Op-ed: Unhappy old year

  • By Bob Franken
  • Saturday, December 26, 2015 5:15pm
  • Opinion

“Happy new year.” That’s what we holler as we replace our calendars. It’s the rite of passage where we’re supposed to dismiss from our minds the darkness of the past and look forward to a brighter future. Well, you can try to repress all you want, but wouldn’t it be more honest to simply admit that we seriously resent much of what took place since we last went through this annual subterfuge?

Forget the personal grudges we’re supposed to let go of but never do — let’s face it, 2015 also left some indelible stains on our collective lives. Where do we start? That one is obvious. Society’s No. 1 blight is Donald Trump. Who else could it be? The Donald is the hands-down winning loser, although far too many of his followers seem to favor the hands-raised salute. Not only has his appeal to our worst instincts been successful, but what’s most dangerous is that his mindless followers have good reason to be infuriated, even if they did think.

The truth of the matter is that they, and most of us, have gotten an increasingly raw deal for a long time from our economic rulers and their political puppets. All the Trumpster does is spew out simple answers to people who have decided that working hard to come up with real solutions for overcoming our corrupt masters is a waste of energy. They could be right. And the gross inequity got worse in 2015, just like it has for so many years past.

To be fair, we in the TV media have been both the oligarchs as well as Trump’s enablers. And forget that pious claim that we are doing our duty and remembering our journalistic idealism by informing the public about his danger to society. Actually it’s our corporate nihilism, groveling for all the profit we can squeeze out. We pump up our ratings by featuring Donnie as much as we can and genuinely confront him as little as we can.

To be additionally fair, it’s not just Trump who has been a political eyesore, it’s Bush and Fiorina and Carson and Cruz and the rest of the Republican field. To be even more fair, it’s Clinton running her evasive campaign, and Sanders making populist promises he could never keep, and O’Malley mainly just hanging around.

When it’s not all-Trump-all-the-time, it’s often all-Clinton-all-the-time, and not just Hillary. There’s hubby Bill, of course, the ex-president (big deal), and daughter Chelsea, who is pregnant again. It gives her mom another chance to play the granny card. Plan on getting sick of hearing about it.

Already, we trivialize the most serious endeavors. Of all policy discussions in the most recent Democratic debate, we are most fascinated by the amount of time it took candidate Hillary Clinton to go to the bathroom. Who really cares?

With all the complicated problems we have, we pay attention only to foolishness. By now, are we sick and tired of trashing Steve Harvey for getting the Miss Universe winner wrong? We should be, although some of the social-media avalanche that buried him included virulently racist comments. I wonder if it’s possible to determine how many of the most bigoted tweeters were Trump supporters.

We are usually attracted to mindless pursuits — a herd of suckers being led from one empty fad to another. Has anyone else had it up to here with all the “Star Wars” hype? Isn’t the commercial exploitation completely over the top? But it won’t be any worse than the political ads we’re about to endure.

2015 is about to morph into 2016 and I’m not done. Unless something better comes along, next time let’s talk about New Year’s resolutions. You know, the ones we don’t keep.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist.

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