Trying to summarize 2017 is … not that easy. Unless you are a meme of a dumpster fire, and that dumpster is full of either nuclear or medical waste, chances are you fall a little bit short in capturing the full essence of how intensely warped a year it’s been. I definitely was never prepared for a year of my life where fascism became so openly normalized again, Chester Bennington hung himself and a reality TV host/potentially Putin-installed president would try to take away many basic civil liberties. That’s not even including things like Trump allegedly make gross statements (like about Haitian immigrants all having AIDS) with such shocking frequency that we grew numb to it. (Just like he planned it.)
Marginalized groups know that unease is always a part of the American fabric, but many people shared in a sort of mass abusive relationship this year through current events in ways they likely never expected. I was just reading a tweet by Reparations for Slavery author and historian Ana Lucia Araujo about how on Christmas Day in 1854, Harriet Tubman rescued three of her brothers from slavery. I have also just heard the news about the death of photographer Don Hogan Charles, best known for shooting the iconic photo of Malcolm X at his window holding a rifle. The times we are in now call for similarly bold and brave citizens and leaders to stay focused and empowered, demanding accountability against the winds of unrest or bigotry in modern chaotic times. We still have a lot of connective tissue in America despite the challenges we face as a national and global society.
In the Hudson Valley, like most people, we were challenged emotionally. Numerologists believe 2017 was a year for new chapters and transformation. It seemed like it, as a shocking amount of bubble-bursting took place. It became impossible to hide from the need to talk about racism, sexism and class warfare. These are always important topics to face in life, but 2017 was a pile of raw and exposed nerves. The shaking up of outlooks, life and world-related upheaval often associated with the swirling if not always gentle creatrix energy of the Goddess Kali did manage to bounce some of the friction of the Trump-inspired disarray back upon itself as people met narratives counter to their comfort zones. Coal is not coming back, for example. As the #MeToo movement proved, you can reap what you sow.
Even locally, we had visible anti-racism protests after Heather Heyer was killed in Charlottesville. While Heyer now has a street named after her, the spirit of resistance that she believed in will live on despite her death from xenophobic forces. The elections this November bode really well for a blue wave next year, but don’t get cocky. It takes a fight to shake up old paradigms and find justice served at times, but no one is giving up despite the exhaustion of the last 13 months.
This past weekend Kingston’s greatest instrumental surf-rock band The Sci-Flies ripped through tons of surfified Christmas songs at classy cocktail joint The Stockade Tavern on Fair Street to a packed house. A semi-annual Christmas Eve-eve Tiki party was the most happening event in town. The streets remained relatively warm, all things considered, but people were still pressed to get inside and enjoy one another’s company. There were many people of different backgrounds dancing, laughing and socializing. It felt healing — like our spirits hadn’t been broken and we could still enjoy life through the rollercoaster aches and pains we have all just lived through as a country. It felt good to see people hugging, drinking giant beverages, smiling, kissing or shaking hands. The streets were mostly safe and good cheer was ringing through the night palpably. We are our neighbors.
I’m trying to hold on to hope. I’m thinking about Star Wars-The Last Jedi’s awesome level of inclusiveness, spiritual undercurrents and awareness of the past yet willingness to grow. It is awesome that it was the number-one Hollywood film to end out 2017. We need to head into 2018 with a sense that we can keep going through a celebration of our real values, hard organizing, creative writing and singing or however you are able to find solace and inspiration in your life. I am devoting a big chunk of time to tweeting evidence of Obama saying Merry Christmas many times at idiots who think there is a war on Christmas. As if Jesus, arguably-gay elves and Santa would like Trump. You know what will bring back coal? Santa, when he filled Trump’s stocking this year.
Kingston continues to inspire me with the constant ways the old and new intersect. From Rough Draft’s opening Uptown to the continued mindful expansion of the waterfront to the influx of friendly faces from yesterday coming back around for the holidays — plus some people deciding to move back and stay when they see Kingston’s rebirth — this is a time of excitement and potential.
The economic challenges we face next year will determine a lot of how our city must move forward, but we are strong and know to band together and buckle down on local business growth now. Never forget your own value and potential as a member of this community. One thing I love about Kingston that kept me going in 2017 was the majority love here for intersectional experiences.
Anyway, I don’t want to get super heavy heading into the next year, but let’s keep it real. Let’s set good intentions, listen to some happy tunes (Third Eye Blind is blasting through my apartment right now as I prepare to light some Christmas trees) and remember the reasons we love one another. New Year’s Eve is sure to be crazy and fun so let’s shake off some of the pain and nurture what binds us together. God bless you all.