Every year at our family farm down in the epicenter of the Deep South, we have a huge multi-day New Year's party. We've been doing it for years, originally just a gathering of my siblings with our similarly aged cousins and an excuse for us to run around like fools shooting bottle-rockets at one another and burn/blow things up. More fun than you might imagine if you have never tried it, but this post isn't specifically about the joys of redneck amusements and the fine art of entertaining yourself in life-endangering ways in rural regions, but rather what has come out of this annual gathering and how it can guide us in the year to come.
This gathering has been perhaps the single most stable recurring event in my life to date, and I think it is treated similarly by many of those who attend (which now numbers far beyond the bounds of blood kinship). There are several people who I only ever see at this party, but I see them there every year. There is something comforting in having a little bit of regularity in a chaotic world and we have some solid traditions that have become a part of the ritual.
The Burning Caldron of Death is probably the oldest and the most important and car chase is a favorite when we can get the old cars running and my mom's marinated sandwiches are the most beloved edible tradition. But the one that sets the tone for the year is the motto.
The motto is decided by a fairly undemocratic process of taking silly and misunderstood statements that come across as unintentionally profound and after little discussion, declaring one of the statements the motto for the year, our guiding light to help get everyone back safely to the next New Year's.
I can't remember them all, should have been writing them down all these years but I can remember a few.
See with your feet. (can't remember the origin)
There may be no point in sitting either. (statement made by my drunk brother to our youngest brother who had just implored him to sit down because 'there is no point in standing'.)
Last year's motto was two fold:
Don't hurt beautiful things/Don't be hurt by beautiful things. (don't remember the origin clearly enough to recount, but I managed to fail on both counts, although I did make it safely through to a new year and reflected on the motto continuously the whole long way.)
Anyway, enough of years past, this year keeping the homemade, woodburning hottub running required chopping a lot of damn firewood and most of it was being chopped out of this huge hickory that had fallen. The cross-sections of the tree were near three feet in diameter, and the wood split easily once you made that first break, but getting that first split took a hell of a lot of hitting. In coaching my brother to get the first crack in a particularly stubborn piece, our friend Mike cheered him on with "Just hit it til it breaks!" Looking forward to an uncertain year and coming off of one in which we had all been frustrated out of our minds and begun to question our generally positive view of folks in general, my brother and I almost instantly looked at one another and knew this had the potential for being our new motto. And as it became clear that no one was going to utter anything close to as appropriate, the official motto it became. No more kinder gentler crap. This is a tough year and it calls for tough action. No more playing nice and expecting others to. This year, if something gets in your way, hit it til it breaks. Faced with inane stupidity? Apathy? Misinformation? HIT IT TIL IT BREAKS!!!!
I don't know the identity of the Rude Pundit, so he may have been at my New Year's shindig (although I doubt it), but he seems to be on the same page, as does Digby:
The Rude Pundit: "this story should be hammered on until something cracks."
Hullabaloo (Read Digby's post and tell me he isn't ready to hit it til it breaks, too)
No more chickenshit politeness while assholes and hypocrites direct the public dialogue through bullying and lies.
I have personally adopted my whole family (ok, anyone whose email I could find on the forward lists that various family members included me on) and am forwarding them obsessively from progressing sources. Yes, they can delete some of the stuff and they can ignore it all, but most of these folks that don't really read the newspaper or digest it very well seem to read most anything you put in their in box (which, judging from the sampling I have seen of what they are sending around, may be part of why this country is in such a funk currently) and actually most folks are responding pretty positively so far, even if they are disagreeing with lots of it. So all of you Awareniks out there (both of you), I am calling on all liberals to adopt the whitesheep idiots in their redstate bloodlines and start bombarding them with progressive lefty infuriating stuff. I am going to start a sister blog archiving everything (and what I get back!), so if folks want to just forward the same things they can. Remember, we are the current underdogs and them on top is dangerous. Don't be afraid of ruffling feathers or pissing off relatives; that is the point. Hit it til it breaks!