Generally, right about now, we list out the expectations we have of ourselves for the coming year — the fresh start we so crave. It’s what drives Catholics to confession and rock stars to rehab. The symbolic purge of all that’s bad in us, creating space for new, enlightened ideas, diets, habits, friends and acquaintances, while launching a nationwide plague of health club memberships, many destined for abandonment by Ground Hog Day.
But 2019 will be different. It’s been 50 years since Woodstock, half a century since the moon landing. Many attendees of the former doubted the latter as just another hallucination after dropping the brown acid against the sage advice of Wavy Gravy, a relative unknown in his pre-ice cream flavor days. Go back even further, 100 years ago in 1919, we find women gaining the right to vote and men losing the right to drink.
Although, a century later, we seldom connect women’s suffrage with prohibition, the two are inextricably linked through the Women’s Christian Temperance League and Carrie Nation, who once referred to men as “nicotine soaked, beer besmirched, whisky greased, red-eyed devils” and roamed the provinces wielding a hatchet to destroy taverns, “hatchetations” as she called them. Bars frequently had signs in the window: “All nations welcome ... except Carrie.”
The point of all this historical rehash is to emphasize the seemingly unprecedented events that have occurred at 50- and 100-year intervals. Maybe the new year will provide the kind of abundance that up until now has been a figment of our collective imagination. Perhaps like interplanetary travel and half a million people gathering for a concert without shooting each other, 2019 will open our eyes to the possible: Things that have never happened before, the stuff of dreams. Like Donald Trump becoming the first president removed from office via impeachment.
Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both impeached by the House of Representatives, but neither was removed from office after acquittal in the Senate, which requires a two-thirds majority for conviction. Richard Nixon might very well have been the first, but he slithered away in the face of mounting evidence that his support had eroded significantly, making him essentially a goner anyway. Is the current White House occupant, or “Individual One,” as we have come to affectionately know him, approaching a Nixonian tipping point?
For the sake of brevity, we’ll limit our review to the past several weeks, certainly enough to establish a pattern of behavior unacceptable in almost any imaginable context and more than sufficient for termination from normal employment. The overriding question we need to address goes something like this: “If you’re unable to qualify as a counter jockey at Burger King, why in God’s name are you president of the United States?” However sarcastically presented, it’s a real question and it’s hardly out of line for Americans to expect it answered.
Several cases in point: Ignoring the advice of advisers both in and out of the administration, Trump announced the withdrawal of all U.S. military personnel from Syria, declaring simplistically that “we won,” prompting the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis, and scorn from both sides of the aisle. The president — after having agreed on an interim plan to keep government functioning — refused to sign the bipartisan measure based on rants from Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter, inspiring an embarrassing Oval Office pout fest and subsequent “I want my wall” tantrum. (Who exactly is calling the shots?)
Shamed into a clandestine visit to soldiers in Iraq, perhaps timed to distract from his happy holiday government shutdown, Trump delivers a few perfunctory “thanks for your service” bromides and is immediately off to the races, the visit becoming all about him: “You just got one of the biggest pay raises you’ve ever received ... you haven’t gotten one in more than 10 years ... more than 10 years and you got a big one. I got you a big one ... I got you a big one.” And, again, like everything else President Bone Spurs says, it was all a lie. The military has received annual pay raises for the last 30 years.
The gem of ironic beauty in all this is that ’19 is the magic number in more ways than one. Though the smart money remains on Trump finishing out his first term, if the new Democratic majority determines that impeachment is in order, shifting the burden to the Senate, only 19 Republicans need to break ranks in order to do the world a solid and rid us of this muttonhead. Tough to imagine the GOP having 19 members packing the guts to follow through, but given Trump’s continuing disintegration, not altogether impossible.
With apologies to Steely Dan: ”Hey nineteen, we got nothin’ in common. No. We can’t talk at all, please take me along when you slide on down” ... even without the Cuervo Gold and fine Colombian, it sounds like a great way to ring in the new year.
Walt Amses lives in North Calais.