2020 Skelly Family Christmas

Without a Doubt, One for the Books
Talk about a year everyone wanted to see put out of its misery. There wasn't a wet eye in the house at the stroke of midnight.

And if we mean by "house" a metaphor for the celebrated ball-drop in midtown Manhattan, there wasn't even anyone in the house. Times Square was closed for the holiday this year. NYCPD Chief to public: "Don't even think about trying to come." This New Year's Eve, the Great White Way was nothing but a movie set.

So now we have a whole new year to screw up. Let us not even bother to try to count the ways. We'll find ones you could never dream of in January. The truth is, we're not really supposed to get these years right. We're just supposed to survive them, as they come, one upon the other.

For a lot of people that's going to be pretty hard to do. Worldwide there were 1,835,399 deaths last year from the Coronavirus. We could possibly double that in the new year. But investors and policymakers are already moving their focus from the pandemic to the globe's environmental health. Even as it rages, COVID-19 is already on its way to being yesterday's news.

The global economy is looking a little shaky just now. It's supposed to improve in the second half of the year, presumably after the vaccines kick in, also in the second half of the year. Anybody hear any faint alarm bells ringing in that?

Trade, China, North Korea, world hunger, Iran, Putin all remain unsolved, merely awaiting their rotation back to the front page.

In America there's a protracted problem of a dysfunctional government and a polarized electorate, threatening openly and literally to split us into two Americas.

The Spanish Flu pandemic that began in 1918 killed as many as 100 million people over two years. But the following year, it just about disappeared from public consciousness, disaster historian Scott Knowles is quoted as saying in a recent Atlantic article. “It was swamped by World War I and then the Great Depression." And then there was World War II.

The recovery that followed World War II brought rampant prosperity, especially in the United States, but then we were consumed by the Korean War, the Red Menace, the Civil Rights movement, the rash of political assassinations. Vietnam. Watergate! Who can forget the great financial meltdown of 2008?

Sounds like a Billy Joel song.

Just like Roseanne Roseannadanna said. It's always something. And so will it continue to be. Just hold on to your stuff and keep moving. Don't forget your personal belongings.

In this country we seem to have a two-tiered economic sysem, a two-tiered social system, a two-tiered justice system, a two-tiered health system. Even a two-tiered knowledge system, and that could be the biggest problem of all. There is a very large sub-group of people who won't believe anything you tell them unless it isn't true or at least involves an impossibly complex conspiracy of some kind.

27% of adults say they have not read any books in the past year. People don't trust newspapers anymore or even network news. They prefer to get their information from social media, where the reporters are all rank amateurs, have access to no legitimate sources and are possibly crazy.

In the prescient movie Network, written by Paddy Chayefsky way back in 1976, mad anchor Howard Beale predicted the current state of affairs quite accuraely and pressed his listeners thusly:

"So if you want the Truth, go to God. Go to your gurus. Go to yourselves! Because that's the only place you're ever gonna find any real truth. But, man, you're never gonna get any truth from us. We'll tell you anything you wanna hear. We lie like hell.

"In God's name, you people are the real thing. We are the illusion!"

By the dreary end of 2020, probably the only one on earth who wasn't glad to see the year bow out was Donald Trump (possibly worried he might have to do the same). But there's a lesson in that for all of us. Wherever you come down on your president, there's not a soul on earth who'd likely accuse him of being a quitter (once you get him engaged, that is). Our trick is not to solve all our problems but to endure them. Because there will always be new ones. That's what makes them "newsworthy."

The sentiments of Jackson Browne in his song "The Pretender," written in 1996, sum up our timeless situation sucinctly:
When the morning light comes streaming in
You'll get up and do it again, Amen

Amen. That's the proper New Year's spirit. Not better; just more. Fast away the old year passes. Hail the new, ye lads and lasses!

Heedless of the wind and weather.

It helps if you drink a little. Hence the midnight toast.

* Donald Trump: a Jackson Browne fan. Who would have guessed?)

Eleventh Annual Skelly Family Christmas Video

2019 Index:
Dec. 10 -3.35   Dec. 15 - 3.81   Dec. 20 - 3.72   Dec. 25 - 3.74

2020 Index:
Dec. 10 -2.86 Dec. 15 - 3.09   Dec. 20 - 3.22   Dec. 25 - 3.33
Right now - 3.36

Season Stats to Date ...

Current Christmas Spirit breakdown:

Slowest start in nine years. COVID, no doubt. Good turnout, bad mood. Lots of "wait and see" in that big yellow patch. The stock market looks farther ahead. Although today it was probably looking at the jobless report and not liking the look of that. The FDA experts panel recommended approving the virus, but the market had already closed. Mabye we'll be looking farther ahead in the morning. Although as Ben Franklin quipped on exiting his doctor's office: "A vacine, if you can find it!" Like the president likes to say, we'll see.

A little better, but definitely not feeling the burn yet. The market's testing new highs, a second vaccine is on the way, and the election seems at last settled. But Christmas Spirit Index voters persist in being "glass is half-empty" kind of people. Still ten days to finish that glass and order another.

It doesn't take a statistical wonk to conclude there's just not an overabundance of "Joy to the World" in the public consciousness this Christmas season. The top category in this index this close to Christmas often accounts for almost half of all votes. Right now it's running at about 15%. Much more mid-range votes than in most years. The balance of this week is going to need to inject an inordinate measure of really good news.

Well, not so bad, all things considered. At least the spirit grew from week to week, even if it did start out with a historically unenthusiastic response. Maybe it will continue to grow as the new year progresses. And be ready to roar when next Christmas rolls around. We live in hope.

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