Note: The Times-Standard didn’t have this column Online yet this morning, so I’m running the whole thing here today.
Update: Someone really screwed up! My column isn’t even in the print edition.
By Dave Stancliff
People still wander in a financial haze after the expensive holidays, with little time to rest or recover before the new year roars in with new days to celebrate and spend money.
Some experts say the economy is recovering, and they cite all kinds of startling statistics that only exist on paper. Very few have any relevance to reality.
Our reality in 2009 was grim. We drained another generation’s blood with wars that cripple our economy and contribute to our crumbling infrastructure. They drag on, remnants of failed policies that we’re still stubbornly trying to make work.
Our politicians were so polarized this year that nothing meaningful was done for the common citizen who struggles to survive in this brutal economy. For Wall Street bankers it was a great year and they passed out fat bonuses to prove it.
This is the time of year when many of us look back upon the past year and wonder what the new one holds. On the days leading up to January 1st some of us make personal resolutions that will fade away like fog as the year progresses.
In fairness, lots of people have enough fortitude to keep the promises they make to themselves. These people are usually the successful ones, the makers and shakers, and this country was once chock full of them.
There was actually a time when we produced nearly all our needs, and didn’t have huge trade deficits. In the 1950s we were a manufacturing powerhouse and people were proud to own anything made here.
Those days are now faint memories with black-and-white photos as proof our country was once a major superpower without equal. I wonder, do history teachers talk about our pride back then, and how productive we were, and all the jobs that were available, in their classes now?
Today we have the so-called global economy, and our leaders tell us their vision of a one-world economy/society is good for us. I look around and see cheap manufactured goods from countries like China, our major trading partner in 2009, who delivered their latest rip-off in massive quantities; dry wall laced with toxic chemicals.
From what I have read and heard, the Chinese own billions in American debt. We must have bean-counters in Washington who live in fear that China will suddenly call in their markers. When their gamble with our money fails, will we all be speaking Chinese as a first language in ten years?
It’s not all bad news. Lots of good things happened in 2009. There were signs that Americans are ready to legalize marijuana. California will lead the way when that day comes. Several petitions are circulating for legalization to be on the ballot next year.
The polls point out that a majority of Californians are ready to end the prohibition of pot. Numerous studies show marijuana’s effectiveness in fighting multiple cancers. The American Medical Association asked the feds to ease up their assault on medical marijuana and to do more research into its medical applications.
I’ve read and seen some heart-warming stories this year about people-helping people. I have a new hero for my annual list. Her name is Betty Chin. If you don’t know about her, or what she has done for people over the years, take a moment and check out The 2009 Minerva Awards homepage online.
In October, Betty Chin was awarded this honor for her work with the homeless in Eureka. Betty has been quietly showing love, comfort, and basic humanity to people for many years now. She escaped from China during the Cultural Revolution in the late 60s, and has devoted her life to helping others. This woman walks-the-walk and talks-the-talk.
This year has gone by too fast for me. An old man’s complaint. We have a new president who has already disappointed me by sending more troops to Afghanistan.
It will take a lot of good men and women in the right places to get us out of these wars. It will take politicians who listen to the people who voted them in, rather than the lobbyists who currently poison our political system. It will also take a unified America to make any progress, whether it’s healthcare or warfare.
We should have term limits for all politicians. That scares them silly. They’d have to make their time in office more productive and less partisan, and they wouldn’t have to start campaigning for their next term halfway through their current term. We need to stop repeating the same mistakes and prioritizing the same failed policies, by the same people.
As It Stands, the new year traditionally represents change, and the hope that things will get better. I wish you a happy and a safe New Year!