Hello again. Personal and professional distractions put this blog (and six months of total Prince immersion) on hold for the fall. Just normal stuff. I did some travelling for work, I coached my kid’s soccer team, and I had a torrid affair with the Hamilton cast recording. Of course, like everyone else, I also got caught up in the ugliness of the election.
Take that election, add a particularly brutal avalanche of celebrity deaths, and the general consensus is “2016 was the worst.” You see it all over social media. But if you look past the “suck it, 2016!” posts and flip through the timelines, you will see plenty of joy, pride, laughter and love, as much as in any other year. People still graduated. They got married or had kids. They were promoted or lost weight or took amazing vacations or got a new Chewbacca mask. Kids and cats and Dolly Parton? Still adorable in 2016.
It brings to mind what I have always considered to be Prince’s most poignant lyric. For three minutes, “Sign O’ The Times” presented a 1987 that surpassed 2016 in terms of sheer bleakness. AIDS, gangs, drugs, killer hurricanes, and the threat of nuclear annihilation are the backdrop. Prince offers no solutions to these nightmares; he doesn’t sing “Just say no!” or “Vote for Gephardt!” or anything. Instead, he simply offers up this coda:
Sign o’ the times mess with yo mind
Hurry before it’s too late
Let’s fall in love, get married, have a baby
We’ll call him Nate
If it’s a boy
Take care of your own business. Tend to your own joy. Fix what you can, and pray that Nate and his friends can figure out the rest. With apologies to AIDS and killer hurricanes, I would argue that this message is more relevant in 2016 than it was in 1987. I have spent many sleepless nights anxious over what the effects of this election will be in 2017. But I also lament what this election has wrought in 2016.
We are always experiencing personal growth, so on New Year’s Eve, we should always be able to look in a mirror and say, “I am at least a slighter better person than I was a year ago.” How many of us can say that this year? Beyond the obvious cases (violent protestors, literal Nazis), how many of us stepped way over the line during a political discussion? How many of us lost friends or became estranged from family members? How many of us betrayed our ideals or our sense of decency to defend a candidate? How many of us coexisted for decades knowing that half the population disagrees with our political stances, but suddenly felt our blood begin to boil at the sight of a rival bumper sticker? How many of us spent hours scouring the Internet for fuel to stoke our outrage, or for hit pieces with words like “destroy” or “eviscerate” in the title? This election dragged us all down with it; I am convinced that we are collectively worse human beings than we were a year ago.
And that’s where falling in love, getting married and having a baby (or otherwise taking care of ourselves and our loved ones) comes into play. No, none of this will end gun violence or global warming. (There’s probably an argument to be made that little Nate is only exacerbating global warming, but that’s besides the point.) Some problems can only be solved through sacrifice and bold action. But we’re headed in the wrong direction, and we won’t be able to solve any problems if we lose our humanity. We need to put our own oxygen masks on before assisting others.
Here’s to turning the tide in 2017, and to more “Love 4 One Another” in the new year.