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Goodbye to All That

2016 wasn’t quite two weeks old when I first heard that it was cursed. On top of the usual bad news (Sharaban tea shop, bombing) came the announcement of David Bowie’s death, and something about it, hard on the heels of his most acclaimed record in years, songs that were released on his birthday, seemed especially shocking and unjust. Public celebration of the music quickly turned into lamentation for the man, inverting Hamlet’s sardonic lines about how “the funeral bak’d meats / Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.”

Given Bowie’s lifelong example of ironic detachment, it felt right to make black jokes about a curse, but as the months went by more and more celebrities died (Alan Rickman, Umberto Eco, C. D. Wright, Harper Lee, Prince, W.P. Kinsella, Muhammad Ali, Pat Conroy, Jim Harrison, Katherine Dunn, Gloria Naylor, to name a few) and so did a crowd of dancers in an Orlando nightclub, and the talk of curses started sounding serious. It became a commonplace that 2016 was the Worst Year Ever.

Not being a superstitious sort, I chalked this up to normal variation. The year may have brewed up an atypical amount of trouble, but there were also some high spots. Scientists identified the gene responsible for ALS and the Cubs came from behind to break a century-long string of bad luck. Things could have been worse.

But then came a one-two punch–well, more like a chin tap and a train collision. Within a couple of days in early November, Daylight Saving Time came to and end and so did my faith in democracy ... continued