I don’t know about you, but I’m glad to see 2014 go. It was the year that “the ugly” came out. We saw it not only here at home, but around the world. It unfortunately exemplified some of the most demented and horrific episodes of man’s inhumanity towards his fellow-man. Now I’m old enough and aware enough to know that events like this have been going on as long as history has been recorded. Yet, this year it felt closer, more concentrated and intense. Perhaps it felt this way because we are so wired 24/7 that our awareness is heightened and more acute. But for whatever reason, it seemed that every time we turned around there was another crisis or example of how far we are from the society we would like to think we are.
We have been treated to three beheadings at the hands of ISIS, the human decimation created by an Ebola epidemic, examples of xenophobic behavior by “our leaders” as young children tried to escape across our border from the terrors they faced in Central America, as well as GOP success at blocking any progress on immigration legislation. The events in Ferguson and Staten Island illustrate just how far we still have to go to fulfill the legacy left by those who fought for civil rights decades ago. We have witnessed a Congress that raised dysfunction to an even higher level than we thought possible. To add to the fun we also saw President Putin reach a new high in belligerence and arrogance in Ukraine, and Hamas push Israel far enough to require a response. Of course we can’t forget the midterm election during which Democrats seemed to forget what they stood for and Republicans felt they could say anything because there was no one to refute it. The result was predictable, and the lackluster performance of the candidates and the electorate alike created what will surely be a challenge for progressives over the next two years. Additionally, GOP gains in statehouses and state legislatures mean that the assault on voting rights, gay rights, and abortion rights will continue unabated. It was also a year during which the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. The gap between the haves and the have nots grew and the haves did everything they could to keep it that way. They fought against equal pay legislation, minimum wage legislation as well as any regulation that would prevent corporations from maximizing profits. The good news is that our combat role in Iraq ended as it is about to in Afghanistan. The bad news is that Iraq is again a hotbed of sectarian violence rooted in the irresponsible foreign policy of the Bush Administration. We shouldn’t have much hope for the stability of Afghanistan once we exit either, as we watch the Taliban prepare to retake what they believe is rightfully theirs. Certainly, we can’t forget the strange disappearance of the Malaysian Airliner or the shooting down of another by the Russian “resistance” fighters in Ukraine. To top the year with a little icing on this cake of bad tidings, was the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture. No surprise that they found that the techniques utilized by Bush and his boys qualified as torture. Nor was it a surprise that Cheney, full of self-righteous arrogance, stated that he would do it again. Quite a catalogue of “bad” for just one year, don’t you think?
However, there were a couple of bright spots this past year that we shouldn’t forget. The right for gays to marry has expanded to a majority of our states and polls show a growing majority accept this change. President Obama found his voice and his inner strength as he utilized an Executive Order to deal, in a limited way, with our immigration issues. He also used that same power to make historic changes in our relationship with Cuba. While the GOP and their partner Fox were yelling an interesting thing happened. The economy grew, millions of jobs were created, the stock market broke records, the housing market came roaring back and gas prices fell to levels not seen in years. See, it wasn’t all bad.
My hopes for the coming year are simple, but seemingly so difficult to achieve. I hope that we, as Americans, remember the values on which this country was built as we deal with each other and with countries around the world. Economic success, education, safety and security, respect for each other’s beliefs and differences, as well as fundamental freedoms and rights should be available to all of us. We should seek to make them available to all people as we deal with other countries. If we dare to hold ourselves high as a beacon of freedom and liberty to all nations and people, we had better start practicing those values at home. My hope for 2015 is simply that we work to fulfill that legacy.