I’m sure you’ve noticed that campaigns start early. (Joe Biden? 2020? Dude!) I’m sure you’ve also noticed that year-end top 10 lists proliferate in the media sooner than you’d care to see. In that spirit, I’d like to offer my top 10 incongruous thoughts of 2017.
By “top 10,” I mean “10.” By “incongruous,” I mean “at least as clear as connecting the dots in order to superimpose animals and warriors on nebulous constellations.” And by “2017,” I mean that I haven’t yet accredited these thoughts … temporally … as such.
I’ll list them only once, so you probably should write them down as we go:
No. 1: Among immigrant populations generally, first generations struggle, still oriented to the old world. Second generations successfully straddle. Third generations fully assimilate. This strikes me as an undeniable historical pattern. Why would it change just because countries of origin have? Should this not put rooted Americans in a more welcoming mood? (Or, could they at least consider terrorism as the separate problem that it is?)
No. 2: Trying to learn a new language yourself — from vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation to idioms and shades of meaning — is a great equalizer.
No. 3: As a denizen of an urban area, I get around, variously, on a bike, in a car and on my feet. Can’t I all just get along?
No. 4: Public transit — important as an environmental and community asset. But as a personal choice, at what cost to efficiency? Fifty minutes door to door by bus, compared with 15 by car? What would your threshold be? What would it take to change your equation?
No. 5: “If I had a million dollars … I’d be rich,” sang a certain Canadian band with a name that feels more awkward than it used to. “If I had a 2.7-million-vote lead, I’d be a loser” doesn’t seem to follow, tautologically.
No. 6: In 1980, U.S. debt per taxpayer was $12,462, with the ratio of spending to GDP at 36.7 percent. In 1990, it was $40,296, an increase of 223 percent, with a ratio of 39. In 2000, it was $53,646 (up 33 percent), with a ratio of 33. In 2008, it was $101,116 (up 88 percent) with a ratio of 41. And in 2016, it was $166,735 (up 60 percent), with a ratio of 35. Just some numbers to think about. You can draw your own conclusions, if any, about leadership. If you dig just so, you can also find that although spending to fight poverty is up, so is poverty, so let that cook your noodle.
No. 7: I am sometimes asked the rather loaded question of what I, as an adopted person, think about abortion. I think there is just one truly honest answer: It is an irreconcilable clash of legitimate interests. One picks a side. I choose the ideal of “safe, legal and rare,” a combination of strategies (including personal responsibility) that can make a difference in the real world. (“Abortions drop to lowest level since the 1970s,” Nov. 24.)
No. 8: Well, that was unpleasant. But the issue isn’t going away.
No. 9: I like this new “A Prairie Home Companion” with Chris Thile, but the show is missing something crucial that the Garrison Keillor version had — those few minutes of transfixing wonder in each episode. I know the “News from Lake Wobegon” is no more, but perhaps something can capture that feeling, that volta two-thirds of the way through the show? The purely comedic can’t do it. The music can, but only sometimes.
No. 10: Joe Biden. 2020. Dude?
As you can see, none of these things lend themselves to a clear, unifying theme. So, like any self-respecting pundit, I’ll suggest one anyway: Donald Trump is your voice. I am your holiday piñata.
David Banks is at David.Banks@startribune.com.