2021 Impressions: How are we doing so far?

On January 1st of this year, everyone I know was looking ahead to 2021. Hopefully, the New Year would usher in fresh air. Could it vanquish the bad vibes of 2020? Citizens of every country looked forward to a positive shift in US policies. And of course, most prayed the COVID vaccine would be available to us as soon as possible.

“We need CPR,” I told my friends, “and I don´t mean Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation.” I wanted to use the acronym to stand for: Clarity, Peace and Resolve.

But just six days later, our hopes plummeted when the US Capitol was stormed by a rebel band protesting the ratification of the US election results. They claimed the presidential victory had been stolen from their leader, Donald Trump. He should have been given “four more years”. Millions of TV viewers around the world watched these self-proclaimed “patriots” ransack the building. To gain access to private offices, they smashed windows, and made off with private computers and confidential documents.

It is yet to be determined if the violent actions were premeditated or if the crowds were enflamed by Former President Trump, when he spoke at a rally, “You will never take back our country with weakness,” he said. Most of the protestors were 20 – 60 year old white males. Their clothing alone made inflammatory statements that were impossible to confuse. One prominent figure who called himself, a “shaman” was draped with an animal skin, slathered with face paint and wore a helmet with horns. Reportedly it was the “Proud Boys”, a neo-Nazi group, who sported the T-shirts emblazoned with: 6MWE – Six Million Wasn’t Enough – a Holocaust reference.     

They surged towards the private offices and once inside, a few of them insolently sprawled over the desk of the Leader of the House of Representatives and posed for photographs.

Just before the die-hard protesters were finally dispersed with tear gas, the cameras showed a close-up of a skinny kid pacing back and forth with his Confederate and Trump flags. His face shone with the pride of a “true freedom fighter.”

The audio reproduced on millions of devices allowed the world to hear the rebels’ remarkable command of the English language. I found it amazing how they managed to modify the F-word, to fit all eight parts of speech – noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and interjection –But the cameras caught more than staged photo ops and erudite grammar. Video showed a police officer getting clubbed with a fire extinguisher for trying to hold the “patriots” back. He eventually died. In fact six people lost their lives during the violence.

Before this insurrection, Congress had been in the midst of ratifying the election results. When it became obvious that the representatives’ lives were in peril, Capitol police spirited them through never-before-seen passageways to a safe location where they were kept hidden for hours. When the crowds had been dispersed they resumed their duties. Once it was discovered that the protestors had actually set up a gallows for the Vice President, he was removed from the building under heavy guard.

Through all this, President Trump purportedly watched TV coverage, pleased with the mess he made. But truly, he misjudged. His megalomania caused him to lose much of his base’s support. Even they could not turn a blind eye to his actions. Imagine the Preident of the USA not trying to stop such behavior?

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Then, fast forward two weeks to the Presidential Inauguration on January 20th. Thousands of American and State flags waved in the wind, filling the spots of people who would have attended this event, but could not because of COVID and clear threats from “the boys who love their toys”. Rumors said the rebels would be back for an encore. Armed National Guardsmen took the place of Democrat supporters along the traditional parade route from the Capitol to the White House. I watched on television as President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn in as the 46th President and Vice-president.

As expected, disgraced President Donald Trump was absent, but outgoing Vice President Mike Pence and several Republican House and Senate leaders did attend. Biden emotionally asked them for “an end to this uncivil war.”

Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks sang, and military bands played. All attending were dressed appropriately for the occasion – formal suits for the men, dresses and matching coats for the women – there was no crass language or rebellious posturing. Civility and propriety reigned.

The tone, demeanor, dress and intended outcome of January 6th and January 20th were diametrically opposed. The January 6th group aimed to incite violence. Those assembled two weeks later want to avoid violence. However, the lawlessness of January 6th has increased the skepticism that the world holds for western democracies.

I’ve heard leaders of other countries publically say they view western democracies as societies in decline. They observe that westerners have become soft. They feel “softies” are easy prey for charlatans and false Messiahs that lead them off course.

I grew up in post-WWII Canada and at the time, great numbers of refugees came to Canada and the USA. My sister has a friend who told me how she belly-crawled through the fields – with bullets flying over her head – to escape Hungry. After several months in a displaced persons camp near Vienna, she and her husband immigrated to Canada. They did not ask what place they were going to, and there were no complaints from them when they were dropped off in Winnipeg. Civic and church groups helped them get settled. It was hard for many years but the Hungarian couple prospered, and in turn they helped others.

As a young woman, I supported the humanitarian policy the Canadian government took towards South-east Asian refugees. Last year when I was in Vancouver, I went for a walk and came across a statue commemorating the exodus of the “boat people from Vietnam”. A late-middle-aged woman came up to me, and in a voice muffled by tears, she told me that her family had been on one of those precarious boats, but their lives were saved because they were allowed to come to Canada. I recounted this story to someone I know and they informed me that Canada, the USA and other “developed countries” could not keep “saving the world”. Her attitude saddened me.

