A few days ago, I learned that John Le Carre, a veteran of the cold war and seasoned writer of high-quality spy novels, died at the age of 89. The comment had to be added to the official announcement that he did not die from COVID-19. This is a good bye for two reasons, the author of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy would never writer another ground breaking novel again, and we can’t hear about anyone dying without having COVID-19 added to it one way or another.
A year ago, at this time we were living free from lock downs, wearing mask, and election drama. I still called myself a liberal. While I was starting to see a change in the city, I always lived I still had a love for it and what it could be. There was the cushy job that paid too much money with little work and responsibility. The house that I still owned since 2004 that I had already dished out $78,000 for and I still owed $43,000 on a $65,000 mortgage. Don’t ask me how the math on that works out. Life was cruising along and then news started to come out of China.
In the last year we lost Sean Connery, John Le Carre, Kirk Douglas, Kelly Preston, Jerry Stiller, and Eddie Van Halen. The list is longer and people would be pissed if I didn’t mention RBG, but to be honest with you I think that one had been living on borrowed time for a few years already. The year doesn’t compare to 2016 when we heard about a new celebrity death every couple of days but that was the good old days. When all you have to look forward to on the news is who died now maybe life isn’t that bad, for you that is, sucks for the dead guy. What was different was how every death this year was over shadowed by COVID-19. Except for Kobe Bryant there was always the question if the person they were talking about had died from COVID-19, or if they died of something else but had COVID-19. The story was never about the life of the person who had died but instead played second fiddle to a disease.
Celebrities aren’t the only thing dying this year. The country appears to be on life support as businesses shut down and lives are destroyed. Several places I loved going to no longer exist. Restaurants, breweries, and small shops have closed their doors for good. For many, the sense of having a future to look forward to has disappeared. The media continues to ignore the record number of suicides that states have been seeing while they continue to keep people isolated for no good reason at all. The American dream has been reserved for a select few, and unless you are prospering from the current economic conditions then this does not include you. The constitution has been under fire these days and like the bible thumpers I grew up with people have started to take a selective approach to the bill of rights. BLM is allowed to protest because it is their first amendment right. People are not allowed to protest the lockdowns because the government says so. Statues were torn down, building set on fire, people killed in the streets in the name of… something and nobody appeared to be arrested or held accountable. Meanwhile if you open your business to make money, while following CDC guidelines so that you can feed your family and keep a roof over your head you will go to jail. COVID-19 didn’t do this, we did this to ourselves. The government over reacted and continued policies more dangerous than a disease and we as a people let it happen and continue. Vaccines have been administered this week and even if the majority of the country has been stuck in the arm with a needle the government is saying we will still have to continue with our current policies. Democracy, the constitution, and the bill or rights also died this year.
Four states changed election rules without going through their state legislature in accordance to the constitution of the united states. When 20 other states tried to sue over this the supreme court declined to hear the case. Voting machines that had been purchased through Canada have been shown to alter votes, and while people like John Oliver stated a year ago that this was a problem. Now we are supposed to believe that there was nothing wrong with these machines.
Race relations have never been worse. A constant barrage of stories about racism and defining people by the color of their skin has alienated the country from itself.
A job that I thought was secure turned into a SJW cesspool, or maybe it always had been and I just didn’t want to see it. Emails went out to POCs (people of color) to have meeting with only them, segregating the employees. Over a span of two years several highly regarded famous authors died with no presentation, display, or mention of the event on the library website. Jim Harrison, Anthony Bourdain, Philip Roth, Elie Wiesel, Sam Shepard, and Harlan Ellison died during the time I work for the library and out of the list Anthony Bourdain had a display, only because I put one together on a cart and wheeled it out into the lobby. There it stayed for a week before it was taken down and the materials returned to the shelves. I had requested a display for Tony, even suggesting a link to suicide prevention, but I was told that “If we did a display for every author who died we would always have a display up.” Somewhere along the way the library had lost its way as to what a library is. Without writers a library would not exist. Somewhere along the way libraries had forgotten where they started and why they existed. And we wonder why people don’t read anymore?
My city started to implode. It was socially acceptable and encouraged to say that white people were evil. Riots happened downtown with windows smashed, and stores looted. The public sided with the rioters while the store owners cleaned up the mess and had to cover the cost. A year before a few members of the Proud Boys went to Bells Brewing for a beer. An out spoken member of the community refused to let them in the brewery saying they were not welcome here and harassed them until they left, while taking photos of their vehicles and license plates to post them online. These are the “open minded” and “socially understanding” people that had started to take over the city. A year later, nobody spoke up against BLM when they trashed the city while screaming about police brutality. The cops used tear gas when they refused to go home and all hell broke loose. The police were under fire for doing their jobs. The Proud boys came back to hold a rally. I watched the entire 1 hour 45-minute uncut video of their march through the city with the poorly narrated dialogue of a man who insisted on telling the camera the exact opposite of everything that happened. The proud boys marched to Bronson park, said some words, and went back to their cars. Meanwhile counter protesters threatened to hit the marchers with sticks and rocks. Flags were stolen and pepper spray used. The local media pushed the idea that the proud boys instigated the violence by showing up. The BLM protesters were arrested for assault and the chief of police was forced to resign for what the public viewed as a poorly handled situation. Later a memorial to a fallen officer was removed from the downtown mall because of public complaint and constant vandalism. My city, the one that I loved, no longer existed.
A brewery that I had gone to since 2013 closed its doors months before their 7th anniversary. The last day was filled with speeches of gratitude and memories that would live on forever. We tried to remain upbeat but by the end of the night men were hugging and crying at the loss of such a great place.
The union closed their doors after we had moved out of town. A place that I wrote about several times, for their live jazz shows, upscale beer selection, and comfortable atmosphere it had a special place in my heart with good food to add to the list. Reasons for staying were disappearing.
2020 has been a long slow good bye to everything that made this country great. From the small businesses that make up the majority of jobs in this country, to the Bill of Rights that has been under attack by the same people who freely use it while arguing you cannot. In a year we have entered some kind of upside-down world where nothing makes sense and to try to live the way you did a year ago is now illegal and you will be punished several ways for it.
People have talked about the new normal and I will admit that everything is changing all the time. There are some things that we need to hold onto. Change can be good but when you do too much you lose a part of yourself or your culture. The country is divided and as I write this there is talk of dividing the country physically. The west coast wants to be liberal democratic states and they can have it. The Midwest from the Rockies to the Appalachian Mountains want to be conservative republican “leave us the F*ck alone” states. Then there is the east coast that is a little more complicated. While I live in Michigan which somehow went from Trump country to Biden wasteland, I can tell you that if you are not in a larger city you are in Trump country. This land is the opposite of where I left. I have seen BLM bumper stickers on the backs of cars and wondered if anyone was going to say something. But there is a simple philosophy here. You don’t bother us; we don’t bother you. I don’t know why that was so hard in Kalamazoo. The country is tolerant, but remember, when you start crap here, these people will finish it. Burn your own cities. March in your streets. Tear yourselves apart. But don’t bring that shit here.
2020 has been a long slow good bye to a lot of things. I left my job. I left my city. I left the Democratic party. I sold a house that I owned for 16 years. I lost my favorite bar. I lost faith in people. I lost trust in government. The list goes on and on. 2020 has been perpetual loss and saying goodbye is something we are all good at now.