Will 2007 be a year worth remembering?
January 2, 2007
So 2007 is upon us, and I greet it with failing eyesight, impaired hearing and a memory system that functions only when it so desires. I know I no longer have much control over it. The most obvious indications of memory loss are when I find myself asking myself such questions as: “Why did I come to the kitchen?” or “What is it that I am looking for?”All of those physical and mental failures are part and parcel of aging. And while one might become depressed by failing faculties, I take some comfort in it all. Now that we have entered this new year, I am not all that convinced that I want to see, hear or remember what is going on. It is a simple matter of trying to take some solace from my natural cynicism. For the record, I have never been accused of being a Pollyanna.Considering my political bent, you might assume that I would be overjoyed to see the Democrats regain control of Congress, and I was, at least briefly, and then the misanthrope in me took control once again. I fear that a Mark Foley or a Tom Delay may lurk among the Democrats and that another Jack Abramoff is out there waiting to lobby for legislation of the dirtiest kind. It would be refreshing if the new Congress could bring some honesty back to government, could enlarge its vision to benefit the majority of citizens and not just the influential few.I place all the blame for my pessimistic attitude at the feet of George W., our compassionate-warrior president. His tragic war in Iraq rots this nation like some evil, vile cancer. We are losing thousands of brave and dedicated young men and women in that war, and we still are not quite certain why we are there. Weapons of mass destruction? To rid the region of a vicious dictator? To make the U.S. safe from a supposed attack? To ferret out terrorists? To spread democracy to the region like some demented Johnny Appleseed? George W. keeps tossing out explanations for our being in Iraq but the majority of Americans are not buying what he is selling.I sincerely hope that he somehow turns things around in Iraq and that we do eventually walk away from a stable and democratic nation that is capable of running its own affairs in a positive manner. In truth, I would be happy to be wrong about George W. and his Iraq policy if it would mean saving just one American or Iraqi life. But considering his record since we invaded that nation in 2003, I’m not willing to offer up much hope.Based on life expectancy, we could have bettered Iraq simply by staying away. The average Iraqi male will live something like 67 years. The average American male should live approximately 74.6 years. That information comes from the “2005 World Almanac,” so it may be somewhat outdated considering the advances made daily in medical science and care. The point is that we didn’t have to roar into Iraq and begin killing people, all we had to do was sit back and live longer than they would. But I suppose the neocons wouldn’t have the patience for such a passive approach.With two more years of George W., I’m not at all optimistic about 2007, but apparently I am in the minority. An AP-AOL poll from The Associated Press that was published Dec. 31 indicated that 72 percent of American citizens are optimistic about this new year. The poll of 1,000 adults indicated that only 24 percent were pessimistic. That positive attitude did not extend to the war in Iraq, however; 40 percent of those polled said they expect the situation there to get worse in 2007, and 31 percent said they saw no change coming. (Just 27 percent expected the situation to improve.) In another part of the poll, people were asked if they thought 2006 was a good year or a bad year for the country. Thirty-nine percent said it was a good year and 58 percent thought it was a bad year. At least I joined the majority on that one.OK, I am something of a cynic and a pessimist but both qualities were challenged somewhat as I watched the memorial services for Gerald R. Ford, our 38th president, on television this past week. Ford was a breath of fresh air after Richard M. Nixon’s failed presidency, but many of us became disenchanted when Ford suddenly announced he was giving Nixon a full pardon. It had a bad smell to it, but as it has been reviewed in retrospect, most pundits agree it may have been Ford’s finest moment in his attempt to heal this nation.Ford was not a man you could easily dislike, and while I was never a great fan, I found it difficult to dislike him. He was well-known for his honesty and moral integrity, a sweet change from the Nixon years, and for his openness. So, while watching the arrival of his body in our Capitol and listening to all the commentators, I was surprised at how emotional I became. It was if an old and personal friend was being eulogized. Perhaps that will be his legacy – he was an old and personal friend to an entire nation. Maybe I am not the hard-core cynic I thought I was?No matter, though, I’m still going into 2007 embracing my failing eyesight. I just don’t want to see what George W. does next. This is the 336th article in a two-part series devoted to the community of Woody Creek, a place where some residents may forget why they opened a bottle of champagne, even on New Year’s Eve.