Every night (or first thing in the morning) I read Heather Cox Richardson’s latest Letter from an American. She writes her observations of the day’s events from the perspective of an historian focused on what she thinks will be important 100 years from now. Her letters often pull together disparate threads to provide a read on current events that might not always be obvious to someone not-so-well-versed in history and in which events seemingly have historical significance. One thing that she’s said many times in her various live sessions is that as an historian, she often focuses on what people say and do. This includes reading newspapers, and in her deep dives into the past, those news reports provide a fascinating view into the important events of the day.
Today, newspapers aren’t the only place that captures the thoughts of the people and the events of the day. With the rise of the internet, the average person can also put their thoughts out there for public consumption far more easily than in the past. The virtual public square has grown into a crucial part of how society communicates. That not only includes social media. It also includes personal websites and blogs, and as in the past, letters to the editor in traditional media. It also includes podcasts and traditional visual and audio media, though an ever growing number of people use streaming sites on their computers or mobile devices as an alternative to radio and TV.
As I sit at my computer this 25th of December listening to my local classical music station’s 48 hours of holiday music, I think back on what a year 2022 has been.
One big change has come about in the last few months as a result of a change in ownership of one of the biggest social media platforms. Before the ownership change, Twitter had world-wide reach where all voices could be heard whether they be a legal expert, an academic, a journalist, an elected official, or an average citizen just trying to get through their day. It was a site used for quick notification during times of crisis. It was also a place where people from all facets of society could interact on an equal basis. Then a petulant billionaire bought the company and started pushing his own agenda which hewed heavily toward the extreme political right, punishing those who challenged him in any way. As a result, droves of platform users scurried to other platforms trying to replace what they’d lost. The two front-runner replacements are Mastodon and post.news.
I’m on both Mastodon and Post, though as I’ve written in previous articles, I prefer the Mastodon model which is not owned by any one entity and is not for profit. The post.news model is yet another attempt to profit off of the public square, and that truly rubs me the wrong way. There’s nothing wrong with accepting donations, but requiring payment to participate nullifies the voices of a large segment of the population.
This year has included some big advances as well as some huge setbacks in driving the nation. A few stand out above the noise.
On the downside, we have a rogue SCOTUS majority trying to reshape the U.S. into an austere Christian Theocracy based upon an extreme version of Catholicism known as Opus Dei. Even among Catholic clergy, many consider this sect a cult, and six members of the court have received the Opus Dei seal of approval after the majority’s opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization effectively overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that guaranteed a woman’s right to choose whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term. Since the Dobbs decision, numerous states have effectively outlawed the procedure which has caused suffering the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the 1970s. Because of Dobbs, there are two Americas – one where women have control of their bodies, and one where they do not, at least not legally, effectively criminalizing any end to a pregnancy that doesn’t result in a live birth even in cases of a miscarriage. In the states with such severe repercussions to pregnancy, it’s become very dangerous to have a uterus.
We had yet another tumultuous election that seemed as though a very loud minority of people were trying to outdo the extremes set in 2020, many seemingly detached from reality. Despite gruesome predictions, there was no red-wave. The House flipped, barely, but the Democrats actually increased their slight majority in the Senate going against recent history for the first midterm election of a new administration. And even in the House, the results didn’t represent the actual will of the voters due to significant gerrymandering in GOP controlled states. There was no appreciable election fraud despite unwarranted claims by some losing GOP candidates. Because of these results, there is hope that perhaps the tide is turning.
On the world stage, Russia started an unprovoked war with Ukraine as a means to grab territory. Ten months later, the war is still being fought, and millions are suffering. The U.S. has lead NATO and the world to help Ukraine and pressure Russia to stop its aggression.
The cases against former President Trump continue to mount. Not only are two states actively investigating and prosecuting him for state crimes, the DOJ has a special counsel pursuing the federal January 6th investigation and the federal investigation surrounding Trump’s theft of government documents from his time in office.
Trump should have known better than to challenge the archivists. Much has been made of the fact that many of the records he stole were highly classified, but the fact that he took them at all regardless of their classification is a criminal act. The filings in the documents case through the year have made for interesting reading. With the help of analysis from various legal experts, it’s clear how unhinged the defense is, but the question still remains what will eventually be charged and when. The theft of the classified records is a significant security threat, one that no previous president has attempted.
The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol completed its investigation and public hearings and released the Executive Summary of their final report the day of the final hearing. They released the full final report a few days later. The committee’s work had to end because the leadership of the House is changing in January, and the new majority would have disbanded the committee and buried the results if the work had not been completed.
Despite these significant challenges, there have also been some significant positive successes. With the thinnest of Congressional margins, several pieces of legislation were passed, some in a bipartisan fashion, to help the vast majority of Americans. Congress and the Biden-Harris administration have made excellent progress from the CHIPS Act which brings more manufacturing back to the U.S.; the Inflation Reduction Act which makes some substantial positive changes to Medicare, climate change policies and more; achieving the lowest unemployment rate in American history; passing the first meaningful gun violence reduction legislation in decades; confirming the first black women to serve on SCOTUS; making the most effective COVID booster to date widely available in record time (though it’s a mystery why so many people are foolishly choosing not to get their boosters); and much more.
Like each year since 2016, and especially since 2020, I’m glad this year is ending and hope that next year will be better. Time will tell, but there is hope. Between better vaccinations against the ongoing pandemic, the DOJ’s diligent efforts for accountability, an electorate that cares about the future, we just might make some more progress toward becoming that more perfect Union.
Final Report Executive Summary PDF
Letters from an American
Teri Kanefield’s Blog
GOP’s Shadow report
Dobbs SCOTUS Opinion
SCOTUS and Opus Dei
Opus Dei Influence on SCOTUS
Letters From an American – January 6, 2021
Randy Rainbow – Sedition
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