The best thing we can say about 2022 is: It could have been worse.
For example, we could have had nuclear Armageddon. This briefly appeared to be a possibility, at least according to the president, who broke the news in October at (Why not?) a Democratic Party fundraiser at the home of a wealthy donor in New York City. That must have been an exciting event! One moment everybody’s standing around chewing hors d’oeuvres, and the next moment WHOA WHAT DID HE JUST SAY?
The next day, after the news media ran a bunch of scary headlines, the White House Office of Explaining What the President Actually Meant explained that the president wasn’t suggesting that we were facing Armageddon per se, but was merely, as is his wont, emitting words, one of which happened to be “Armageddon,” and everybody should just calm down.
So we dodged a bullet there.
And there were other positive developments in 2022:
Millions of Americans on social media realized — it took them a while, but they finally got there — that nobody wants to know how they did on “Wordle.”
For the 13th consecutive year, the New York Yankees failed to even get into the World Series.
Best of all, the looming apocalyptic threat of catastrophic global climate change was finally eliminated thanks to the breakthrough discovery that the solution — it has been staring us in the face all this time — was to throw food at art.
So 2022 had some positives. Which is not to say that it was good. In fact it was the opposite of good, specifically, bad. The economy continued to stagger around like the last stoner out of Burning Man. We lost Angela Lansbury, Sidney Poitier, Loretta Lynn, Gilbert Gottfried, Christine McVie and Meat Loaf. Democracy died at least three times.
Maybe Armageddon wouldn’t have been so bad.
Anyway, it’s over. But before we move on to 2023, it’s time to don surgical gloves, reach deep down inside the big bag of stupid that was 2022, and see what we pull out, starting with …
… which begins with the world entering the third or possibly eighth year — nobody remembers any more — of the pandemic. The American public is seriously divided: Everybody who is wearing a mask hates everybody who is not wearing a mask, and vice versa. Both sides are 100 percent supported by The Science.
Vaccines also continue to be a subject of heated disagreement, to the point where — you may vaguely recall this — Neil Young demands that his music be removed from Spotify. This is a sentence we never envisioned writing in connection with vaccines, but here we are.
America faces three major crises: spiking COVID cases, soaring inflation and an alarming surge in the number of people who think it’s OK to hold loud FaceTime conversations in public. The national mood is gloomy, and it’s taking a heavy political toll on President Joe Biden, as voters increasingly question whether he is up to the job of leading the nation, or for that matter finishing his sentences.
According to the polls, the two biggest concerns of the public, by far, are the pandemic and the economy. Consequently Congress is focused, laserlike, on: the Senate filibuster rule. This is a legislative tactic that is evil when the other side uses it, but good when your side uses it. At the moment the Democrats want to change the rule, so of course the Republicans, led by Sen. Mitch “I AM smiling, dammit” McConnell, are opposed to changing it, which means Washington is consumed by a bitter, vicious, nasty, name-calling battle pitting the Democrats against Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who are also Democrats.
In the end, as is so often the case with these burning issues that consume the nation’s capital, nothing happens, which is the whole point of the constitutional system of checks and balances put into place by the Founding Fathers, all of whom — and this is a testament to their wisdom and foresight — are dead.
Meanwhile the national debt, for the first time ever, creeps above $30 trillion, which is more than the entire U.S. economy is worth. Fortunately this is nothing to worry about. Forget we even brought it up.
In other financial news, more and more people are buying “cryptocurrencies,” which appeal to investors because the cryptocurrency market is not controlled by the government. Instead it is controlled by 13-year-old Justin Weeblemonger of Teaneck, N.J., who runs the whole shebang out of his PlayStation 5. (Justin also controls airline fares.)
In sports, Georgia defeats Alabama in the AT&T Ram Trucks Allstate Capital One Disney Bob’s Burgers Dr. Pepper Gatorade Siri Taco Bell Bowl to become champions of professional college football.
Speaking of trucks, in …
… there is trouble in, of all places, Canada. The news up there is that the capital city, Ottawa (from the Algonquin word “adawe,” meaning “Washington”) is besieged by a massive protest convoy of trucks, clogging the streets, honking horns, blocking traffic and making it impossible for anybody to get anywhere. Granted this is the situation pretty much every day in, for example, New York City, but apparently in Canada it is a big deal. As tensions mount, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a controversial move, invokes emergency powers enabling the government to freeze the protestors’ access to beaver pelts.
Ha ha! We are poking some good-natured fun at Canada, which is actually a modern nation and an important trading partner that we depend on to supply us with many vital things. Celine Dion is only one example. In all seriousness, the Canadian trucker strike is a significant event that raises some important issues, which everyone immediately stops caring about because of the situation in Ukraine.
