Thinking about the year just past and the year to come, we might start by imagining the splendor of Earth’s stately annual circling of the Sun. It is what makes a year a year, after all.
Seen from space, the Earth shines like a blue iris on a mountainside in the morning light. And even better, as Galileo noted of the Earth, “It moves!”
Then, we take a closer and find the flower is full of bugs. That would be 2017.
Turning our gaze toward the year to come, however, we might find more beauty than bugs. That’s how an optimist chooses to view 2018.
Yes, the waning years of the 21st century’s second decade have a kind of predisaster aura about them. So far, the era seems to be made for future historians to locate the time the deadly troubles began, the way the late 1920s take blame for the Great Depression.
Despite the troubling signs, here’s why we can be optimistic about 2018: the resilience of the people and the profound ways in which they demonstrated their care for one another, when, as we say, the chips are down. The chips, you might have noticed, are seriously down.
But, there’s something stirring. Even in the Year of Bugs, Texans defeated a hateful Texas legislative effort aimed at placing more overt discrimination into the law, this one involving bathroom use of all things.
Also, in a progressive victory that’s received too little attention, activists succeeded in persuading the Texas Board of Education to reemphasize evolution in school textbooks, a much-needed victory for science.
The victory itself needs re-emphasizing because science is going to need us to help save it from the current anti-fact faction. Throughout 2017, millions of Texans awakened to the consequences of extremist Republican policies. They stood up and spoke out on behalf of themselves and others.
They filled airports in opposition to President Donald Trump’s early attempt to ban Muslim immigrants. They marched against misogyny, against the continued harassment and abuse of women. They recognized the hatred and bigotry behind vicious new immigration policies aimed at intimidating Hispanics.
But these were just the beginnings, like the light breeze that disturbs the bugs on the flower just before turning into a strong wind that blows them away.
Texans are poised to chasten the extremist Republicans who have been running state government. The GOP is no longer an attractive club to belong to. When the good people of Houston’s River Oaks area are organizing to beat Republicans, you know the winds of change are picking up.
Here’s how the Republican agenda divides us against one another:
• Rich versus poor: A GOP tax scam takes from average Americans and gives their hard-earned money to the richest of the rich.
• Men against women: Women are treated as second-class citizens who should shut up and do what men say, at home, in the workplace, in the halls of government.
• Whites against people of color: Latinos sneak across the border to rob and rape, says Trump. Build a wall! Black lives don’t matter.
• Christian extremists against non-Christians, as well as Christians who oppose their views: Muslims should be banned from the country!
• Straights versus gays: Christian conservatives demand the legal right to discriminate against the LGBT community.
It’s hateful stuff, and for many, it’s simply cranky and grumpy. Why continue to sit at dinner with the grumps who are badmouthing almost everyone? It’s uncouth, like Trump. They make dinner taste bad. In 2018, Texans will look for new dinner companions and new political clubs to join.
Texas is supposed to be the “Friendship State.” We haven’t lived up to that motto in recent years, but in 2018, we’ll begin to Make Texas Friendly Again.
Smith is director of Progress Texas.