Years ago, I made a New Year’s Resolution that I have stuck with faithfully – not to make any more New Year’s Resolutions.
Resolutions – and in fact, the habit of celebrating the flip of the calendar year at all – has always seemed arbitrary and faintly silly to me. I mean, why not get all excited and have a party to celebrate July 1? Or March 6? Or any other random day?
But then again, we humans are basically pattern recognition machines, so it is hard not to get excited when the calendar year rolls over, or the odometer in your car reaches 100,000, even though neither event has much significance beyond some arbitrary bureaucratic details.
So here I am writing a New Year’s Column. I can’t make resolutions anymore, of course, but here are some observations on the old year and hopes for the new one.
To start with the obvious, 2017 was a pretty tough year. Locally we survived floods and fires. Nationally we saw politics go from its previous state, weird, to what appears to be the new normal, insane. Powerful and admired figures fell in disgrace and our national pass-times became arenas for scandal and dissention.
Perhaps as a result, everyone’s moods seemed exaggerated. Angry readers were really angry. Grumpy Facebook commenters were really grumpy. Local controversies that would have been bad enough in a normal year seemed to take on a particular vitriol, even viciousness.
But at the same time, 2017 was kind of a great year. The economy is doing well, particularly locally. We here at the Register are seeing a real improvement, the first stirrings of a serious rebound after the Lost Decade since the meltdown of 2007-08.
Our collective response to disaster, meanwhile, was exemplary. People across the entire region were kind and generous in adversity. Our expensive new flood control system worked exactly as everyone hoped. Our emergency response system functioned smoothly when fires swept the area. The horrific firestorms of October brought us together as no other disaster we can remember.
And people seem to be channeling their anger and frustration over politics into real action for a change. Candidates started lining up for next year’s Napa City Council elections over the summer, more than a year before the election, months before the formal candidacy paperwork is even available. Already one person has announced a run for Congress locally. The organizers of the local Women’s March, meanwhile, seem to have crafted a structure that could transform it into an actual political force rather than a one-off cry of anger.
Whether you agree with the politics of these candidates and movements, there is no argument that more citizen participation in politics is a good thing. In order to remain a self-governing republic, we have to be willing to step up ourselves – to organize, to run for office, to discuss issues, and, most importantly, to vote.
So here are my hopes for 2018.
I hope we remember the lesson that the firestorms taught us – that we’re all in this together. The spirit of community, patience and generosity that we displayed in the face of the fire disaster was amazing to see.
I hope we remain politically engaged. If we emerge from our current dark and divided political times as a more active citizenry, with more candidates and more voters, then everything we’ve been through in recent years will have been worth it.
And most of all, I hope you all keep reading and valuing what we do here at the Napa Valley Register. We are certainly resolved to keep doing our best to keep you informed, entertained, and connected to your community, but it’s your continued support and appreciation that makes it possible.