Ukraine is a foreign nation that, through poor planning, is located right next to Russia. This is unfortunate because Russian President Vladimir Putin, a man who relaxes by putting kittens into a food processor, has long wanted to establish closer ties with Ukraine, in the same sense that a grizzly bear wants to establish closer ties with a salmon.
On Feb. 24 the Russian army invades Ukraine. Everyone assumes the Russians will easily prevail, but the Ukrainians put up a surprisingly strong resistance (we are using the term “resistance” in the sense of “physically fighting back,” as opposed to “tweeting defiant hashtags”). Most of the world rallies around the underdog Ukrainians and their charismatic president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a former comedian and actor who is basically the opposite of Putin. (Although to be fair, if Putin did comedy, he would kill.)
On the medical front, many states and municipalities drop their mask mandates as elected officials become aware of new scientific data showing that there is a strong statistical correlation between enforcing mask mandates and not getting re-elected.
In sports, the Winter Olympics, held in the quaint and picturesque ski resort of Beijing, attract a U.S. viewing audience estimated to be Al Roker’s immediate family. In a massively huge pro football development, Tom Brady announces his retirement, which means we can finally move on after many decades of hearing about the historic greatness of Tom Brady.
Speaking of stars, in …
… Will Smith slaps Chris Rock during the Oscars and is arrested for assault.
No, that’s what would happen to a noncelebrity such as yourself. Will Smith, on the other hand, sits back down and shortly thereafter receives an Oscar and a standing ovation. This incident results in a massive outpouring of media think pieces from media thinkers pondering the significance of The Slap. This story dominates the news for days, receiving far more coverage than the war in Ukraine, which is still going on but which unfortunately, from a public-relations standpoint, does not involve any American celebrities.
In economic news, inflation continues to strain the economy despite intensive efforts by the Biden administration to explain that it is caused by Vladimir Putin, corporate greed, COVID, supply-chain issues, global climate change, the filibuster rule, the murder hornets and various other factors totally unrelated to any policies of the Biden administration. For its part, the Republican National Committee issues a formal statement declaring that “rampant inflation places a terrible financial burden on American working families, and we totally hope it stays bad until the midterm elections no wait we didn’t mean to say that last part out loud.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearings on Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson. She is clearly qualified, so this is an excellent opportunity for Republican senators — who believe the Democrats behaved like scum in hearings for equally qualified Republican nominees — to show that they have more decency and class. But of course this is impossible under our current political system, under which the primary function of government is to gain revenge. So the Republicans get even by behaving scummily toward Jackson, thus reinforcing the growing public perception that both sides are scum.
In other legislative action, the Senate passes a bill that would make daylight saving time permanent, meaning Americans would no longer have to adjust to a time change twice a year for no apparent reason. The bill is referred to the House Languishing Committee, thereby guarding against the danger that Congress might actually accomplish something useful.
In entertainment news, the venerable Rolling Stones announce that they will hit the road this summer for their “Drool on the Microphone” tour. This will be the Stones’ seventh tour since 2003, when their physical bodies finally disintegrated into small piles of dust and they were replaced by holograms. The good news is, ticket prices for the new tour will start as low as $150. The bad news is, the $150 seats are so far from the stage that the sound will not reach them until after the concert is over.
Speaking of aging superstars: Tom Brady, nearly six full weeks after stunning the sports world by announcing his historic retirement, once again stuns the sports world by announcing that he is coming out of retirement, thus triggering a long-overdue wave of stories about the historic greatness of Tom Brady.
In other sports news, the Major League Baseball lockout ends as owners and players approve a collective bargaining agreement, with some rules changes intended to make their product more attractive to modern fans, including starting games in the seventh inning, referring to runs as “touchdowns,” and at some random point in every game releasing a large venomous snake in the infield. Also, noncompetitive franchises such as the Minnesota Twins will be permitted to end their seasons in mid-August because, in the words of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, “What’s the point?”
Speaking of fundamental American institutions in peril, in …
… Elon Musk says he wants to buy Twitter for $44 billion, which works out to one dollar for every apocalyptic tweet emitted about the sale by alarmed verified Twitter users who are deeply concerned about the precedent of allowing billionaires to buy major media platforms, which have traditionally been small mom-and-pop operations such as the Washington Post and Facebook. Another verified concern is that Musk favors “free speech,” which we are putting in quotation marks because although it SOUNDS good — Free speech! — if everyone is allowed to have it willy-nilly, the public could be exposed to misinformation that has not been verified by the verifiers, as opposed to the current situation, in which everything on Twitter is 100 percent accurate.