I do not advocate opening the borders up for everyone to stream through, but laws must be put in place that allow for responsible, humane immigration.

Many feel western societies have become self-centered and aloof to the injustices in their own countries as well as foreign ones. This is one of the dynamics that allows hate groups and criminality get a foothold. President Biden is speaking up for human rights, for immigration, for doing what’s right. I hope that Americans and their allies will step up to the plate. I hope they will do for others what they hope would be done for them, and work diligently towards getting back on course.

If this doesn’t happen, we can expect more “shamans and proud boys” taking lives hostage.

Playing nice…

A few weeks ago, I tumbled down a long rabbit hole… I read an unpleasant barb on one of facebook’s forums. It seemed to me that the text was unpleasant, unhelpful and unnecessary. I try not to let venting upset me, but on this occasion, I made a comment.

“When I first came to Yucatan… 45 years ago… it took 16 months for me to meet another native English speaker… There was no internet, much less forums. But almost all of the people I met offered me helpful and sensible advice. I find it uncharitable that “long-time” international residents (some have been here just a couple of years and call themselves that…) do not offer help to new arrivals. Some tell me that “we” have enough foreigners here now, and “we” should not encourage more to come. Stellar attitude… but careful how you use your pronouns… And hey, it IS Christmas time… COVID-19 has not entirely spoiled that… so let’s get our heads on straight and “just play nice”.

I don’t believe that being nasty is cool. When asked for information, I do my best to help. In fact I have been asked so many questions, and several years ago, I wrote a book that addresses many of them. In fact I am currently writing an updated version…

There is so much to learn and experience in Yucatan, so why waste time sparring on the forums? Those who say they’ve come to Yucatan for a new life experience, need to get out and have one…

With the pandemic, mny attractions are closed and I often hear the lament… There’s nothing to do… I am reminded of when my kids were little and needed to be entertained. It is frustrating but still there are many places open. Just yesterday my husband and I were feeling locked-in. So we got in the car and drove to Uxmal. We wanted to go to Kabah too but found out it was closed. Fine, we drove to the Pickled Onion Restaurant to wish our friend Valerie, a Happy New Year. We ended up having lunch and touring the garden. Then we drove home again. We felt refreshed and pleasantly tired after our excursion.

COVID-induced crabbiness is not always easy to control, but give it a shot. I promise you’ll feel better if you … just play nice

Adios 2020

One second after midnight tonight, will anyone will be sorry to see 2020 end?

The day will change from Thursday to Friday, and one of the numerals we use to represent the year will change from 0 to 1. These are minor differences.

Nonetheless, we will celebrate these changes with grand outpourings of relief and hope. As we plug our ears to dull the roar of the fireworks, we’ll simultaneously toot a horn or beat a drum, creating still more of a racket. Is this a step back to primitive behaviour? Or is it just plain old fun?

Because of the need to socially distance there won’t be a lot of kissing and hugging, but once the noise dies down, our instinct to survive will manifest with resolutions to do better.

This New Year’s Eve especially, we’ll probably be glad the year is over. In Mexico, the fervent wish to chuck the old has given rise to a uniquely humorous (and noisy) custom.

Families decide on a figure that personifies their take on all that was wrong with the past year. Often it is a political figure (Donald Trump has been a popular choice the past four years) but 2020 provided us with an alternative. None other than the Corona virus.

Using any materials that are at hand, the figure that represents the Año Viejo is constructed with mischievous delight, and when it is done, it gets stuffed with old crumpled newspaper and firecrackers (sí, sí, sí – the extra noisy ones called, petardos) A way is found to make it stand or sit upright and usually it’s placed front and center, like a prisoner in the dock.

After the affectionate greetings at midnight, the Año Viejo is doused with some sort of flammable liquid and a match is struck. As the fire shoots higher, old and young step back – and tripping to the light fantastic – they hurl scathing epitaphs at the burning effigies.

Finally, once the secretly held pyromaniac urges have been locked back up, it’s time for the annual resolutions. These are all about survival, don’t you think? It seems that they speak to the universal need for some kind of control over what the Future holds in store.

The future is unknowable, and having no clue about what’s to come makes us feel unsafe, and we look for ways to take control. Maybe committing to positive changes could give us a feeling of security over the uncertain days to come.

Tonight at midnight, perhaps along with vowing to reclaim that youthful silhouette, reduce the intake of the Demon Rum, and wear off the tread of our Nikes, we could also promise to help right a few wrongs of global concern.

Pick a community initiative and donate your time or cash. Tutor children in English or computer skills – don’t know how to get more information about volunteering – ask on the facebook forums. Give 10 pesos to the woman and her child who are begging. Tip 10 pesos to the parking guys who are keeping your car safe. Give generous tips at restaurants because the wait staff are working reduced hours. Buy from local small businesses.

Enjoy this country where you have chosen to reside for all or part of each year. Focus on what you like about living here and be part of the solution. Do not get upset with the small stuff and be part of the problem.  

Happy New Year!