- Special Sections
- Public Notices
I, for one, will not mourn the passing of 2009. That’s the thing about the New Year; we can always begin it hoping that it will be better than the last one.
I would submit 2009 as a poster child for that approach. Unfortunately, I can’t think of more positive and memorable events than events and realities that are better off forgotten.
It was certainly not one of the better years for the people of the United States, mired as we still are in a deep economic crisis. With unemployment remaining at 10 percent, many people faced the Christmas holidays without jobs and with little but hope that things can get better.
Our politics remain as partisan and as bitter as it’s ever been. The so-called debate over health care wasn’t much of a debate at all. Instead of an intelligent, reasoned discussion over what might be the best approach, we got screaming fanatics at town hall meetings, many of whom carried pictures of the president with a Hitler moustache.
If that’s how the “common folk” acted, the politicians didn’t do much better. From Charles Grassley to Sarah Palin, they dished out nonsense about “death panels,” “killing grandma,” and other such emotional, ideological dis-information.
Lost in all this was the fact that we really do have a health care crisis in this country when there are nearly 50 million people just one diagnosis away from bankruptcy because they can’t afford high insurance premiums or their job doesn’t offer coverage.
The media is never very much help in a situation like this, either. It actually seems to prefer footage from fanatics at town hall meetings rather than a serious, detailed presentation of the facts. “News” is often defined on television by it shock value rather than its content.
One more note on health care: Had we not lost Sen. Ted Kennedy in 2009 we might be looking at a better health care bill than what has now passed the Senate. Much of the real “reform” has been taken out of what passed, and I can’t believe Kennedy would have stood for it.
Our new president, who took office at the start of this year, has faced what all new presidents must face: reality. When the campaign is over and its slogans are a thing of the past, the individual elected to that responsibility almost always finds that it’s much harder to achieve what he promised than he’d originally thought.
Yet Barack Obama ends the year with an approval rating right around the percentage of votes he received in 2008. That tells me that the great majority of those of us who voted for him certainly aren’t ready to give up on him after a single difficult year. It also suggests that his harshest critics - the right-wing radio hit men and the talking heads on Fox “News” - haven’t yet convinced most Americans to turn against him, either.
For those of us who want a better future for our country and who put so much of our hopes into him, the final chapter is not yet written. 2010 will be a political year due to the mid-term elections, but it may also see this president make more progress on his domestic agenda.
Unfortunately, to many of us, he has also chosen to escalate the war in Afghanistan. Again, “hope” is the key word here. We can only hope that the president isn’t heading into a quagmire like the ones in Vietnam and Iraq. Sadly, after eight years over there with little to show for it, we may already be in a quagmire.
For better or worse, the New Year is upon us. It ought to be able to beat 2009.
* * * * *
Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com