Meanwhile, for a few exciting hours, a trending topic on political Twitter, which we swear we are not making up, is “testicle tanning.” Don’t even ask.
In pandemic news, a federal judge rules that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cannot require people to wear masks on airplanes and other public transportation. This leads to a calm and rational debate on the benefits of masks, with both sides citing scientific data to support their positions, and nobody accusing anybody of having bad motives. Then Dorothy wakes up and she’s back in Kansas.
On the economic front, inflation continues to get worse despite intensified efforts by the Biden administration to have the president read teleprompter statements about it between trips to Delaware.
In other leadership news, Florida’s combative Gov. Ron DeSantis, always looking for new things to combat, takes on an insidious threat to Florida’s families and the American way of life: Disney. The issue is that Disney expressed an opinion deemed unacceptable by the governor, leaving him with no choice but to sign a law that would:
1. Strip Disney of its special legal status (currently it is classified as a “Kingdom”).
2. Require Donald Duck to put on a pair of pants.
3. Require that future “Toy Story” movies use a different name for the cowboy doll (currently it is “Woody”).
4. Require Disney to, quote, “undo whatever it did to the governor’s official vehicle” (currently it is a pumpkin).
Speaking of insidious threats, in …
… Americans learn that there is a new medical danger for them to be nervous about: “monkeypox,” which gets its name from the fact that it is the disease that killed Tarzan. The CDC, in an official statement, notes that there are “very few confirmed cases” and urges the public to “remain calm,” adding that “we all have to die sometime.”
Meanwhile parents of newborns scramble desperately to find baby formula amid a shortage that has left U.S. store shelves bare, although there are plentiful supplies abroad. In an emergency effort reminiscent of the legendary Berlin airlift, the U.S. government provides temporary relief by using an Air Force transport plane to fly 35 tons of American babies to Germany. The operation is deemed a success, although, as an official noted, “afterward we had to burn the plane.”
The war in Ukraine continues but receives less and less coverage in the United States as Americans turn their attention to the historic Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard defamation trial. At issue is Heard’s Washington Post op-ed alleging that Depp, once the embodiment of cool in the role of dashing pirate Captain Jack Sparrow, has developed a case of face bloat and currently looks, quote, “like the owner of a struggling waterbed store.”
The nation is shocked when an 18-year-old with a disturbing social-media history uses a semiautomatic rifle he obtained legally to commit a horrific mass murder. Ten days later, the nation is again shocked when another 18-year-old with a disturbing social-media history uses a semiautomatic rifle he obtained legally to commit a horrific mass murder. Clearly nothing could have been done to prevent these tragedies, so the nation has no choice but to wait until it is time to be shocked again.
On the inflation front, food and gasoline prices soar to record highs, but Americans are able to take comfort in the repeated reminders by President Biden that all of this is Vladimir Putin’s fault.
Speaking of fault, in …
… Johnny Depp wins his historic defamation lawsuit, with the jury ordering Amber Heard to repay the 783 billion person-hours the American public wasted watching the trial. The verdict unleashes a wave of thoughtful media think pieces the likes of which the nation has not seen since Will Smith slapped Chris Rock.
In economic news, Americans grow increasingly alarmed as the price of a gallon of gasoline and the value of the average 401(k) plan rapidly converge from opposite directions. For its part, the White House is growing increasingly irritated by the way people keep whining about soaring inflation and the collapsing stock market and the possibility of a recession while ignoring all the positive economic accomplishments that the Biden administration has achieved despite the efforts of Vladimir Putin, who — WHY DO PEOPLE KEEP FORGETTING THIS — is the cause of everything bad.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in what legal experts view as evidence of a shift to the right, rules that all previous court decisions were wrong.
The House Select Committee To Investigate The Living Hell Out Of January 6 hears testimony, much of it from former members of the Trump administration, that leaves objective observers with only two possible interpretations of Donald Trump’s actions on that day:
One: Trump is a pathological narcissist who, in his delusional effort to cling to power, ignored the sane adults on his staff and listened instead to Rudy Giuliani — which is like getting legal counsel from a Magic 8 Ball — and in the end showed an utter disregard for the sanctity of his office, the rule of law, the welfare of the nation and the physical safety of thousands of people.
Two: There is no Two.
As the busy summer travel season gets under way, commercial aviation is severely disrupted across the nation because — this is a recurring problem — large numbers of people who have purchased tickets from the airlines are showing up at airports expecting the airlines to actually transport them to their intended destinations. “They keep giving us their money,” states a baffled airline-industry executive, “and we frankly have no idea why.”
Dave Barry is an author and humor columnist.
Dave Barry looks at July through December.