Gary Horton | Stymied but not Stopped by Those Same Old Fires

Gary Horton

Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again

Moonshot, Woodstoock, Watergate, punk rock

Begin, Reagan, Palestine, terror on the airline

Ayatollah’s in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan

“Wheel of Fortune,” Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide

Foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, crack, Bernie Goetz

Hypodermics on the shores, China’s under martial law

Rock and roller cola wars, I can’t take it anymore

We didn’t start the fire

It was always burning

Since the world’s been turning

We didn’t start the fire

But when we are gone

Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on…

— Billy Joel, “We Didn’t Start The Fire”

Read through those lyrics. They’re both prophetic — and pathetic. The more things change the more they infuriatingly stay the same.

Still, women’s reproductive rights fights. Still, strongmen in China scaring us. Still, a criminal in the White House. New moonshots and Mars shots. Another presidential crime and another impeachment. Still, tussles with the mullahs in Iran. And sadly, now America’s the one stuck in Afghanistan.

More foreign debts than thought possible. More homeless vets than ever imagined. AIDS is treatable, but meth and opiates kill Americans in numbers Billy Joel never saw. Bernie Goetz is gone but white nationalist gun nuts march openly with real war weaponry in Richmond. China’s under lockdown – again, and this time it’s the corona virus. Amazon and materialism and income disparity and rising poverty – it’s hard to take it all anymore.

It’s 2020 now. Joel wrote “We Didn’t Start The Fire” back in 1989. It’s been 31 years of standing still, all while we’re flying forward at the light speed of our internet-connected, robotic job-killing, email-scamming, phone phishing, never-ending warmongering, Washington infighting nation-destroying, environmentally degrading world…

Can we take it anymore?

We really, truly, want to move forward. As a people, as a nation, as the world. Yet we run two steps forward only to have a reverse recoil pull us back. From Obama back to Trump, from gyrations in the Middle East, environmental protection — and abuse — to settled questions of women’s rights pushing right back up to the Supreme Court. 

We push forward on homelessness with generous Californians agreeing to big-bucks tax increases – only to see, just as we suspected, the “movers and shakers” behind the tax grab can only shake, and not move. We want so much to cure it, but California has emerged as the “Homeless State.” 

We’re in a dream – or nightmare. Our collective feet are cemented to the floor. We’re trying to run in our pool while in 6 feet of water and can’t make it to the other side.

“No we didn’t light it but we tried to fight it.”

You and I are trying to fight it. Trying to fight the good fight. We’re all of good will — at least locally, in the SCV. And aren’t we really more or less the same, nationally? 

Likely not, for while we of differing opinions here in Santa Clarita can work together, shoulder to shoulder, for the greater good and the betterment of all our residents – this doesn’t equate on the national scene. Certainly, not internationally.

Oh, what a week Billy Joel could write about now!

Corona virus, terrorizing half the world. I’ve been fighting pneumonia. On doctor’s orders, I went to buy some of those masks you see Asian folks wearing in their subways and buses when they have colds. (Anti-viral masks.) Amazon is sold out! Gone. But shipping is available in three to five weeks, as they’re almost all made in… China.

Trump’s consigliore, Rudy Giuliani, is a publicly humiliated “second-tier player, a shiny object meant to distract us.” Just one more wannabe who flew too close to an Orange Orb and has been burnt — to crust. John Bolton,once a far-right cold warrior, is today a far-left traitor, selling his own lies to push his book. Ironically, guilt-obsessed independent counsels are recast as straight-faced presidential defense lawyers arguing that really nothing the president does is impeachable. And with those straight faces will be lost the last remnants of accountable democracy. What a fire!

We don’t know which way this fire will blow – other than a righteous firestorm is dead ahead.

And, a new 25th Congressional District special election. A rising star imploded and what was fairy dust is… just dust and won’t it be an interesting thing to see how this sorts out.

A new city is rising nearly faster to the sun, just west of Interstate 5 and before you know it Valencia will be twice its size, quite literally, and so too, the headcount. And where will we all fit and go and shop and eat? A hint lies ahead:

SCV planners approved the $100 million, 101,000-square-foot mall expansion for Costco. 330-plus cars on the roof, 20-something gas pumps, luxury theaters, health clubs, music venues, and 20,000 new homes piling in. I love Costco. I love the vibrancy growth brings. But God, oh please God, help us come Christmastime. Please bring those flying cars… We need those flying cars.

We lost Kobe. An icon of icons for Los Angeles. Gone. In one mistake, in an instant. All Angelenos are taking a reality shot to the head on that one. Life is… temporary. It’s everything and then it’s nothing. Poof! Like that. And everything Joel wrote about and everything we’re plodding through – is nothing except for those left behind.

Everything is changing and then – it’s not again – and then – it’s gone. We did not start all this seemingly ever-recurring fire. But by God, we’d best do our best to make things our best – because in a short instant in a fog we didn’t anticipate…


Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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