressions of the admiration you expressed for her and the love and support you showed to me.
May the New Year be a blessing to each of you.