#576: Past Midnight

January 1st, 2016

Without falling prey to the “Great Writer” love of meaningless generalities I railed against a few stories back, today is a holiday celebrating the concept of new beginnings.

Not to address the issue on Jan. 1 would be as disingenuous as saying you’re not thinking about love on Feb. 14 or projectile-vomiting frat boys on St. Paddy’s.

Starting clean is an illusion, of course. We might as well celebrate each July 17. But we didn’t. Culturally, legally, economically, today is the day it all turns over, from your income tax forms to the special offers fitness clubs give to capitalize on resolution guilt.

Wouldn’t it be nice? A new start, a new you bringing only the good parts of your life and soul past this temporal border of 12:00:00 each January first.

But like the hangover many brought in from the last of 2015 revelries, we hauled our shames, shams and bad habits past that midnight divide as well.

Across Chicago, the questions linger as to what 2016 will bring.

Will the teachers strike?

Probably.

Will we get a new mayor?

Probably not.

Will black lives matter in 2016? Will we get a year without a new brown face killed by a person who took an oath to protect?

I hope.

Will gang and gun violence stop?

Almost assuredly not.

Daley II wanted an Olympics this year. Didn’t happen. Rahm and former Gov. Pat Quinn once vowed the Chicago River would be clean enough to swim in by 2016. Maybe the disinfection equipment going online this summer will help, but I’m not planning on touching that muck.

Will the optimists trumpet every step forward, the pessimists grudge how much work there is to do?

By definition, yes yes yes.

It’s a flawed, broken city in a flawed broken world and we can’t only bring the Chicago of great bars, friendly faces, diverse cultures and great museums and parks into the new year.

The gangs, the guns, the crooked politicians, the snarky insistence that corruption, vice and bile is just “The Chicago Way,” we have to haul those past midnight as well.

I have faith in the future, more than I probably should. Things can improve, although they do so at a painfully slow pace. Even things seen as big jumps — gay marriage, more-affordable health care, crooked politicos locked in the brig — are the result of months, years, decades of grinding work just to ready the world for that point.

The trouble is that the people halting progress also think they’re on the side of the angels. But that’s an issue for another day.

Today is a day to think about new beginnings, not to hope or pray we get better, but to work and suffer and strive so that we have a little less waste to haul past midnight 2017 than we had to haul last night.

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Now let’s talk about that river:

Rahm’s swimmable vow

The story as last we heard

A few thoughts on the riverwalk

What’s on the bottom of it anyway?

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