Goodbye to 2023

2023 closes with endless war, ongoing genocide, COVID resurgent, and the prospect that liberal democracy in the U.S. will be gone by 2024's end.

Goodbye to 2023

I’ve never seen more people I know grieve in public and in private. - Bijan Steven on 2023

2023 closes with endless war, ongoing genocide, COVID resurgent, and the prospect that liberal democracy in the U.S. will be gone by 2024's end. The Biden Administration is pushing Ukraine's military toward getting a better deal in negotiations, in part because it cannot guarantee there will be any support for Ukraine after November 2024.

Our leadership does not see justice as relevant. They consider themselves strategic, and that biases them toward those with power. Bombing children daily? Letting an invader keep its gains? Those atrocities are allowed to stand because children and victims of war do not present an opportunity. What does constitute an opportunity? The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Similarly, a quick glance at whom COVID is devastating–Trump saw, which is why for a time he endured the boos–creates the sinking feeling that this experiment in self-government is over. The group being decimated is thought to have so much power that it can't be told it is wrong. Not ever. Lincoln proclaimed that with the proper dedication "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." That dedication is lacking from the rulers and the ruled. What kind of government doesn't want to fully fight misinformation? Why isn't a benefit seen to unmasking known liars?


I confess I have not thought much about justice myself. 2023 was a blur to me. I taught current events in every class I had, but I don't think I absorbed how massively corrupt everything was. Whether it was train derailments or stopped trains, white supremacists with access to classified information, companies hiking prices because they could, or homelessness increasing 12% in what is supposed to be an incredible economy, I saw the news, even wrote about it, but it didn't quite hit like it does now that everything is out of control.

I was mostly stuck job hunting. This started in November 2022 and it did not relent until August 2023. Only the last month or two has felt normal; I would not say I am settled.

On that note, I have a notion of how being strategic leads you to people with power. They already have; they can do things for you; you feel like they speak your language. And I can imagine that if you have a job you wanted your whole life, and that failing to keep it would be an unimaginable loss, you'd cling closer to everyone you thought had power.

The logic of job hunting is that you have to figure what to say and then say it until someone relevant hears. There's a parallel, problematic logic with those who feel they are entitled to their jobs. They're trying, wittingly or unwittingly, to narrow who is relevant to their continued employment.


For 2024, I want to talk about justice unceasingly. It isn't simply a political concept. As people around me are getting older and wondering about their legacy, it is clear a few anecdotes about family from the distant past aren't enough. We need to know whether they were good or bad. The messiness matters. We can only mourn with respect to the truth.

What allows dehumanization to go on right in front of us is an inability to comprehend justice. It complicates the narratives we tell ourselves for expedience. It conflicts with some ideas about mercy and acceptance. But it's so obvious to me now: without justice, we don't have the space in our language for people who are hurting. We pass them over to get to a slogan. Justice, of course, has its slogans. However, it also has empathy and accountability. Institutions which make difficult truths heard. People dedicated to a way forward and a vision all of us can celebrate. None of this, you'll note, involves any exceptional amount of power.