“The darkest hour is just before dawn.” Like many Gen Xers, I was introduced to this concept in a Mamas and Papas lyric crackling away on an FM station on a Volvo car radio. It was the ’70s, and the aftermath of Watergate and the war in Viet Nam hung pungently in the air like a great cloud of skunk weed. In California, there was a relative dearth of precious fluids—a simultaneous drought of water and gasoline, and our wine ran off to France and won the “Judgement of Paris.”
Jesus was both everywhere and nowhere at that time, though rumor was he was in Guyana, desperately trying to turn Kool-Aid back into water. Meanwhile, movie musical fans were singing “This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius,” but when the dawn finally came it was Reagan’s “Morning in America.”
This is all to say, the kids my age have seen variations of our apocalyptic moment before. So, forgive us if we’re dubious that the light at the end of the tunnel is anything other than the Great Eye of Sauron. Though the electoral college has theoretically put an end to the current Whitehouse occupant’s Reign of Error, I no longer believe Otto von Bismarck’s assertion that “There is a providence that protects idiots, drunkards, children, and the United States of America.” There’s still ample opportunity for us to mess this up. I have met the enemy and he is us.
As George Carlin once opined, “When you’re born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you get a front-row seat,” to which I’ll add that sometimes you’re also onstage. This is our moment to take a bow, go backstage and wipe off the damn clown makeup.
Perhaps it’s Dec. 21, the Winter Solstice and the longest night of the year, which has caused my skeptical frame of mind. If only by dint of duration, Monday will be the darkest night before the dawn. The winter solstice also denotes the onset of winter, which begs the question for our country—will this be “the winter of our discontent?” Let’s hope not. All together now: “Tell all the stars above, this is dedicated to the one I love.”