2017 – And America’s “Age of Misery”

The bombings started in the cold of the Texas winter. The rebels had quickly come to terms with the reality that they could not hold and keep land; and they turned instead to terror. Strapping bombs on little girls – because they were easier to infiltrate among the throngs of people moving to escape the madness – they deployed them into crowded supermarkets in Galveston and bus stations in Durango. It was mayhem they were seeking after all; raiding cattle ranches, rustling as a means to sustain their war while people flowed like floodwaters from the quiet interior to Houston and Dallas and Austin there to sit in squalid camps by the millions waiting for something – for anything. The armies from Washington, deployed tired and stretched didn’t have the numbers or the will – the war that was raging in the north was more existential to them than a backwater dust-up to win the love of a population that had grown angry and tired of the corruption.  

Besides things were hard all over.

The People’s State of California had finally gone bankrupt, unable to afford any more its ‘progressive’ policies after taxation had driven away the businesses and uncertainty the creditors. No way to obtain legal tender after the FED had cut them off – cold turkey like an addict raging and throwing themselves against the walls of their padded cages – hyperinflation had set in, and as the funny-money printed under the State Capitol building in Sacramento melted away in people’s pockets like ice on a hot San Diego morning, the migrations started. Now it was famine that the Californians were facing; a quiet famine to be sure, because reporters dared not go there to tell the tales of suffering for fear of the prisons; and nobody was swimming against the tides of people in their cars, buses and organic bicycles headed away, going somewhere – anywhere – hoping to start anew. Not a famine of vultures stalking little children and reporters throwing candy bars from out of shiny white 4X4s; but the famine of children wasting away one by one silently in their once-opulent homes, of life expectancy reducing by one year then two then four for lack of a generic pill or a condom. Ten million people, that’s how many had fled – engulfing Arizona and Nevada and Utah which had set aside special land for camps wherein to hold the migrants, keeping them out of the diners and off the streets where they had become a nuisance. Yet all of this paled to the genocide in the northwest, in Seattle and Washington States where the people of one ancestry turned suddenly and deliberately against that of another, unleashing an orgy of hate and blood. Raping of women; slaughter of entire towns – first Wenatchee had fallen, then Chelan and Omak and Winthrop, emptied out, men lined up and shot in the back of the head to fall into mass graves and covered over with lye. National Guard members throwing babies into bonfires; Palouse Falls State Park turned into a massive displaced camp where people defecated in the rivers beside others washing their clothes and still others collecting water to cook the beans distributed by foreigners; and cholera started to spread, one infection became two became four became eight – became one million and more.  

The nation’s capital could not be bothered, too distracted were the country’s leaders with preserving their own power; filling the great stadiums of the northeast, the malls and universities too with the wretched corpses of bloggers and activists and journalists who had dared report about the dictatorship or tried to have their voices heard. “The Tomb”, a special prison for special prisoners of the regime, where it was personal – psychological torture meted out responding to the rage of one or another of the offended elites, anxious for payback. The worst was the Naval Academy which had been converted into a concentration camp; men held forty to a room, twenty five square feet where they coordinated their lying down and defecating time to take advantage of the single toilet while they noted the names of those killed by torture on their undershirts written in blood collected from their swollen gums leaking from malnutrition and rickets. Above barrel bombers buzzed away on their nightly raids, to pulverize the towns of Altoona and Harrisburg; the heart of resistance.

No, this is of course not the story of America in 2017 – though you wouldn’t know it to read the newspapers and watch the television. And I’m being provocative on purpose, because what makes my statement more dramatic is that it is the story of 2017 for tens – nay hundreds of millions of people in dozens of countries across the world (like Syria, Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan, Venezuela – articles I linked to above).

America’s 2017? Four trillion in new wealth, unemployment at 4.7% is the lowest in 17 years, consumer confidence highest in a long time. A return of the rule of law after eight years of lawlessness; tax cuts that make even the EU tremble. Our supermarkets are full; our universities are the best in the world; we live long and prosperous lives full of choices and opportunities. Elysium in a world of want and suffering; something we were sensitive to in the age of our grandparents, prosperity and sacred values which we used as a platform for great acts of kindness product not of our moralizing vanity but because we truly believed that ancient axiom “To those who much has been given, much is required.”

That is before the arrival of the “The Age of Outrage” stole our sight, our soul. Narcissism marauding as correctness; ‘stilted justice’ as compassion; unknowing as wisdom.

“Age of Outrage”, or maybe I should call it the “Age of Misery”. And why? Why do we choose to be angry? Everybody is miserable all the time nowadays – and it doesn’t make any sense; measured against any standard you wish to choose, anywhere in the history of histories, America is a land of tremendous opportunity and incredible bounty and almost unlimited personal freedom; even more so in 2017.

I am genuinely baffled.

In his viral podcast Joe Rogan says “To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order; we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”


Its so much about this, isn’t it? Gratitude, discipline in the small things, love of community and family and the reverence of gentleness and of those things which we know to be right and true and good. So, lest our “Age of Outrage”, our “Age of Misery” extend and we transform our planned paradise into a raging inferno through our bitterness, our wickedness – let me make a humble suggestion on this my last entry of 2017: Whatever your political leanings, I urge you, nay implore you to forget about the White House, forget about the Governor’s Mansion, forget even about the town council and the special election for the dogcatcher you are certain will herald national calamity. Find something you care about, something which involves an act of creation. Let this creation lead you to opportunity, for yourself and for others, and invest in that as down the rolling road of wonder you travel. Be positive, put down the IPhone upon which you are typing that spiteful Tweet to hurl against an unknown enemy, and lift your head. That first person you see…? Say something nice to them. Walk next door to your neighbor’s house and take a cookie platter or a box of chocolates; each time you find yourself filled with rage, make a kind decision. To those with whom you find yourself communing, devote yourself to constructive intercourse that uplifts and builds. And finally, do so locally in your communities and the places where you naturally rest your ideas of home. If you do this, you might end up turning the corner on your miserable 2017; and we might even discover again the bounty which we have so often used to help our hurting and suffering world.

So Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah and Joyous Boxing Day and a belated Eid Mubarak and Happy New Year to all!!! Go in peace. And see you in 2018.

About Joel D. Hirst

Joel D. Hirst is a novelist and a playwright. His most recently released work is "Dreams of the Defeated: A Play in Two Acts" about a political prisoner in a dystopian regime. His novels include "I, Charles, From the Camps" about the life of a young man in the African camps and "Lords of Misrule" about the making and unmaking of a jihadist in the Sahara. "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio" and its sequel "The Burning of San Porfirio" are about the rise and fall of socialist Venezuela (with magic).
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3 Responses to 2017 – And America’s “Age of Misery”

  1. tjbarnum says:

    Best yet . . . .


  2. Lona Manning says:

    Hi Joel, I wrote something on the same lines last February, when I was in Vietnam.


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