There is something about an approaching new year that leads us to assess where we are with our plans, our expectations, our hopes, and our fears. In my case, I agonize constantly over the human condition. So, I can’t help but jump on the bandwagon and offer a sobering perspective on our world.
Let’s face it: too many people are falling behind; they’re being left out. Far too many are earning less today than they were ten, twenty or even more years ago. We can say it ain’t so, pretend we don’t notice, act like it’s okay. But it isn’t. Leaving folks behind is un-American, at least insofar as we believe in an America where anyone can succeed if they work hard enough.
Government, for most of us, is not perceived as being on our side. It protects those who have over those who have not, those who can over those who cannot, those who are with over those who are without. We favor those who want tax cuts over those who need help.
This sort of favoritism is puzzling in a nation whose population professes a faith in God, since every major faith perspective includes an imperative to stand up for the disenfranchised, bring comfort to the afflicted, justice to the wronged and opportunity to those left behind.
So, along comes 2014. Aside from the fact that we can’t moderate, at least in the short-term, Mother Nature’s wrath, there is much that we can do, whether we have the special burden of being elected leaders, or people of good fortune, or people of good health with strong backs, or simply parents, voters, managers or anyone else. Here are my suggestions for what each of us can do, collectively or individually, to ensure that the new year is better than the old one.
First, we can be fair to people whose skills have lost so much value in a society where video game producers are the new rock stars. Every day, people who never thought they would fall so hard come to us desperate to save their home from foreclosure, have difficulty paying their heating bills or even struggle to feed their family. They are good people; they worked hard all their lives and here they are, swallowing their pride, asking for help. Let’s stop calling them losers and start acknowledging that the market has become less forgiving.
Second, we can revive the concept of sacrifice on behalf of others. How much do we really need? And is there more we can share?
Third, we can remember that we do have the tools to intervene in the marketplace: government is not the enemy. Instead, it can be effective at leveling the playing field if we would just stop choking it of appropriate levels of resources rather than starving it, then tsk-tsking when failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Fourth, we need to start respecting and appreciating our democracy again. Vote, damn it. The bastards win when the good guys stay home.
Fifth, we can unlearn the racism that is so pervasive and at least as toxic. And stop denying racism exists. As a friend says, denying there is racism is the latest form of racism.
Sixth, if we are, indeed, a nation of believers, then let’s have a serious discussion about what that means. Can anyone really believe that Jesus would want us to arm ourselves to the teeth, or dole out tax cuts to the lucky few while cutting child nutrition programs?
To twist Lennon’s words (that’s Lennon, the Beatle, not Lenin, the Bolshevik): and so this is Christmas, and what will you do? Next year at this time, will we take stock of 2014 and find the same short-comings? Or will we look back, assess the year, and say, maybe we can thank God for each other?