THE BLOG
12/23/2014 10:18 am ET Updated Feb 22, 2015

New Year's Wishes for the Waning American Century

No one would call TomDispatch a traditional website. Still, we do have our traditions. Among them, none is more "traditional" -- a full decade old at a website that just turned 13 this November -- than having Rebecca Solnit end our year. Sometimes as the year winds down, she's dreaming of the future, sometimes thinking about the past, sometimes focused on the last few seconds, but always, as was true from her very first moment at this website, she offers some version of hope in the face of a reality that others find almost too grim and obdurate to consider.

As this year ends, Solnit, the author of the 2014 hit book Men Explain Things to Me and an even more recent collection of essays, The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness, considers humanity's latest breakthrough into the apocalyptic in "Everything's Coming Together as Everything Falls Apart" She takes on climate change in a clear-eyed way without losing her sense of hope and purpose. As ever, it's an impressive performance and a reminder to all of us that the future remains ours, if only we care to focus on what truly endangers us. Someday, those who sent the most recent rounds of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere utterly wittingly, with profits on the brain -- and I'm talking, of course, about the CEOs of Big Energy (and the various figures who run the energy operations we've given names like Saudi Arabia, Russia, and "Saudi America") -- will be remembered as the greatest criminals in history, the true terrorists (or as I've called them, "terrarists") of our age. It's one of the jokes of our time that we Americans have literally plowed trillions of dollars into what's called "national security" in the post-9/11 years without seriously facing climate change, a phenomenon that, if not brought under control, guarantees us a kind of insecurity we've never known. Call it irony or call it idiocy, but call it something.

And let me end 2014, the year that revealed to all of us so much more about the hidden world of surveillance that is ours, with my own New Year's wish: if I could be granted one relatively modest thing to end 2014, it would be the release from prison of former Army private Chelsea Manning and former CIA Agent John Kiriakou, and the release from exile of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. For their genuine service, for letting us know what no one else would about the nature of the American world we inhabit, they deserve so unbearably much better from this country than they've gotten. Someday, when those who jailed or exiled them are forgotten or scorned, they will, I'm convinced, be remembered as heroes of our moment. In the meantime, a guy can hope, can't he? I take my hat off to all three of them as 2014 ends.