ShareThis Page
Joseph Sabino Mistick

Joseph Sabino Mistick: America's own fighting festival

| Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, 12:36 a.m.

Sometimes, as we approach a new year, the nostalgia for all that was left behind simply outweighs our hope for the future. New Year's Eve parties are one attempt to put a positive spin on the unknown future, but even that midnight anthem, “Auld Lang Syne,” is more about endings than beginnings.

Some cultures revel in melancholy, memorializing it in word and song. Portuguese fado music originated with the working class in the early 19th century. Its mournful tones are matched to words of hopeless resignation, and if you are in a lousy mood and want to wallow in it, fado is the music for you.

In Wales, melancholy can seem like the national pastime. Hiraeth, a Welsh word without a direct English counterpart, is often described as homesickness for a home that no longer exists or to which you can never return. Longing, yearning and grieving are words often thrown into the mix to convey that sense of utter heartbreak.

Just as hiraeth describes the feelings of those who miss old Wales, many Americans are feeling the same emotional pull of simpler times, longing for a return to an America that no longer exists. And the political upheaval of the past year seems to have unnerved nearly everyone.

Truth was the first victim of the chaos. The inability to agree on common facts has led to the end of conversation, honest debate and reason. The screaming matches that are common on cable news too often find their way into our personal lives.

News of current events once came at a manageable pace, allowing time to hear it, weigh it and form an opinion. Now, cable news and the internet demand a constant stream of changing stories, whether true or not, just to fill time and space. Most of us cannot keep up.

Compromise, civility and respect — once virtues — have become dirty words. Even the simple but essential ritual of breaking bread with members of the political opposition is seen as disloyalty. We no longer have the tools necessary to put our differences behind us.

In Santo Tomas, Peru, they move forward every year with a ritual called Takanakuy. Every Christmas morning, villagers gather in the bullfighting ring, wrap their fists in scarves and square off in a slugfest. All scores from the previous year are settled in this fighting festival, and they start the new year with a clean slate.

While that is tempting, it is not practical in a nation our size. Plus, we have lost all sense of proportionality. The time when two guys could take their dispute outside, slug it out and then return to the bar to share another beer is long gone.

But we do have our own fighting festivals. We have elections. Every year, everywhere across the land, scores are settled, communities are reshaped and new leaders are installed.

So, you can mourn your plight in song, like the Portuguese do with fado. Or you can spend a lifetime lamenting simpler times, as the Welsh describe with hiraeth.

But if you really want to do something about it, here is a New Year's resolution: Next year, show up and vote.

Joseph Sabino Mistick is a Pittsburgh lawyer (

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me