When I thought about having cards printed up with a smiling photo of my girlfriend and I on some vacation somewhere, and then opening card after card and having to sincerely wish each person well, when I was uncertain that wellness would be likely for any number of us, I just couldn't bear the thought. I felt like anything I could possibly write would be at least A) hypocritical, or B) totally unfestive. How much bad karma would I accumulate in writing a hundred or so unfelt sentiments or dirgelike prophecies? And when they received my cards, how many recipients would be searching for the Unfriend button, so to speak, either online or in the real world?
The fact is that this year the holiday season for me has been overshadowed with a foreboding, a feeling that after that ball drops on New Year's Eve comes the beginning of the end, at worst, or, at best, challenging changes and a lot of struggle. This comes only a few months after a daydream I had, in which I was thinking how great it will be to retire early, go live on a farm and spend all day digging in the dirt, and finally relax and just not have to worry about anything. Well, so much for that. Sure, there have been elections during my lifetime that have left me disappointed, disgusted, or disillusioned, but none of them has ever made me think I have to consider the possibility of life as we know it ending...until now. It's not safe to assume the best without preparing for the worst—or something to that effect—and the worst case scenario given the most recent election is one that is difficult to contemplate.
A good friend of mine once told me that the purpose of science fiction is to prepare people for what is to come, and I can't help feeling that my most useful frame of reference here is the future depicted in The Terminator. Far from digging in the dirt and relaxing, the future I can't help seeing now will mean donning protective gear every day before I walk out the front door, being constantly alert to every possible threat from every direction, not trusting those who are supposedly sworn to protect me, desperately trying to read between the lines of the propaganda to try to uncover the truth, and eking out a meager existence unless someone decides I should be one of the privileged few. Man, this is not what I signed up for when I turned 50! (Okay, I haven't just described being hunted by robots amid total decimation, so that world is not identical to the Terminator world, but close enough.)
That pretty much coincides with the worst case scenario, although I guess the worst-er scenario would involve all of us—poof—up in smoke. Nothing to worry about after that I guess.
The prospect of the best case scenario certainly is not encouraging. In the best case scenario, pretty much all of our civil rights will be under threat, our right to healthcare will be in danger, our ability to feed and house ourselves will be challenged, our planet will be baked and poisoned, resources we have taken for granted will be cut off or privatized for profit, we won't know which news media we can trust.... Oh wait, that's the world we live in right now. So I guess the best case scenario is that things won't get any worse than they are already, at least as they have been outlined by those who are about to take control of the country I live in, the ol’ U.S. of A.
Of course, I don’t know what’s going to happen—none of us do. Sure there are infinite possible scenarios: the president succeeds and completes our conversion into a corpocracy (or a coprocracy, which would be something altogether different...or perhaps exactly the same); the president is impeached, and the vice president completes our conversion into a theocracy; the democrats figure out some way to hamstring the republicans, and we spend another four or eight years with a government that can’t accomplish anything except finding more undeclared wars to fight to feed the companies in the military-industrial complex; so many people take to the streets that it starts shutting down the normal daily operation of the country; the country has its first military coup; everyone from Latin America leaves the country, and it collapses; aliens invade from outer space!
Deck the Halls...
Whatever the prospect, I have been unable to muster up any “holiday spirit” this year, beyond my ingrained need to constantly sing Christmas songs to myself during the entire month of December, and that has meant not sending out holiday cards. I feel like I’ve let down the people who had gotten used to seeing our smiling mugs once a year on a piece of cardstock, and I regret missing the chance to make an annual connection with people in a time when connecting is becoming of dire importance.
But perhaps some people will read this, and to those people I say: I wish you strength in the coming year, I wish you courage, I hope you don’t get totally screwed over, I hope you can eke out some happiness even if things get hellishly crappy, and I encourage you to connect with and stay close to your friends, family, and community. Hopefully we’ll all get through this together and not feel like we should have joined Bowie, Prince, and all those other folks who checked out in 2016.