The Old Year in Review

I cannot remember another year as awful as 2020. True, I’ve experienced moments that rivaled the worst of 2020 (like when my grandmother and dog died within a month of each other), but collectively, 2020 sucked.

I’ve been out of work since March 13, when movie theaters closed in Seattle. While I’ve gone to the store (occasionally) or visited others after mutually quarantining (rarely), I’ve spent most of my time in my apartment, which isn’t great for mental health, but is somewhat helped by living with my girlfriend, possessing a cell phone, and owning a cat.

Having all this free time meant I could finally work uninterrupted hours on my writing projects and voice acting career, but “could” is different than “would.” I should’ve remembered the last time I was stuck at home. I’d just graduated from college and lived with my parents, since I had nothing else lined up. I tried to write magazine submissions and my first novel with no social life, which went about as well as you think it would — though time and circumstances were different (9/11 happened several months later, and smart phones weren’t a thing).

As this pandemic continues, I’ve gradually been learning to put my mental health first and to stop feeling guilty for not filling my days with endless productivity. Of the two types of work I’m focusing on, voiceover is the more physically demanding, writing the more mentally challenging.

But, to be successful at each, I have to ignore any monetary rewards attached to them, not because I don’t want to earn money putting my talents to work, but because focusing on the monetary aspect tends to strangle the creative aspect. Doing creative work for money causes me to fall into a depression, particularly during gloomy Seattle winters. Writing for any reason other than that I love writing, or doing voice acting for any reason other than that I love voice acting, ends up being counterproductive.

Speaking of doing things for money, I don’t miss work. What I miss is hanging out with my coworkers and being able to go to live events and movies. If universal basic income became a reality, artists, house spouses, and part-time workers would finally be able to put time and energy into their passions, rather than having that time and energy drained in working jobs for the “privilege” of living paycheck-to-paycheck. We’d finally get paid for the work we do, not how much money we generate. And for those people whose jobs’ only purpose is to make money, perhaps we could put that money to better use by taking it out of their pockets and putting it back into their communities.

Imagine a world where no one has to worry about not making enough money to eat. To own property. To buy clothes. To have healthcare. To pay the bills. Civilizations were formed because it was easier to band together for protection than to go at it alone. Isn’t it time they fulfill this promise and protect us from want?

Here’s hoping that when the world opens up again, we’ll be ready to demand a more perfect one.

The Oversimplification of Good and Bad

A few days ago, I found out one of my friends passed away. To be honest, she was more an acquaintance, as I’d only met her in person a handful of times. She wasn’t old, she wasn’t sick (as far as I knew), and she’d been active online as of two weeks ago. I don’t know if it was COVID or cancer or a car accident. Not that it matters. Dead is dead.

Right after hearing this piece of news, I found out that my friend’s wife was having her baby (their first child) later that afternoon. An evening post included a picture of the healthy baby boy. So, on one hand we have this bit of sad news, on the other, happy news. Life giveth and death taketh away.

But does this make death bad and life good? One could argue that neither are good or bad in themselves. Death prevents awful people from doing more harm, just as it prevents wonderful people from doing more good. Life for some is so terrible that not being born would be the better option, while for others not living would be worse.

When it comes to people being good or bad, we judge them limited by the short span of time we are alive to witness the effect of their actions, slightly longer if they’ve preceded us to the grave. To decide if someone was truly good or bad, we’d have to follow every thread of influence that their life has had on others and the sum total of that effect. And good people may do awful things, just as awful people may do good things.

The main problem with categorizing things as good or bad, however, is that it simplifies life in all its complexities, and simplifies us in all our multitudes. My friend was a lovely person, and yet to say she was a good person is to ignore the parts of her character that are neither good nor bad but just are, parts that her friends have been sharing on Facebook and which give a clearer idea of what was put in the universe with her life that is no longer there in her death. As for the baby, the years ahead will decide what kind of space he fills in the world, but there’s currently a very large vacancy.

The Coming Age

I had a very different post planned, one which dealt with the superfluous and the personal. But then the election results were called (except in alternate-universe land, where even Fox News dared not to tread — except in their talk shows). And, of course, the historic press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping took place, which continues to be a gift to comedy. So, as a privileged, straight while man, I thought I’d talk directly to other privileged, straight white men with an analogy:

In The Lord of the Rings, the Fourth Age (the Age of Man) comes about because men, with little help from the other races of Middle Earth (never mind the hobbits with the ring), were able to face Sauron by themselves, and by extension, the elves felt they were ready to take over the world from them. Also, the elves were aware that their power was fading, so this seemed a good trade-off.

In the same way, minorities who voted in this election proved that the people who hold power in the U.S. aren’t the white class currently in power, but everyone else. Even though 70 million people voted for fascism (and smaller numbers re-elected their foot soldiers), millions more who voted against this power structure were African-American, Native American, LGBTQ+, and Latino, who had to put up with four years of awfulness that most of their white counterparts avoided, as well as hundreds of years of oppression caused by their white counterparts.

White men have been in power in this country since its founding. Like the elves, it’s time for us to relinquish our power to this cross-section of America who helped secure the victory for a white man who wishes to serve all Americans (and knows his job is to smooth the transition between white men currently in power and the younger, more diverse generations who follow) versus an orange shit-stain who only serves himself, though that’s unfair to shit-stains and the color “orange.” Whatever power remains to us should be used to lift up people who have had power denied to them for centuries.

One final analogy between LOTR and modern politics: I mentioned the hobbits, who kept to themselves and weren’t as tempted by the ring as were men, dwarves, and elves. Not wishing power for themselves, Frodo and Sam agreed to destroy the ring out of a sense of duty. In our current pandemic-filled world, these people are the essential workers. In the election, they were the overlooked Native American vote, which helped swing several states to Biden, including Nevada and Arizona. And, to carry the analogy further, if Drumpf is Sauron and Pence the King of the Nazgul, McConnell is Gollum, but with fewer redeeming qualities. And we all know what happened to Gollum when he tried to get the ring back.