A week is proverbially a long time in politics. A year is 52.14 times longer than that. Our own lives occupy the fronts of our minds, while public affairs rumble in the background. To most of us this was the year that Jimmy went off to college, Suzy got married, dad lost his job, or grandma died.
This is right and proper, because public affairs matter. Events that happen in Congress or the Persian Gulf might determine whether Jimmy can go to college or dad can keep his job. But there isn’t much any of us can do to affect those events, so to give more than twenty minutes’ thought a day to them is a waste of one’s life.
It follows that by the end of a calendar year, normal people have forgotten most of what happened in the public realm. As a public service, I offer a month-by-month summary of 2011. You’re welcome.
January. Gabrielle Giffords, a US representative from Arizona on the fairly sane side of the Democratic Party, was shot in the head when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire on a meeting she was holding. Rep. Giffords survived and is making a good recovery, but six other people died. The political left blamed the shooting on “eliminationist rhetoric” (Paul Krugman), Sarah Palin (Daily Kos), Jared Taylor (an Arizona law-enforcement organization, apparently on the theory that all persons named Jared must be in cahoots), or the Tea Party (well-nigh everyone). It turned out that Loughner was a maniac with no discernible political ax to grind.
February. A great month for scales falling from eyes, at least in Europe. Angela Merkel got the ball rolling in October 2010, telling a gathering of her party’s youth wing that “Multikulti ist gescheitert”—multiculturalism has failed. Next up was British Prime Minister David Cameron at a panel discussion with that same Frau Merkel in (irony alert!) Munich, saying: “Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream.” Bringing up the rear was French President Nicolas Sarkozy in a TV interview: “If you come to France, you accept to melt into a single community…and if you do not want to accept that, you cannot be welcome in France.”
March. Preparing to receiving open homosexuals into its ranks, the US Marine Corps issued training materials to officers containing imagined scenarios they should ponder so they will know how to proceed. Sample:
You are the Executive Officer of your unit. While shopping at the local mall over the weekend, you observe two junior male Marines in appropriate civilian attire assigned to your unit kissing and hugging in the food court.
What should a good Marine officer do in this situation? “Retire to his quarters with a bottle of Scotch and a loaded sidearm” is not an acceptable answer.
April. Congress passed a budget deal to avert a government showdown. The deal was advertised as including cuts to federal spending. There was some trimming of programs in health, labor, education, and contributions to the UN and various international organizations for a total savings of $38.5 billion—only .002% of the federal deficit.