Martin Luther King Jr can seem a remote figure, frozen in time with his death in 1968, but had he lived, he would have been 94 on January 15th, well within range of many current lifespans. King galvanized a movement for civil rights which continues to this day, as more and more minority groups seek inclusivity and equality in America’s quest for a more perfect union. Threats to his legacy abound, but as King himself stated, the arc of the moral universe bends always toward justice. The fifty-fifth anniversary of his assassination will be commemorated April 4th.
Well, that was fun! The 118th Congress kicked off with a bang on January 3rd, and an impressive showing of just how incapable of governing the House GOP majority truly is. Far from running the country, they couldn’t even pick a Speaker! Pardon me while I indulge in a bit of schadenfreude, a marvelously descriptive turn of phrase which in German means “shameful joy,” taking pleasure in the misfortune of another. I really should be mourning the tragic state of politics in America, and I do, truly. But somehow, I can’t help smiling at Kevin McCarthy’s discomfiture.
On 30 December 2022, media icon Barbara Walters passed away at her home in Manhattan; retired since 2014, her last public appearance had been in 2016. Walters’ journalistic career was studded with an array of impressive “firsts.” The doyenne of television interviewers, Walters made history as the first female co-anchor of a nightly network news broadcast, and the first woman journalist to garner a $1 million salary. She was instrumental in the success of ABC’s premiere news magazine, “20/20”, established its hit daytime current events talk show, “The View”, and in countless interviews and dozens of prime-time specials brought us up close and personal to the movers, shakers, and culture makers of our time. From presidents and potentates to pop stars and prima donnas, if they made headlines, Walters interviewed them, and often her interviews became headlines in themselves.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, born Joseph Ratzinger in Bavaria, Germany, in 1927, passed away on 31 December 2022, age 95, at his monastic apartments in Vatican City where he had been living since his retirement from the papacy almost a decade before. Ratzinger was elected Pontiff in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II, whose enforcer of doctrine he was. Uncompromisingly conservative on social and theological issues, Benedict’s tenure in the Vatican was rocked by continued sexual scandals among the priesthood, by financial irregularities, and by breaches of security. Ratzinger’s health was the avowed reason for giving up the Ring of the Fisherman in 2013, and though he lingered for another ten years, he became increasingly feeble and made few public appearances. His health had taken a dramatic downturn in recent weeks, culminating in his passing on New Year’s Eve.
December 29, 2022 saw the passing of a man generally acknowledged as the greatest soccer player of all time, Pele. The mononymous sports superstar is the only player ever to compete in three winning FIFA World Cup finals, holds the Guinness World record for most lifetime goals, and was designated Player of the Century by international soccer’s governing body, FIFA. Raised in poverty in the Sao Paulo state of Brazil, too destitute to afford a real ball, Pele learned his sport by playing with a sock stuffed with newspaper and tied off, or a grapefruit. He joined his first professional team at age 15 and was picked up by the Brazil national team a year later.
One standout in the 2023 GOP Congressional Freshman class is Representative-elect George Santos (R-NY), the first openly gay non-incumbent Republican elected to the House. In November 2022 Santos managed to flip a redrawn district in metro New York from Blue to Red, adding to the slender House GOP majority. But he did so under what seem to be increasingly false pretenses, with virtually no part of his life history and resume holding up to public inspection.