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Opinion | We don’t matter, because we don’t want to

I generally don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I have a few times, but not too often.

The last New Year’s resolution I made was in 2012, about this time of the year, just before the world became 2013. I had just seen Les Miserables, the big-budget movie musical, and I loved it. I’ve seen the stage musical five times. I’ve watched all the nonmusical movie adaptations I can find. But I had never read Victor Hugo’s classic novel.

So late in 2012, I resolved to read Les Miserables, and I would start on Jan. 1, 2013. I climbed to our attic, which is the depository of most of our books, dug out the paperback copy of Les Mis I’d bought years before, and tried to mentally prepare myself for this marathon of words.

Les Miserables is more than 1,400 pages. It’s hefty and intimidating, even if you’re an avid reader. Hugo’s historical novel does not focus on the French Revolution, but, rather, a period two decades later when small groups of rebels were attempting to reinstate a French republic over a newly re-established monarchy. Just read it; this isn’t Cliff’s Notes.

On Jan. 1, 2013, I started Hugo’s legacy. I struggled through one chapter, and simply couldn’t imagine reading the entire tome, printed on no telling how many hundreds of dead trees, that weighed down my lap. So I called a New Year’s resolution audible. I downloaded the book to my Kindle, where it was less than a quarter-inch thick, but still had the 1,400-plus pages. Psychologically, that worked. Six weeks later, I finished the book, and the journey was satisfying and fulfilling. I revere wonderful writing, and this is wonderful writing.

I also vowed then to never make another such New Year’s resolution. I’ve never read Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and I’m not resolving to do that now, even though it’s significantly shorter at just more than 1,200 pages.

So resolutions aren’t my thing. I like to try new stuff, like my one-hour beginner’s yoga class I endured when I visited my daughters who live in California in October. I did the hour. I’m done with yoga.

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When I turned 60, my wife gifted me with a tandem sky-dive from 14,000 feet. I did it, and it was amazing. And I would do it again.

What I’ve never understood about Alabama is that we do the same stuff, over and over and over again, expecting something different as a result. It’s not going to happen. That second French Revolution foretold in Hugo’s novel never happened.

Our beautiful state will stay the same – dysfunctional, broken, hurtful to our poorest citizens, laughingstock of the South – if we simply keep repeating the same moves.

We recently went to the polls, and while the nation shouted loud that we’re doing it differently this time, Alabama whispered in overwhelming numbers that we’re not going to change.

We whispered and nobody heard or cares. Alabama is insignificant in the bigger scheme, and insignificant in the smaller scheme, too, and we’re proud of our insignificance. As Congress goes after our health care, our Medicaid, our Medicare, our Social Security, we give them sanction to do it. As we cage children and block immigrants, we don’t care, and we don’t matter. As we shoot black men in their backs and isolate gay men and women, we turn our heads.

As we tolerate and confront a president who is unhinged and dangerous, we do not matter.

Thank goodness, other states said: “Enough!” Thank goodness, they said: “We matter!”

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Yet, we whisper. And we are not counted. Because we’ve shouted to them: “Hey! We don’t matter! So, there!” And our shout is a whisper. We truly do not matter.

The Kay Iveys and Steve Marshalls and John Merrills do not matter. The Richard Shelbys and Doug Joneses do not matter. The Bradley Byrnes, Gary Palmers, Martha Robys and Mo Brookses don’t matter. The Mike Rogerses and Robert Aderholdts never mattered.

Like Jean Valjean and Cosette and Jevert and Fantine and Eponine and Gavroche in Les Miserables, in the bigger world, we do not matter. Neither did they.

We pretend to have our own “revolution,” but we don’t, really. Because we do not want to matter.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, either, because they do not matter.

And in 2019, I believe, and I fear, Alabama will never matter.

Happy New Year.

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Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected].


Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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