Over a year ago when Watermark’s editor was planning the 2022 schedule for contributing writers, I specifically requested to have one of my columns appear in this Year in Review issue.
I envisioned being able to recount some great moments and some measure of progression in a positive direction, as opposed to the four years of backward movement and downright evil achievements ushered in during four years of the tRump administration which unfortunately had lasting effects that continued to taint and dangerously infect the body politic all through the first year of the Biden administration.
Unfortunately, here in Florida, 2022 treated us to a special homegrown, high-octane shit show all our own produced by and featuring Governor Ron DeSantis.
Rather than doing much of anything that mattered he engaged in showmanship politics geared to appeal to a tRumpish right wing extremist base and, in his efforts to win their approval, this big bad schoolyard bully cared not one iota whose lives his words and actions endangered and harmed along the way.
DeSantis went to war against women, scientists, fair voting districts, trans persons, gay marriage, the teaching of true history, books, drag queens, vaccines and legal asylum seekers and unsuspecting immigrants in ways that caused real and quantifiable harm to individual human beings, most of whom were already suffering and vulnerable. When thinking back upon all this I thought I would be challenged to write anything positive about this past year but in the 11th hour this year proved me wrong.
To find the positivity in 2022 we need look no further back than Nov. 8. On this date the saner, more compassionate and constitutionally dedicated among us rose up to stave off the predicted red wave and we showed up at the polls in record numbers with a flat-out rejection of hate and division. Through our votes we rejected the crazy unqualified tRump-selected candidates in a stunning upset of a midterm election that will forever be one for the history books —with Florida being a sad and embarrassing exception — but overall the outcome of the midterms should give us hope that there is still a chance we will preserve our democracy.
Then, earlier this very month, Biden orchestrated the celebrated return to America of Brittney Griner from a penal colony in Russia. A happy event indeed but a more significant factor to our community and a testament to Biden’s willingness to not shy away from his commitment to LBGTQ+ inclusion was the administration’s decision to have present at The White House during the prisoner exchange, Griner’s wife, who was treated with dignity, respect and allowed to speak to the press from a podium with the White House insignia after being introduced by the president himself. As an old, gay rights activist who as of late has been made to feel that so many of our hard-won advances have been stripped from us this moment meant a great deal to me.
And in even better news, as we approached mid-December, The U.S. Department of Energy announced a monumental milestone in nuclear fusion research: a “net energy gain” which, for those of us concerned for the actual health of our planet, is quite possibly the most significant discovery to come along in my lifetime. Jennifer Granholm, U.S. energy secretary, said “This milestone moves us one significant step closer to the possibility of zero carbon abundance fusion energy powering our society.” In other words, this breakthrough is the first truly tangible step toward ending the need for fossil fuels and that is good and happy news indeed.
Also this month, Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law mandating federal recognition for same-sex marriages, much to the relief of so many of our friends who once again had to fear their families were under threat. And seeing Cyndi Lauper present at the elaborate White House ceremony added a smile-inducing coda to the signing of this important piece of legislation.
But by far the very best thing — and that which I believe will be the single most memorable “gift” that 2022 has given unto us — was that of Donald tRump’s major announcement. This lifetime grifter was not about to allow his presidency to eclipse his scam huckster past. His major announcement proved to be the most bizarre return to his self-serving, con artist roots one could have ever possibly imagined as the former pitchman for the failed Trump Steaks, Trump Vodka, Trump University, Trump Shuttle and the multiple Trump casinos, he announced he’s selling, “…my first official NFT collection … they’re called Trump Digital Trading Cards.”
THIS is his first and only move of any kind since announcing a month earlier that he is running for president. It’s so crazy it’s almost not to be believed. Watching his “major announcement” was like watching an “SNL” skit meant to mock him, but instead the idiot makes a complete mockery of himself as the man who once again seeks to be the leader of the free world goes all Home Shopping Network on us, selling badly photoshopped images which he say features “really incredible artwork pertaining to my life and my career” except that none of the images on the cards — other than one of him golfing — have anything at all to do with his actual life or his career. They are all crazy-ass depictions of him as all the things in life he could never hope to be.
Watching an actual former U.S. president demean and embarrass himself in such spectacular fashion was both cringe worthy and laughable at the time, while reminding us of who he really is, and that is why this stunt by this sideshow barker qualifies as my favorite moment of 2022.
Michael Wanzie is an Orlando-based playwright, actor and ordained minister.