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2022 Year in Review: It Coulda Been Worse
Greg Abbott's ghastly remark about the Uvalde Massacre may be a fitting epitaph for 2022.
Welcome to the year-end wrap-up of Life Its Ownself. I started L.I.O. a year ago on Substack. I now have 208 subscribers, not counting my immediate family and the sixth-grade kids who were bribed into subscribing as an extra credit project in their Civics class (thanks, Teach!). The chance to write, and be read, is my favorite thing. Thank you for reading, and for liking and commenting on the occasional post –I treasure that feedback. Please spread the word and encourage others to subscribe, and let me know your ideas for making L.I.O. most relevant and entertaining.
December 31, 2022
Well, 2022 is over and, like many of the last few years, my prime emotion is relief. Relief that it’s over, and relief that it wasn’t any worse than it was.
Let’s start with me. 2022 was a pretty good year for me. I got to spend about half the year at my friend’s house in Marathon, especially during the brutally hot summer in Austin. I even had a part-time job in Marathon, which did not kick me into a higher tax bracket but was satisfying in many more impaortant ways.
My new avocation this year was my creative writing, something I’ve always enjoyed doing but never practiced with any consistency or discipline. (I’ve written prosaically through a series of jobs over many years, but now I write for pleasure.) I write at least weekly for my Life Its Ownself Substack page and also as a member of the Texas Outlaw Writers group. The Outlaws are also doing weekly podcasts, and I hope to be more involved in podcasting in the year to come.
I weigh about a dozen pounds more than I did a year ago, which is discouraging, and mostly due to bad eating habits since Thanksgiving. Otherwise, my health is good, knock on wood.
I read 21 books this year. The five best: Why We Did It, by Tim Miller; Bullfinch’s Greek and Roman Mythology, by Thomas Bullfinch; Deacon King Kong, by James McBride; A History of Mexico, by multiple authors; and Thank You For Your Servitude, by Mark Leibovich.
What were your favorite books this year?
I don’t listen to music as conscientiously as I used to, and I tend to pick out individual songs as opposed to albums, but the five albums I listened to most this year (not all new) were: Surrender, by Maggie Rogers; Mustt Mustt, by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (1990); Boomerang Town, by Jaimee Harris (pre-release); Speaks, by Madam Radar; and Hadestown (Original Broadway Cast Recording). My favorite artists to stream while I was cooking or fixing something around the house were Dua Lipa, Joni Mitchell and Willie Nelson. As I look over my choices, I can discern no organizing principle at all.
What music caught your ear this year?
I kept in touch with many friends this year, deepened my relationships with a few, and added still more new friends, particularly in Marathon. I also, as happens more frequently with time, said the long goodbye to a few friends.
I’m beyond the point where I make New Year’s resolutions, having reached the limits of my belief in wreaking huge changes on myself. But in 2023 I will try to listen more, and better, to people I interact with. I’ll also try to lose those extra pounds that have sneaked up on me.
All in all, a pretty good year, which is OK because the world continued its uneven but inexorable descent into Hell’s Handbasket this year.
In my beloved Texas, 19 fourth-graders and two teachers were massacred in Uvalde in May, the most tragic of the 51 mass shootings in the Lone Star State this year. Thoughts and prayers were immediately intoned by state leaders, but little else happened, even after a report revealed that 376 law enforcement officers had dawdled for 75 minutes before taking down the shooter. And, as the Lege prepares to meet next month, I can confidently predict that nothing substantial will happen.
Greg Abbott’s most desperate wish – that neither the scorching summer temps nor the deep freeze at year’s end would collapse the electric grid – came true, and he coasted to re-election in November, as did the other Horses’ Asses of the Apocalypse Dan Patrick, Ken Paxton, and Sid Miller. While leaders like Texas Demo party chair and Bum Steer Gilberto Hinojosa preach the gospel of Texas turning blue, the voters continue to politely disagree. This much is true: 20 years of GOP dominance at the state level has seriously diminished the quality of its leadership.
Speaking of Bum Steers, Austin earned the top spot in this year’s cattle show as Texas Monthly’s Bum Steer of the Year, deservedly so in the opinion of many longtime Austinites. Incoming Mayor Kirk Watson will face the challenges of affordability, homelessness, and crime, but his real challenge will be to choose his constituency: the tech bros and bro-ettes who are streaming into the city, or the longtime residents who fear that their city government no longer cares about them.
Nationally, the country endured its worst inflation in a generation, although there are hopeful signs it is abating. Gas prices were very high this summer but have returned to something approaching normal. The issue now is whether the Fed’s interest rate increases push us over into a recession.
The midterm elections were less a victory for democracy than a temporary repudiation of Trumpism and the incipient authoritarianism at its heart. The Republicans took back the House of Representatives, barely, and the Democrats expanded their majority in the Senate, also barely. But the House majority seems determined to make the next two years into a clown car parade centered around Hunter Biden’s laptop and d*ck pics.
The 2024 presidential contest has already started, unfortunately for all of us. Donald Trump jumped into the ring in mid-November, although some wonder whether he has enough gas in the tank. Olivia Nuzzi’s brilliant piece for New York magazine paints a grim picture:
What he means when he says “Miami” is that his SUV rolls down the driveway, past the pristine lawn set for croquet and through the Secret Service checkpoint at the gate, for the two-hour trip to another piece of Trump real estate, the Trump National in Doral, about eight miles from the airport in Miami-Dade County. There, he meets regularly with an impressive, ideologically diverse range of policy wonks, diplomats, and political theorists for conversations about the global economy and military conflicts and constitutional law and I’m kidding. He goes there to play golf.
In the meantime, something less than a critical mass of Democratic leadership is wondering out loud if Joe Biden should run for a second term. The contours of a Biden-Trump rematch seem at least dimly perceptible, but what if neither is their party’s nominee come Labor Day 2024?
The January 6 committee hearings may have been the best TV series of the year (at least for political geeks), but it is hard to tell what will come of them. The ball is, at least partially, in the DOJ’s court.
Whatever the stakes nationally for the 2024 election, they may be even higher internationally. In February Russia, totally unprovoked, invaded Ukraine; Ukraine, totally unexpected, fought the Russians to a draw and, in the process, gave us a new hero and a Time Magazine Person of the Year. In late December, Volodomyr Zelenskyy came to Washington and gave a memorable speech a la Churchill, reminding some Putin-appeasers of the stakes for freedom and democracy. The U.S. government, to the extent it has a consensus, is straddling the fine line between supporting Ukraine in its fight for freedom and not poking the Russian bear too much. And domestic politics will make it harder to maintain that balance going into the new year.
Ukraine is just the biggest flashpoint in a series of conflagrations: the globe is warming, Iranian women are making the mullahs nervous, China is making Taiwan nervous, and Kim Jong-Un is making the whole world nervous.
But tonight, staring out at the next 12 months, I find I am not filled with the same dread I’ve felt on the last few New Year’s Eves. The world is not in the clear yet, but it has passed its most recent stress test. My circle of friends grows smaller, but our interactions are better. Babies still gurgle and puppies still chew socks. The sun still rises in the east and sets in the west, and both sunrises and sunsets are occasionally spectacular. I can name you a dozen things to freak out about, but I’d prefer to just enjoy the ride. ‘Til next week, anyway.