There’s an old Chinese curse (or so it’s said) that goes like this: “May you live in interesting times.” The saying is apocryphal, of course, and, like chop suey and fortune cookies, may not be authentically Asian in origin. But the point stands: 2016 was too damn interesting for words.
Traditionally, we make resolutions for the betterment of ourselves and our lives in the coming year: lose weight, stop smoking, eat more vegetables, make America great again, stop the rise of authoritarianism, whatever. This year, there are things that we in Colorado can resolve to do that will make everything — our state, our neighborhoods and our quality of life — better. Happy New Year, and here’s to 2017 being refreshingly unremarkable. Or at least remarkable for all the right reasons. Our top ten resolutions to help make it so:
10. Get Off Facebook
Or, for your own sake, at least cut back. There are all sorts of claims about how Facebook negatively affected the 2016 elections by serving as the conduit for a lot of the fake news that too many Americans saw, chose to believe, and shared again. That’s bad enough, certainly. But perhaps a larger point is that Facebook serves only one good purpose: to keep in occasional contact with family and friends. Don’t become obsessed with the warped looking glass that Facebook can become. For the Harry Potter fans out there: Facebook is the Mirror of Erised. It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.
9. Stop the Sweeps Closer to home, Denver has begun to rely on sweeps to deal with the issue of the homeless, which is at best a Band-Aid on a deep and infected citywide wound. At worst, it’s just plain useless and cruel. It’s one of those “solutions” that everyone knows doesn’t really accomplish anything, but one that we use anyway because, well, it’s something to do in the face of not wanting to really do anything else. Sweeps like those that took place periodically this past year haven’t done a damn thing, and everyone knows it, including the cops who’ve been ordered to carry it out. It’s high time (Mile High time?) that we stop treating the visuals of homelessness and start working on addressing real solutions.
8. Support Local Businesses
When you shop in 2017, make a commitment to go the extra mile (sometimes literally) and patronize the home-grown shops and services that Denver has to offer. If you want something new to read (and you should: see #4 on this very list), go to one of the Tattered Covers or a great indie store like BookBar on Tennyson instead of shoveling more cash into the Amazon coffers. If you want some coffee, don’t settle for Starbucks; head to a place like the Purple Door in Five Points, which combines delicious java with real-world, hands-on solutions to the homeless problems in Denver. If you want to see a movie, check out what’s at the Sie FilmCenter. If you want a burger, choose My Brother’s Bar or another local outfit. You get the idea. Every day, we all make choices about how we spend our cash. Make those choices count.
7. Adopt a Dog
Yeah, Colorado is dog country — just check any of Denver’s parks on any Sunday, and you’ll see proof. But if you’re in the market for man’s (and woman’s) best friend in 2017? Forget the puppy mills. Pet shops barely exist anymore, and for good reason. And don’t bother with Craigslist unless you’re looking for a reason to present a sob story on Judge Judy. There are still far too many good pups available at your local shelter — the Denver Dumb Friends League is a good place to start — that just want to catch whatever nasty old tennis ball you want to throw. They’ll wear that bandanna around their neck, too. They just need love, and they just want to love you. Pretty good deal.
6. Believe in the Press
One of the casualties of 2016 was the reputation of the American media, the best of which somehow got lumped in with the worst, and the country seemed to be just fine with throwing out the baby of ethical journalism with the filthy Breitbart bathwater. When so many misguided voices are condemning the press for their failures, the rest of us need to demand precision, honesty and a reliance on true integrity in our news sources. That means supporting the real news again — learning to trust and verify, subscribing to newspapers and demanding in-depth reporting. Make biased news retreat to the lunatic fringe where it belongs. You want to make America great again? Start by not settling for the comfortable lie.
Keep reading for five more resolutions.
5. Protect Pot
It’s becoming more than just a Colorado issue, with some form of marijuana now legal in more than half the states, but Colorado is still taking point on the fight for marijuana legalization. Given the rhetoric of the Trump campaign and the quickly forming Trump cabinet, pot supporters have cause to gird themselves for battle: While Trump himself has rarely taken a position (which some find worrisome enough), it’s his choice for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, who’s really raising the alarm. After all, Senator Sessions is a prominent pot prohibitionist, having made the famous claim that “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” among other reprehensible bon mots. Despite the clear will of the people of Colorado, personal use of marijuana might be at risk again. So heads up if you toke up.
4. Read More
A recent study reported in Scientific American suggested that the reading of literary fiction — that is, non-genre or populist fiction that seeks to entertain more than illuminate — actually flexes the spiritual muscle that allows us as human beings to empathize and better understand each other. In this, perhaps our most divided America since desegregation and all the way back to the Civil War, we need empathy now more than ever. So read: Buy books (preferably from local purveyors, remember), and don’t just stack them on your nightstand. Read what’s between the covers. You’ll make yourself a better steward for Denver, the state of Colorado, the good ol’ US of A, and the whole world — and support the literary tradition of America at the same time. Win-win-win-win-win.
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3. Let the Broncos Rebuild
Will the Broncos repeat with a Super Bowl win? Barring a miracle, not gonna happen. We might make the playoffs, we might not. Our defense is still powerful but can’t do everything. Our offensive line needs help, and hopefully we’ll get it in the draft and whatever trades Elway has in his voluminous pockets. And our quarterback—well, time will tell whether it’s Siemian or Lynch or someone we don’t even know yet. The fact is that this year — and maybe 2017-’18, too — has been the quintessential football-rebuilding year for the Broncos. Fans need to give the team time, and keep cheering.
2. Just Give
Whether it’s your time or your money, there are services and charities and organizations that deserve and need your help. The list of deserving Denver charities is long, and in these troubled times includes Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network, Planned Parenthood of the Rockies, Denver Homeless Out Loud, Blue Bench, ACLU of Colorado and Black Lives Matter 5280, to name only a few. And that’s not even touching the soup kitchens and food pantries and coat and blanket drives and the like that provide sustenance and protection from the Colorado winter that are so important for needy folks and families.
1. Be Vigilant, Be Active, and Be Kind
No matter what your vote was in 2016, there are going to be issues in 2017 that you’ll want to watch. Maybe your family depends on Social Security or Medicare. Maybe you believe deeply in a woman’s right to choose. Maybe you see civil rights under attack, or that we have some deep racism in this nation that this past election has both uncovered and exacerbated. Maybe you only have health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act. Maybe you’re undocumented, or your parents are, or you just care that someone is, and there are a lot of people living in fear of deportation right now. Maybe you want this nation to feel whole again. No matter your political persuasion or personal beliefs, we can all agree that there’s a lot of healing to do, and a lot of basic rights to protect. Fortunately, this state, like America itself, has a lot of attention to pay and love to give. Resolve to do both freely.