Facebook posts and other digital year-end statements have shown a common theme in New Year’s resolutions. “My New Year’s resolution for 2018,” they say, “is to see the end of 2017.”
From politicians to media moguls to statues, it was a shocking year that saw many of our once-trusted and traditional institutions, figure heads and symbols get the boot.
Like a computer with a recently-detected virus, it was as though organizations tried to hit the re-boot button. Film studios, The Today Show, PBS, Fox News, etc. etc., all booted to the curb long-held figureheads with viruses – of their own doing – and hit re-start, cleaning house to end 2017 and leaving in the 2018 forefront a set of familiarly fresh, and hopefully innocent, faces.
Heads of state were asked to resign, booted out, or voted out of office. A few stalwarts stepped aside in shame and gave tearful see-ya-laters for all to see, while most disappeared into the shadows behind their twitter apologies and excuses.
In a twist of irony it has been argued that the man in the Oval Office started it all. The man who vowed to Drain the Swamp may have started the unmasking of once-trusted creatures in a black lagoon, all the while assuming we’d ignore his own bad behaviors.
Like a water-color in the rain, to our dismay old images continued to break down. There was a time when old Hollywood fan magazines gave us the stories we hoped to hear about the movie stars we wanted to see, and be. It was branding at its best, parading out images of pure-bred stars for our picture show consumption. Truly fake news. Sports stars received the same star-making treatment. Today we know that often these were stories of the fictional kind that masked the lives of the humans behind the images. These were real people, with real flaws, with real vices, touted as bigger than life heroes.
These were the faces we revered. Symbols. Our images of them were of somehow better humans living more glamorous lives and who did great things. Their images were ideals we aspired to meet.
#metoo pushed away fears and gave many enough strength to finally dissolve some of those old images these monsters used as cover. We should rejoice in the collective bravery of the women who have come forward.
However the reboot climate has also exposed the hypocrisy around us: men and women who have been quick to vilify men behaving badly today while defending men of the past, represented in our confederate statues, who fought to protect an institution that kept humans as property.
Media stars and politicians may not be statues. But they are still symbols. They are representative of very human figures past and present. They are larger than life. They have exerted great influence. Some have even done great things.
And whether they are set in stone, cast in iron or shown on movie and television screens, these symbols have been erected for public display. Referential, they no longer represent the human person; they represent a branded ideal.
It is a reminder of the power of symbols in our personal lives. Our fathers are symbols. We are born to them. As their children, to us they too were once larger than life. Humanizing them as we grow older, their influence is as thick and as impenetrable as the stone and metal in our statues. Our idealization of them is difficult to break.
The hope here is, however, that in seeing these flaws exposed for all of us to see, we take a deeper look at ourselves.
Who among us can claim the perfections presented in the old fan magazines? Who among us could stand the scrutiny of being the face of the morning or evening news? Who among us could uphold the reverence in a statue erected in our honor?
Are we human? Of course. But are we really symbols as well? You bet we are. We are our fathers. We are our forefathers. To those around us, or behind us in age, we appear just as heroic as those sports stars of old and those classic movie stars on the big screens. Like it or not, we are examples to them. We are their statues, sitting atop horses in a park.
With these symbols dissolving around us, when we too are symbols, what then do we do? Be good humans. Be good neighbors. Help another person. Behave well. Be a good symbol of hope in your own right.
That’s a new year re-boot that can be revered.