Already on Dec. 19 the streets were engulfed in ferment and commotion, which is surprising for Thursday evenings. It was the exhausted Washington employees leaving town, who wanted to enjoy a little bit of human closeness at their homes in South Carolina and Minnesota, eat the federal stress away with an apple pie and drown the consultant sadness with an eggnog.
As if waiting especially for that day, the weather in empty Washington suddenly jumped with joy from minus 2°C (28°F), which a week ago was the reason for closing the government, offices and schools, to 15°C (59°F). Behind our windows we can see a little bit of hysterical and premature spring, which predisposes us to think about a rundown on the year.
That is exactly what all U.S. media are talking about now. Every medium of communication in its own way, but the formula of “10 most important events of the year” (such as “10 hottest hairstyles of the month” or “10 most delicious cheesecakes EVER”) is the dominant one; however, it is crucial that the whole thing unfold in slides. In this special Christmas season — when even Facebook offers a rundown on the year with its user playing the major role — I will make use of the same method and limit myself to only five entries, adding not a single photograph.
What did America experience in 2013? We are counting down, as if we were launching a rocket.
5. Intervene or Not? — Syria and Iran
Let’s start the countdown with one of the most uninteresting topics to Americans, namely international politics. Everyone seems to have forgotten about the hot days when we were waiting for the message that Americans had launched an attack on Syria. However, the question of whether to intervene or not remains one of the most important ones, to which contemporary America is trying to find an answer. Is the United States of America, as Tony Judt wrote, still “the only developed country which glorifies and praises militarism, which was widespread in Europe until 1945 but today is something almost wholly unknown?”*
The next country that regularly strains its every nerve to annoy America is, of course, Iran. The problem with Iran is that it is a little bit more politically emancipated than most of its neighbors, who are more amenable to the U.S. Iran’s logic is very simple: Why are the United States and Israel allowed to possess nuclear weapons and we are not — not that we would like to, no way! — wait, can’t we?
The answer: Because the order of power relations established by the U.S.A., tacitly consented to by the EU, does not provide for it. Can the decision about not launching an attack on Syria and discussions on the reasonableness of a perpetual alliance between the U.S. and Israel be treated as the beginning of the end of the “American era"?
4. NSA Affair or Edward Snowden’s Insanity
It is one of the biggest secrets of Washington. Many young consultants and employees of federal agencies are cheering Snowden on, but not many really admit to it in public. Officially, Snowden is viewed as a traitor; however, more and more people are forced to agree that thanks to him a national debate on the way the National Security Agency functions has started. Snowden did all of us a big favor, writes Amy Davidson in The New Yorker. In addition, he can still be of use to the government, which, with Obama at the helm, at least creates an illusion that it wants to reform the NSA.
Americans do not want data on all their Internet activity to be collected and their phone calls to be monitored. The response of Brazil and Germany to their most notable national figures being eavesdropped on by the U.S. gives Americans enough food for thought.
The Snowden issue highlights another problem of America: the exchange of generations, which proceeds in Washington at an extremely slow pace. Amnesty for the “traitor” is unthinkable among the ruling circles, among those who hold Washington in check — those white-skinned, late fifties, well-to-do residents of Northern Virginia. Another example of this stagnation is provided by the state of the U.S. Supreme Court. The oldest judge (Ginsburg) is 80 years old and does not intend to resign, judges Scalia and Kennedy have both already had their 77th birthday, and Breyer — 75 years old — is at their heels. They make up the assembly that decides what contemporary America looks like.
3. “Obamacare” — In for an Even More Bumpy Ride?
Leave the NSA alone, the republicans argue. An average American does not care if their calls are being eavesdropped on or not. He or she cares, on the other hand, whether they have a steady job, a house and health insurance. “Obamacare” is probably the worst event of all that happened this year. It was a fiasco — if not a complete one, then surely a political one. Thanks to the Republicans, the idea of health care reform is now completely repugnant to society.
Currently, when the “Obamacare” website is running quite well and more and more people manage to sign up, the Republicans suddenly begin to represent the middle class. This very middle class, for which the president is so viciously fighting in his every speech, suffers apparently excruciating pain having to abandon their previous insurance policies. “I cannot go to my favorite doctor anymore, who had been treating me for the last 20 years.” “My insurance policy was better and cheaper than the one I am being offered now.” The Republicans brace themselves on the disappointment and selfishness of those who until now have been living quite comfortably and who now have to lose something in this transitional, unstable period. What will “Obamacare” turn out to be in 2014? We do not know that yet.
2. Obama Does Nothing, the Congress — If Possible — Does Even Less
That communist sitting in the White House does NOTHING; though at the same time he does EVERYTHING to transform the U.S.A. into the USSR. David Plotz from Slate magazine has reasonably pointed out that four years out of every eight making up a two-term presidency are wasted. Following the enthusiasm of the last year’s elections, we reached a complete impasse marking the second term. Obama is already being summed up; next year’s Democratic Party presidential primaries are already being vividly discussed.
Obama has nothing to lose and also not much to win, of which not only Democrats, but also Republicans are aware. His support continues to fall gradually and slowly, and Americans harbor more resentment only toward Congress. The painless voting on the budget a few days ago was recognized by the nation as a miracle; however, it did not brighten the image of Washington in the eyes of the citizens.
1. What’s up with Miley Cyrus?
At last — the most important event of 2013, which will probably not get overshadowed by the statement of a female reporter from Fox News who a couple of days ago assured American children that Santa Claus is white and Jesus was also white, unleashing hell in this politically correct backwater. It is, lo and behold, Miley Cyrus, a beloved child of America, who turned from Hannah Montana into an alluring vamp, in whom fellow concerned countrymen took interest for weeks on end.
There is nothing else left to do than to raise a glass of eggnog and to wish Miley and the government a moral renewal, which 2014 will certainly bring. Cheers!
*Editor's Note: The original quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.