What the hell’s going on? Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and then a day later her mother, Debbie Reynolds, and now on the final day of the year William Christopher? Father Mulcahy of the the “4077th Mash?”
I have to think Mr. Christopher was killed by 2016, a parting shot and final insult from what had to have been one of the all-around crappiest years on record. Not a bad year in terms of disease or mass dying here int he U.S., it’s not like some heretofore unheard of plague swept the land. No, it was just kind of crappy. Not a pretty word, but the only one that seems to fit.
We’ve had years that were far worse in many respects, especially war deaths, but when considering dirty, disgusting, damaging, depressing politics with two presidential candidates nobody really wanted, followed by a group of celebrity deaths,including a mother and daughter all lumped together near year’s end and who knows how many black men, women and children gunned down on the nations streets, 2016 may be one of the worst years ever. It’s is, at the very least, one of the worst post-2001.
And now this miserable year has taken one last parting shot, killing, of all people, not some evil jerk, but Father Mulcahy.
Wish I could say that 2017 has to be better, but I can’t. Not with the Trumpists already at war with their own party and a sitting president. Not with a group of people who have convinced their base that so much that is good and hopeful about the United States needs to be done away with so that we can protect the illusion of an attack on the Second Amendment and defend against a non-existent war on Christmas or the false and disgusting allegation of Mexican rapists overwhelming our southern border.
2016 was the wonderful year that conned us into thinking political “surrogates” were credible conduits of information on television while we were assaulted by “fake news” on the Internet, like the bogus story about the death of American author Herman Wouk. If you’ve forgotten, Wouk wrote “The Winds of War,” and “The Caine Mutiny.”
I’ve been watching “Winds of War,” Wouk’s monumental book turned into a seven-part docudrama mega-series for television in the 80’s. It’s free on YouTube. Apart from some wonderful acting and a sensational story, it serves as an uneasy reminder of how badly power corrupts. How lying, thin-skinned bullies must be confronted without hesitation. Of how, as Sinclair Lewis reminded us so many years ago, we should never think that “It Can’t Happen Here.” That may be the uneasiest part of all.
I’ve just watched part 5 of “Winds of War.” Partly based upon a non-existent threat from Poland, Hitler and Mussolini, both mad with power, are about to drag the U.S. into the war in Europe. We got through that, so we’ll probably get through this – whatever “this” turns out to be. It’s difficult to tell when a president elect appears to be in league with a foreign dictator, even if by no means other than supportive rhetoric, in a country that has at various times threatened to bury us and most recently hacked into our electoral process and is currently planning God knows what.
Don’t be fooled, William Christopher may be dead but Herman Wouk remains one of America’s greatest living authors, and one of his greatest works, “Winds of War” is free on YouTube. Be forewarned though, some of the parallels with our contemporary political situation just might scare the hell right out of you.
We might do well to remember the words of journalist and author, Sydney Schanberg, who said, “Genocide, is just around the corner, all the time……it didn’t end with World War II.” Mr. Schanberg, is among those who passed away in 2016. His book, “The Death and Life of Dith Pran,” was adapted for film as “The Killing Fields.”
P.S. The piece above was originally posted (briefly) with the name of Bob Denver of “Gilligan’s Island” fame instead of William Christopher. I wrote it that way the morning of December 31st, inadvertently creating a piece of fake news because I was faked out by the Internet.
Somebody apparently thought it would be clever to circulate an old report from CBS News on the death of Bob Denver from 2005. Well, they got me. I saw the post, coming from another friend in the journalism business, and believed it to be the final insult of 2016. I felt compelled to write something, and so I did. I wrote the piece above, but about the death of Gilligan and not William Christopher.
Later, a member of the Boston University J-School facebook page I sometimes post to read the piece and gave me a heads up that I had screwed up, that Denver had been dead since 2005. I took the piece down, relegating it to a trash file on my website, pledging that I would go and resurrect no more.
Then, this morning, I woke up to read that 2016 wasn’t done with us after all, that the mild mannered padre’ from Mash, William Christopher, had died at his home in Pasadena. I again felt compelled to write something but there was no need. I had already written it the day before. All I had to do was remove Bob Denver’s name and insert the name of William Christopher.
So now, finally, hopefully, goodbye and good riddance to 2016, a year I ushered out by writing a piece on fake news that turned out to be fake news. Not by intention but by fluke. But then, it’s been one hell of a fluky year. Who really believed the American people would put Donald Trump in the White House?