GOODBYE AND HELLO
BY CLINT J. FARR
For the Capital City Weekly
2016 did not suck. My daughters come across magazines and my items on my Facebook feed that say otherwise, and they are concerned. So I look into their big hopeful eyes and ask them to consider the big picture.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, what with their death certificates and math and science, life expectancy has increased from around 50 to 80 years since 1900. You can thank a lot of people for this. You can especially thank those who keep us from getting sick in the first place. Shake a plumber’s hand. (Suck it cholera!) Write a holiday card to a vaccine researcher. (Suck it too small pox and polio!) Keep an insect management specialist on your Christmas list. (Suck it thrice malaria, plague, and typhus!).
Even new diseases can’t get us. Zika knocked on our door in 2016, but it has yet to take up space on the couch. Just like Ebola from two years ago or Hantavirus in 1994. We’re pretty amazing, relative to many countries, with nipping disease outbreaks in the bud. Thank our country’s small army of disease control scientists who keep these bugs at bay.
Speaking of Zika, you know what else went right in 2016? The Summer Olympics. USA rocked the Olympics this year. I love the Olympics and love how our athletes shine in all their many hued, sweaty glory. The world is a better place because Simone Biles is in it.
Closer to home, Juneau saw an increase in crime in 2016. To be clear, the crime wave is not what’s good. For the first time ever I installed a camera to monitor my property. That’s a downer; it felt like I gave up my faith that most people are mostly good most of the time. On the other hand, I love the way my neighborhood dealt with the crime wave. We came together. We held meetings at Coppa and church. We increased our walkabouts around the neighborhood. We developed relationships with the police, sure, but also with our neighbors. Basically, we dealt with the problem by better getting to know each other rather than demonizing suspects, becoming fearful, and withdrawing. So, you know, faith restored.
Also in 2016, Juneau saw the ground break on the Housing First project. Thirty-one units of housing devoted to a particular population of homeless with a high likelihood of dying in our streets. It’s humane. It’s kind. It’s important. It’s the right thing to do.
I also tell my girls, to understand why 2016 was truly a great year, it’s also important to consider the wallet-sized picture.
We were fortunate enough to travel, to see Mexico, Denali, and Seattle.
The car is almost paid off.
We have jobs, our health, a roof over our heads, food to eat, clean water to drink, and clean air to breathe.
We have good friends.
We love each other.
We live in Juneau.
2016 was a great year! And I hope my daughters (and you) realize this is not bragging, just an acknowledgment of good fortune. Due to about three parts luck and one part good decisions, I have a nice life. I have nothing to complain about. I could never write an article on how bad 2016 was, because it wasn’t bad. Not when blessed by my family, my friends, my community of Juneau. But I also acknowledge, as good fortune is a matter of luck, luck can change.
Which brings us to 2017. I don’t know if 2017 going to be okay. I worry. The governor’s budget just came out. The budget for the department where I work took a hit. That could come down on me. If so, I must find some way to contribute. I’ve always kind of wanted to drive a truck. I like trucks. More likely, I’ll finally write that series of Alaska guidebooks I’ve been thinking about for years.
But I don’t want to waste energy worrying about disasters yet to occur. It’s a distraction to those who need my attention, my daughters. If you believe those “experts” at CDC, 2017 finds me more than halfway to the great beyond. More and more, my raison d’être is those kids; trying to raise them right in a troubled world. Maybe in this season of resolutions, I’ll sit down with them, put my hand over my heart, and we’ll have one of those conversations where I do all the talking. We resolve to:
Have faith. Believe what you believe, say what you have to say – that is what is great and essential about our country. (Their eyes roll so far back into their heads they might pass out). Know, deeply, that forcing a belief on others outside the marketplace of ideas — particularly through government — is not an exercise in faith but tyranny. It’s certainly not freedom, or liberty … or decent … or kind … or any kind of world I want you two to grow up in.
Be kind. Please be kind. It takes courage to be kind in an unkind world. We’re turning inward – culturally and politically. It’s easy to be unkind to those not in your club. Resolve to resist that impulse. Know the long arc of history is one of inclusion. Nobody is going to give up progress without a fight. So either we embrace each other or we continue the useless bickering of mice fighting over scraps of Stilton within the tilting galley of the Titanic. (My oldest pipes up how much she loves The Titanic movie).
Understand being born is not an accomplishment. It is a happy accident; a cosmic happenstance. Being born a certain way does not justify judgment of those born different. Resolve to avoid judgment based on anything other than a person’s accomplishments, kindness, and honesty. (Here, at the end, my oldest stifles a yawn…)
And for the millionth time a parent’s lament, is anything getting through?
For them, my daughters, your children, here’s another 2017 resolution: Hug your kids. Hug them hard. Look into their big hopeful eyes. The light you see is fuel; fuel lit to fire ambition and dreams. Assure them you are working hard for a world where they are limited only by their interests and talents rather than the expectations of the powerful. Look into their big hopeful eyes and resolve to keep the light lit.
That’s it. Goodbye 2016. Look out 2017. I resolve you will not suck.
Clint J. Farr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.