Farewell, 2011 (and it’s about time)

A wisecracking look back on the last year.

Andrew Johnson

Probably the only event in 2011 that anyone could have projected is that it would eventually end. For those who believe that our impending day of reckoning will be in 2012, letâÄôs take a look back to see how we made the most of our last full year on Earth.
We started off the year with what I still suspect was a global guerilla marketing campaign for a new body wash: the Arab Spring (âÄúExperience the Mubar-AXE effectâÄù). Whatever it was, it finally gave cable news commentators, opinion writers and college students the opportunity to reveal themselves as closeted experts on North African political affairs. They suddenly demanded the immediate resignation of these leaders, after only waiting decades to make those declarations.
February brought us to Madison, which became the Tunis of the Midwest (does that make Belmont WisconsinâÄôs Carthage?). State Street and Capitol Square were the scenes of disorderly behavior, muddled thinking and desperate attempts for social inclusion. Then the anti-Scott Walker rallies began and brought this conduct to politics.
Teachers set out to prove how much they valued their studentsâÄô education and future by cancelling class for days to demonstrate, while other protesters jumped in to show the importance of public spending by causing thousands of dollars in repairs to the State Capitol. Only three months after the gubernatorial elections, activists insisted that âÄúthis is what democracy looks like,âÄù without consulting anyone who disagreed with them.
Nevertheless, that march became March, and as Japan rushed to control a nuclear meltdown, Charlie Sheen had one himself. From one rant to another, Sheen garnered more attention for his nonsensically entertaining and entertainingly nonsensical outbursts than he ever did for his sitcom. Claiming he was part warlock caused some to wonder if he was, in fact, the âÄúhalf manâÄù in âÄúTwo and a Half Men.âÄù Over the next few months, he was grilled in interviews, roasted on Comedy Central and baked on his veranda.
At about the same hour Sheen staggers in from a nightly bender that began four days prior, royalty enthusiasts in the U.S. huddled around their TVs and wondered if their cut-rate cable package included BBC America. Prince William and PippaâÄôs older sister said their regal âÄúI doâÄôsâÄù in front of hundreds of millions worldwide who had hoped to be on the exclusive guest list. The ceremony also reminded Americans that titles such as âÄúdukeâÄù and âÄúduchessâÄù exist beyond their dogsâÄô names.
The assassination of Osama bin Laden gave most an uneasy feelings of personal closure. Others saw it as a reason to start partying outside the White House. âÄúUSA! USA! USA!âÄù rooted students that night before hitting the hay harder than a Navy Seals team in an Abbottabad mansion; after all, they had to take their place as the professorâÄôs pet in their âÄúAmerican Imperialism in the 21st centuryâÄù class the next morning.
Since eight of this yearâÄôs top-10 grossing movies were sequels, audiences looking for something original had to go no further than current events. The Casey Anthony trial proved you donâÄôt need a big budget to make a summertime blockbuster: it only cost an inattentive jury, fatal child neglect, and Nancy GraceâÄôs serenity. Meanwhile, GOP voters continued to be bad dates after inviting one presidential candidate after another to be their beau for the Republican Party. Once he or she showed up, voters quickly turned their back on their latest crush and found a new one.
Closer to home, about a decade after then-Senator Mark Dayton adamantly insisted his staff not enter the U.S. Capitol Building for fear of terrorists, as governor, he found his state legislators unable to do so in St. Paul because of the Minnesota government shutdown. Over those bleak weeks, only âÄúessentialâÄù services were maintained, implying that all other services were nonessential and therefore dispensable. Tragically, I had one friend who was unable to wait in line at the DMV to renew his license during this time. Miraculously though, his ability to drive responsibly was unaffected.
And to round everything up, Occupy Wall Street captured the nationâÄôs notice as a ragtag group of individuals with erudite worldviews on how to combat elitism. While tent tycoons, bongo moguls and picket sign magnates cackled at their ironic success during the demonstrations, protesters tried to influence government officials to ignore outside influences. George Soros stopped by in his limousine to give the 99 percent his blessing, Michael Moore rolled up to scold the evils of consumption, and environmental advocate Van Jones forgot that deeming the movement the âÄúAmerican AutumnâÄù would mean the country is heading toward a desolate and fruitless period.
ThereâÄôs more we could reminisce over: the European UnionâÄôs looming dissolution, the worsening American political and economic climate and, worst of all, the end of OprahâÄôs daytime talk show.
Poking fun at the events of the past year is a humbling reminder of our imperfections. We tend to lose sight that humanity is just as prone to inane behavior and incongruent judgment as we were the year, decade, century and millennium before. Yet, itâÄôs also uplifting. Despite our stupidity, futility and mortality, weâÄôve made it this far and continue to do so. It may not be pretty, it may not be smooth, but weâÄôre here, and assuming the Mayans arenâÄôt right, will continue to be past 2012. And when we happen to fall short, we can be confident someone will be out there to point it out.