What I'm going to tell you won't mean much to anyone but me, but that won't stop me from telling you anyway. If you haven't figured out by now that this column is, first and foremost, about me ... what I think, what I do, what I hope will happen, what I wish weren't true ... then either 1) you haven't been reading my stuff long, 2) you've been kidding yourself, 3) your reading comprehension level is that of a small child or 4) you're naive enough to believe all opinion columnists aren't writing first and foremost about themselves. So kindly understand, your approval of what I write--same as your disapproval--has nothing to do with why I write it. If you don't agree with me, I don't care. If you do agree with me, I still don't care. I didn't start this because of you, and when I quit, it won't be because of you. I realize this all may seem a little cold and arrogant and aloof and such, but that's just the way it is. Besides, it won't be my feelings that get hurt if my attitude offends you. It'll be yours, and I don't care, obviously. If I cared about whose feelings get hurt, I would have kept my opinions to myself.
Now that you know where I stand on the matter--and now that you know I couldn't give a hoot in hell where you stand on the matter--I will continue.
What I'm going to tell you won't mean much to anyone but me ... but this coming Friday, 1/19/07, will mark exactly 12 years since my very first opinion piece appeared in the paper. Twelve years. The big X-I-I!
Normally, if I get sentimental about numerical landmarks, it concerns those figures which end with a zero. This is one cultural fetish I believe we all share, am I right? (Don't bother to answer because I know I'm right regardless of what you think.) We here under the penumbra of Western Civilization pay great attention to centuries, millenniums, tens, twenties, fifties ... but couldn't care less about quantities of 17, 38 or 952. People probably do the same in the Far East and all exotic cultures because it's my understanding that humans the world over have the same count in fingers (the probable origin for our reliance on multiples of 10), but I can't say for sure, having never traveled to any locale more exotic than Kentucky.
Now, the one possible exception to our fixation with numbers that end in zero is the number 12. It's the only figure I'm aware of--aside from 3.1416 (pi )--that has been given it's own nickname. "Dozen." Don't ask me where the name came from. I don't pretend to be a whiz at either math or etymology. If I had to guess, I would suggest the term is some sort of Teutonic bastardization of the separate (and less colorful) words "two" and "ten," but even a guess would require some effort to verify whether I'm right or not. And I don't care enough to make the effort.
Nor will I bother to guess why so many things come in 12s. Eggs. Hours. Months. Inches. Sequels to Ocean's Eleven. Half-racks. Steps to recovery. Apostles. Signs of the Zodiac. Donuts. If it doesn't come in increments of 10 or 100, it likely comes in increments of 12. It's enough to make me wonder if, at some point in our evolution, we didn't have an extra finger on each hand. Ha Ha! (Whenever I include a "Ha Ha!" at the end of a statement, it's meant to indicate I am not serious about that opinion, so don't go telling anyone that Cope believes in a theory that humans once had 12 fingers.)
But it's not because I consider 12 to be a remarkable number, or even a very interesting number, that I bring up the fact I have been writing these opinions for 12 years. I mark this anniversary (the "silk" one, on the wedding scale) because it was 12 years ago last November that the United States Congress was taken over by what had previously been the minority party. Republicans. Newt Gingrich. Ugh! Remember?
I'm confident you remember. (To be honest, I'm not confident you remember. I have come to trust the historical memory of Americans as a whole about as much as I'd trust my daughter's dog to do a decent job of vacuuming out the car. That's just my opinion, of course, but should you strenuously disagree with it, I'm confident you will forget why by the end of this column.) Twelve years ago, I felt that the very foundations of what I consider to be worthy and noble about my country were under attack. The working class. The environment. The Public Broadcasting System. Public education. Art. Truth. Justice. Science. All things Good. My revulsion reached its peak when the new Speaker of the House (Gingrich) invited Rush Limbaugh to speak before Congress, as though that rancid lard-ass were some sort of conquering MacArthur. I felt my America withering away, and it was being replaced by something alien and awful.
I was almost as disgusted with the Democrats for having so meekly allowed such a septic eruption to occur. Why had they not battled back with the same ferocity with which they were being assaulted? Why had they allowed their mission to be stolen and distorted by such dishonorable savages? I realized that bitching to my wife about it was no longer sufficient. I decided my duty as a citizen of this nation required that I bitch to you, too. And in 12 years, I've had no good reason to stop.
But I feel a lot better now. The septic eruption has been stanched. The savages have been driven back to the fringes (of think tanks and Idaho) and Good has returned to leadership. (You're welcome to disagree with me that the new Congressional majority will return America to the right path, but ... what? Like I care?) I doubt my bitching had anything to do with it. It's conceivable that periods of national insanity run in spurts of 12 years. It may be that simple. But I definitely feel better. So much better that I don't feel so much like bitching anymore. My kind of people are now steering us in my kind of direction. What do they need me for? So I quit. This is my last column.
Right. I was not serious about quitting. There's much too much left of me to write about ... what I think, what I do, what I hope will happen, what I wish weren't true. I might even write the occasional column that has no point to it whatsoever, just because I don't always have a point to make. I can do that, you know. After 12 years, I've earned the right, that's what I think. And if you don't think so ... BpBpBpffT! ("BpBpBpffT," in my opinion, is how one spells the sound you get when you blow air through your lips with your tongue stuck out.)