There is nothing like the Christmas holiday to remind me just how strange things can be. No, scratch that. How strange I can be, is more like it.
There is a level of pure bleakness I experience during this time of the year that I thankfully don’t encounter at any other time. I don’t think I could handle it.
I was in the Fresh & Easy in Burbank on Christmas Eve and it was out of the soup I was looking for. That’s when I saw myself projected into the not-so-distant future.
There I was, standing in front of the cans, watching them like a movie, unable to remember what had brought me there.
Suddenly it comes back to me, and in a high, quavering voice, a perfect blend of confusion and panic, I reach out to a man in an apron: “Young man! My soup! Where is my soup?!”
I fear that if I’m not careful, my later years will be one long Christmas holiday.
Also, it’s just plain funny to me that I have not a clue how to enjoy relaxation time. The start of 2015 was a relief.
At the beginning of any year, I am always curious to see which events of the previous year have staying power and which seem unable to stay in the national conversation.
Last year, when the CIA torture report was released to the citizens in all its redacted brevity, suddenly all the boys were back in town, so to speak. Cheney, Yoo and Bush showed up in newspapers alongside images of Abu Ghraib. Old wounds reopened and, at least for a few days, got a lot people talking.
Cheney said he would do it all over again. CIA director John Brennan said, basically, that they did the best they could with what they had.
I tried to read anything from anyone involved and concluded that they were all, in their own way, telling the truth as they knew it. Cheney said that their enhanced interrogation methods got results, and it could be argued that, in some cases, they might have. The others who say they only had partial knowledge of what was happening — I believe them as well.
I think that was the whole idea. If you have enough people doing what they think they have to do without knowing the full picture, you will be able to achieve the level of brutality you desire. Most important, when the whole thing does get a spotlight thrown on it, there will be so many gray areas, so much confusion and finger pointing, that the whole thing will soon go away. Call it an exit strategy.
Within a few days, the torture report and information on it seemed to fade into obscurity.
By comparison, when Sony blinked by pulling The Interview from theaters, only to put the film back into circulation days later, alongside statements about freedom of speech, that story had a far longer lifespan in the media world.
Sony lost me the second it pulled the film. I think Seth Rogen and James Franco are both talented, but I will never go to see The Interview and will be looking to switch out any Sony gear I have for another brand as soon as possible.
It didn’t bug me that Sony pulled the film. I can totally understand a corporation of that size having no spine. It was the fact that, when it was finally unable to resist its corporate-genetic imperative to make money, Sony tried to change the narrative and claim it was standing up for something other than profit.
As Sony waved the First Amendment like a gunpowder-and-blood–stained flag, its executives were laughing their asses off and thanking their lucky stars for a country as sadly fucked up as North Korea.
I think it would have been great — and would have taught Sony a lesson — if no one went to see the film. The idea that you sent a message of any kind by going to a comedy film in a multiplex theater is ridiculous. No one in North Korea will ever know what you did.
The end of 2014 left America, with the world watching, grappling with basic freedoms in the Internet age, memories of waterboarding and Police v. People.
So what will stay in the national conversation this year? Can America handle a sober discourse on law enforcement without it devolving into anger and distraction? I think it has to, but that’s a lot of mountains to move. Body cameras are a good start, but only a start.
As last year drew to a close, I tried to imagine what it would be like to be a police officer. Your vehicle, your uniform — everything on and around you isolates and targets you. They might not know your name but they know what you are. Some no doubt take any bad experience they have ever had with law enforcement and superimpose it onto you. And there you are, working every shift, looking to return home in the same shape as when you left.
I wonder if many police officers operate with a dangerously high level of PTSD on a day-to-day basis. How do you handle that?
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It will be interesting to see what course we the people chart for ourselves this year.
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