If you are reading this, odds are good that either you survived the Mayan apocalypse or, much more likely, it did not actually happen. In either case, the end of the holiday season is near and that means the ubiquitous end-of-the-year retrospective/look-to-the-future columns are upon us.
Each of you likely has one or two writers you follow faithfully, and each of them will be delivering some version of this column to you in the next few days. Most years, these are light-hearted affairs, but the tragedy of two Fridays ago all but ensures that most will be more solemn and introspective than usual. Of course, it is a damned-if-you-do situation for a writer. You cannot ignore the rest of the year, yet you know you must devote space to such an event.
Unless one has an almost limitless amount of space at their disposal, something will be left out, and internet commenters with a seemingly endless amount of time will point out the tiniest omission. Nevertheless, we will all try to make sense of the year behind and look ahead to the New Year. This year, though, we may not like what there is to see.
What seemed like a six-year-long campaign for the presidency ended with the victory of a lackluster incumbent over a challenger whose campaign admitted they were running a “fact-free” campaign. Record amounts of money and record amounts of poor reasoning, misinformation, and outright fabrications went into the affair — and that was only on one side. Whichever side you believe committed the worst lapses is the one you agreed with at the start.
Closer to home, Gov. Nikki Haley kept a busy schedule. In addition to trips to England and Japan, where she continued her unofficial role as a PR agent for private business in the Palmetto State, she made the news almost every other week. She sold out the Port of Charleston for a speaking slot at the GOP convention. She created a new ethics reform committee to either replace or strengthen the state’s 30+ year-old ethics commission, which she may not have known even existed as she herself was brought before an ethics board. She also read from talking points following a successful hack of a state database that held the tax records for several million South Carolina citizens and businesses. And she capped off her year by appointing Tim Scott to the Senate seat vacated by Jim “Take the money and run” DeMint.
Not all the fun happened at the national or state levels, though. North Charleston decided that the rights of workers to a smoke-free workplace were less important than the rights of smokers, while Goose Creek joined the rest of the area and the nation in moving to ban smoking indoors. Folly Beach banned alcohol on the beach. Mt. Pleasant changed its zoning laws so they just happen to match the designs of a developer who wants to help the town become Mt. Plastic by dropping a Big Box shopping center across the street from Towne Centre (itself a plastic, fake “downtown” in a town that has no organic downtown of its own). Mt. Pleasant also narrowly edged out Charleston County on approving a new housing development in the Six Mile Community that none of the current residents want. But Charleston County got its revenge over local communities by deciding they would rather bite the bullet and agree to complete Interstate 526 than let Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. get his hands on it. Last but not least, Charleston has seen partially unfunded renovations begin on the Gaillard and a beautification project on a stretch of road that really needs to be backfilled with nine feet of asphalt and drainage pipes. Charleston also saw its own share of senseless violence this year, none of which seemed to stir the community until the victim was 17 — and white. The mayor announced a community violence task force, which then promptly disappeared from view as soon as the suspected killers were arrested.
The New Year will start much the same way, sadly. No doubt committees and task forces will look into the tragedy of Newtown, Conn., and their findings will be lost in the noise surrounding the next big story. It does not seem that way now, but we will collectively forget and move on. That is what humans do best.
Mat Catastrophe is a multimedia geek who is currently co-authoring a book called Arguing on the Internet. He is also the owner of several satirical “new media” companies.