From Offshore: This Week, Un Poquito ...
Thursday, January 19, 2017 10:48 AM
Along with half a million other columnists I have made offhand mention this month of the national silliness of resolutions, New Years’ type, one each, size large. As we are continuously hustled on television by a diet industry and by the hawkers of chain-store gym memberships, this tradition of self-denial for our own good has become a respectable piece of our culture, a sort of pre-Lent, maybe Lent rehearsal, or Lent Lite for the non-Catholic. Until the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day come around to remind us to purchase large quantities of beer and chips, and also chocolates by dint of obligation if not sincerity, we remain largely guilt-ridden by our inability to go running every morning rain, sleet, slop or sunshine (what are we — postal workers?)
Eva Murray lives, works and writes on Matinicus Island.
Whether or not any of us has incentive beyond the ceremonial Newness of the Year to pull up our socks and get our act together — usually translated as something unpleasantly straight-laced like giving up spareribs and beer — or whether we just “give lip service” to noble concepts like kale and dental floss, such lofty resolutions are a thing with Americans — for a few days, anyhow.
Rather than another iteration of “how to be a better me,” how about a resolution toward a better collective “us”? Does such a thought make me a Commie? At this point, the way the politics is looking this week, I don’t really give a damn.
With regard to the politics, meaning the rampant epidemic of foot-in-mouth disease and the incipient fascism and the shameless mean-spiritedness making it painful to watch the evening news, allow me to take my microscopic bit of media presence where it probably ought not go. Here you have it: we are allowed — nay, encouraged — to judge ourselves harshly as individuals. We are told again and again that it is right that we list our own faults, to recite again that “I am too fat, and I really should try to learn another language, and work out, and be nicer.” We get all sentimental about the idea of paying the highway toll for the driver behind us. But let anyone suggest in print that our nation is metaphorically too fat, and that we as a country might do well to spend a little time on Rosetta Stone, we are brushed off in the Online Comments as un-American malcontents, missing the valuable points of American exceptionalism, the free market, the Second Coming, apple pie and either the value or the evil of a Harvard education.
I would never say anything negative about apple pie.
Inauguration Day might be as good a time to consider resolutions as is the rather arbitrary First of January (the New Year is, and has been, celebrated on all sorts of dates around the world, more commonly in the spring, which is logical if you think about it). This week I wish I spoke some Spanish, because I liked the idea somebody bounced around of resolving, by way of public statement, to speak only Spanish on the day of our new president’s inauguration. I’m not sure it would have much effect in Rockland, Maine, not to mention on the isle of Matinicus, but the idea resonated.
In solidarity with the entire country of Mexico, needlessly maligned of late, and in solidarity with many thousands of Americans who are wrongly suspected of criminal behavior by virtue of their ethnicity alone, and with thousands more who were snuck over here as tiny children and who have done absolutely nothing wrong (and often a lot of things right, as evidenced by their straight A’s in school), and with thousands more who work extremely hard in miserable employment for substandard rate with considerable danger, those who are able might go about their business on January 20th using exclusively Spanish, which in probably 46 of these United States would not pose much difficulty.
I could count to ten and offer a few minor niceties. Not enough; I could not even order a taco coherently. But I am incensed, as an American descended from peoples who were, according to the family lore, more or less burnt out, starved out, and kicked out of a ring of civilizations at roughly 50 degrees north latitude, circumpolar. The rich men do not speak for us all when they toss casual insults toward massive groups of people (in Mexico or Syria or anywhere else). I’ll take my chances and type these words: you, sir, who will ascend to high office this week are not of a better species than some hungry teenager running for his life, some broken fruit picker, some hotel maid. Let us resolve to symbols of solidarity, and let us resolve to make it clear to the world that Americans are insulted by language so obnoxious booming from the halls of power.