by Ellen C. Warren
“Yeah, I didn’t forget. I wanted you to find me like this. I’m making a statement,” he shoots back.
“O.K.,” says I. “Can you help me with interpretation?”
“Isn’t it obvious? Sweeping something into the gutter does not get rid of it. Right? I could have just had my back turned to you when you walked up, but that wouldn’t have been as easy to recognize. But… same deal! Turning your back on something does not make it go away,” he continues. “Or covering your eyes, like a kid. Or sticking your head down a hole, like an ostrich. All that stuff seems like it’s working while you are doing it, but sooner or later the cat’s going to get out of the bag. You are going to have to face the facts.”
“So, what you are telling me,” I asked him, “is that you represent ignored realities?”
“What I am telling you is that I am a doorway that was cracked open for some to see a bit of the other side. And for others I was a door flung wide shedding light on uncomfortable, unsettling, and sometimes-gruesome realities. And although I’m Old Man 2014, you can’t completely get rid of me because that cat did get out of the bag and there is no way you can get the cat back in.”
“Alright then,” I pursue, “tell me about the cat, if you will.”
“Well, if you want to put it that way, we’re talking about a number of different cats. This has been a big year for cats getting out to the bag,” supplies Old Man 2014.
“We’ll start with a huge one that some folks didn’t even know existed, that being the cold reality of racial profiling, the systematic abuse of power, and the unequal carriage of justice. Many of the people cried. I cried with the families of black men and children who died at the hands of police. Dontre Hamilton, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice were sacrificial victims who put faces on the racist practices that allow African American males to be killed with no one paying the price for the murder of innocents.
“It’s not that this is new. It’s not. What’s new is that awareness has been raised. What’s new is that slogans like ‘Black Lives Matter’ are reaching the greater consciousness and jamming in a foot to hold open the door, to keep this horrendous, crushing story alive and in view. Because Old Man 2014 may be retiring, but not without having thrown a stone into the murky pond of systemic racism and watching the ripples surge new life into a movement waiting to resurrect. A movement, which should have been completed 50 years ago but wasn’t.”
“Yes, I see what you mean. The protests continue as we speak. Thank you for that Old Man 2014,” I say.
“Right. I have been a very intense year and I relay this with very mixed emotions. Seems it often takes so much bad to open people’s eyes to good,” Old Man 2014 continues, “and sometimes even that doesn’t work.
“Take, for instance, the attitudes about Global Warming, a mistake in naming, by the way, as it confuses people. Well, the climate scientists have come to absolute agreement, and stated with certainty, that we have played and continue to play a huge role in the speeding of climactic change.
“In this, my year, we have reached a point where no one can credibly contest that fact. Yet, the United States still mainly sits back and waits for some other peoples to do something about it.”
“At least we attended the latest meeting and made a minimal commitment to cooperate in the future. But the cat of planetary destruction and species extinction is, surely, out of the bag. And in this case, I hand off to my successor,” adds Old Man 2014.
“I’m with you on that regret,” I offer. “Other cats?”
“This one came near my end, but, as ugly as it is I’m relieved that our citizens have learned about the torture inflicted in their name,” says Old Man 2014. “Now they can get down to the business of holding the government accountable. Again, a case of extreme oppression against, often, innocent human beings. You can’t hand back lives or remove past suffering, but you can stimulate and enforce change.”
“Anything else you would like to reveal before we close out the year?” I ask.
“Well, several other cats came flying out of individual’s bags that opened our eyes to the prevalence of sexual, physical and child abuse. One of my achievements as Old Man 2014 was to spread the message that people, especially men, cannot abuse without repercussion anymore. It’s a start.
“So, as much as I wish I could take credit for a period of only goodness, I am proud of all I have exposed to the light. I have no reluctance to leave and allow the new work to begin.