The end of the year always makes me a tad melancholy. Eric always diligently decorates the Christmas tree. I look at him and smile with adoration because he really gets into decorating the tree. This year we have a one ladder tree. Meaning, the tree is only about 9 feet in comparison to our previous trees which have been as tall as 12 feet and requiring two ladders to coordinate the lights and other embellishments. I’m not sure if the task of decorating or the holiday that prompts the decorating he enjoys more. I was helping out earlier in the process with hanging the colorful and delicate orbs but was quickly directed to do something else. Eric knows that I consider decorating the tree to be more labor than love. I just didn’t get that gay gene which includes the flair for decking the halls this time of year.
As each new year arrives, I’m normally more upbeat and optimistic about what may lie ahead for the future. The potential excitement, the multitude of well wishes for good health, and a time filled with prosperity. Who doesn’t appreciate that? This year however, I find myself thinking more about the past events that have occurred over the course of the 11 and soon to be 12 months, rather than looking forward. I can’t complain about my life. There have been some wonderful adventures with friends, several weddings; including my own, and an amazing honeymoon/vacation in Spain to round out the year. What does make me sad are the continual challenges that to plague my city with the houselessness (homeless, unsheltered), the never-ending denial of racial inequities, and the ignored pleas of gun control in this country.
These things run in the back of my mind and it’s been increasingly more difficult for me to see the sunnier side of the calendar because of it. In my youth, my mother taught my sisters and me that we can accomplish anything when we put our minds to it. This was really solid advice not just for me and my siblings, but also for anyone who is committed to change and for anyone who aspires to grow. I personally took those words one step further and believed (still do) that we’re supposed to learn from our past missteps in order to move forward in life. If this doesn’t happen, we are destined to continually repeat the same or similar mistakes and there will be no change or growth. This is the cycle I feel we are caught in.
As I look around my community, I’ve noticed that I’m not the only one who isn’t so chipper about what lies ahead in the new year. Just now glancing at my Facebook feed, I saw a post from a friend that read, “Just Not Feeling It”. And before any doubt is cast about my “mental” stability, I don’t suffer from seasonal depression or have emotional issues the holidays may trigger. Though I will say, I am very much in tune with my surroundings and always have. I guess I’m an idealist at heart. Not like that’s a bad thing, it allows for insight and an opportunity to typify what could be or should be possible; forward thinking! In my opinion, we possess the tools to repair all that we have miscreated; through intent and by mischance. So why haven’t we used these tools to mend the ills of the people who need it most?
Here in Portland, it is often asserted that the solution to the houseless problem is affordable housing paired with increased services to treat addictive and other mental health issues. This may be a possible option for solving the problem, but this solution has become slow in engagement as the number of houseless persons continue to grow and the related costs increase. Two weeks ago while at the gym I met a young man with a gorilla tattoo on each of his arms. I cautiously asked about their significance and he explained that he had been caught up with a gang and was incarcerated. He admitted to making bad decisions and was now on the streets. As we chatted, he also acknowledged a drug history but wants to stay clean and change his life. Who will, or should, pay is frequently asked and the answer is we all do, either in tourist dollars or rising property taxes. In my idealist world, a fund set up by pharmaceutical companies and developers would provide the resources for this fund since most houseless have been impacted by addictive opioids and gentrification.
The idea that “all men are created equal” as it was written into the Constitution really is a ruse. I think Thomas Jefferson had great intentions, but he didn’t denounce slavery, or stop him from siring children with Sally Hemmings. For those who aren’t of a marginalized community it’s time to accept and admit that the founding principles of this country were intentionally created to oppress anyone who is not a white male. The power of the pen has created policy and rule to keep those of a certain pedigree in control. If you do nothing to change this narrative, or you feel that the criminal justice system is fair to all, then you are a racist. If you believe that it’s okay for the police to stop a man of color (profiling) because he fit a certain description, then you are a racist. If you feel that native or indigenous communities should have no voice in American politics, you are a racist. This is a far too familiar story that usually doesn’t have a happy ending.
Sending “thoughts and prayers” is another phrase that has been stuck in repeat mode. How many more people must die before we can say enough? I’m not a gun owner but I have used the weapons for recreation and education during my young scouting years. I understand people have the right to bear arms, but why do military assault weapons continue to be available to the public, trained or untrained. I look at our foreign neighbors and often wonder why can’t we have a civil existence as they do.
I’m not bitter about my own life and know that change doesn’t happen overnight or in 12 months. Many of us in our communities want to move forward but there are governmental forces in place prevent this from happening; greed and fear are two powerful barriers that hamper progress.
I look in the mirror and peer deep into my reflection and this is what I see.