The Year to Come
Although we are barely past Valentine’s Day, it is already evident that 2022 will not be any less chaotic than recent years as inflation lurks, the Russians surround Ukraine, the Winter Olympics bore us to tears and Canadians prove as crazy as their neighbors to the South. With such a start, it is hard to imagine that the rest of the year will be any calmer, with vitriolic mid-term and French Presidential elections looming, a World Cup in Qatar, of all places, despite the alleged use of slave labor to build the facilities and the fact that its must be held in November to avoid 116 degree heat in the summer, and former President Trump possibly becoming the first candidate ever to announce his comeback electoral quest while under indictment.
What do I know about what will happen? About the same as anyone else, but it won’t stop me from putting my thoughts in print and daring everyone else to do better. So, with absolutely no shame or trepidation, here are my thoughts about the major events of the rest of the year.
Will Russia invade Ukraine? How the hell do I know what is inside the diabolical brain of Vladimir Putin? But I do have some advice for Mr. Putin: those Ukrainians are tough and, while they are no match for the mighty Russian Army, they shouldn’t be underestimated. As a tiny example, shortly after Russia mugged Crimea in 2014, the Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, who vocally supported the takeover was leading an orchestra in our local performing arts center. From the warmth of a restaurant next door, I witnessed about 100 Ukrainians waving their blue and yellow flags and shouting in protest in a language that was definitely not Russian in a wind chill of about -10. Yes, I know, such a temperature is practically subtropical in their native country, but still.
What’s Going On in Canada? Hoping to disprove the notion that Canada is a country like the U.S., but with nicer people, Canadian truckers have brought the country’s capital, Ottawa, and a key bridge into the U.S. to a standstill, over, you guessed it, Covid restrictions. Although many believe the alt-right movement is another unfortunate import from the U.S., let’s not forget that the Canadian currency is affectionately known as the “loonie.”
The Biggest Loser When golden girl Mikaela Shiffren, the best skier in the world and the face of NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics, flopped in her two best events, the network cruelly highlighted her failures after its pre-Olympic coverage overhyped expectations in a sport where a minimal slip can make the difference between a gold medal and being disqualified. Shiffren proved that she is only human, although she still has a chance at redemption in the combined event to come. Win or not, Shiffren should be admired for her accomplishments and also her grace in the face of adversity.
Meanwhile, a soulless Games go on without spectators or cheering among the few attendees allowed. The feats performed by all of the athletes are truly amazing, but if I see one more umpteenth rotation of a snowboarder soaring in mid-air, only my head will spin more. Let’s face it, it’s boring. Maybe the unpretentious charm of curling is its major attraction. Plus, it looks as if anyone can do it. They can’t.
And an incredible Russian wunderkind, Kamila Valiev, is either the greatest figure skater of all time or a victim of child abuse or both because of a Russian training regime that has consistently relied on its systemic doping factory as a key part of its training system. The fifteen year old was allowed to perform after detection of an illegal substance in a test whose results were suspiciously delayed. She is being held in a cruel legal limbo under which the awarding of her likely gold medal will be withheld until further review of the matter. The situation is shameful, and entirely unfair to the other competitors, but should anyone blame her? Nyet. Watch anyway. Her feats are non pareil.
But the real losers are NBC, which continues to suffer low viewer interest despite spending millions for the rights, the World Anti-Doping Agency (see above) and China, which was awarded the Games despite its dismal human rights record and the fact that it had to manufacture snow in a country where no one skis (at least until lately) and it doesn’t usually snow at the location of the skiing events. We can only hope that the next selection of a site for the Games will be corruption- and controversy-free. (But, see Qatar above).
Will Inflation Continue to Fester? Despite a booming economy, near record unemployment and high consumer demand, inflation is the top concern on voters’ minds. Last month’s number of 7.2% is the highest in 40 years and has changed the Federal Reserve’s tune from insisting the trend is transitory because of Covid-related supply chain issues to being on the cusp of the most aggressive tightening of monetary policy in recent memory. Meanwhile, a stock market that is only expected to go up has floundered and interest rates are creeping up from their near zero level.
Will the Fed overshoot and kill the golden goose? Will the cost of gas or prices at the supermarket continue to spike? These are the questions that are on voters’ minds as we approach a tumultuous mid-term Congressional election. So forget Covid, the sloppy withdrawal from Afghanistan, the war on voting rights, inequality, racial injustice and even the Big Lie, the alleged stolen election, most of the country’s near term political future will hinge on the price of a visit to Taco Bell. You can bet on it.