Once upon a time, not so long ago, we greeted new years with
excitement and joy. There were party hats and favors and noisemakers and
cold cuts and plenty of beer and whiskey.
Times have changed.
The world looks less safe, less secure, and our mentality has changed
along with it.
How can we indulge in rollicking jubilation when 140,000 American
troops are facing violence and death every day in Iraq? When, already,
three thousand families are mourning the loss of their sons and daughters?
How can we toast to better times ahead when our leaders continue to
pursue an unjust war, squander our resources and increase our national
debt, and turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to our real needs?: Universal,
affordable health care; better education; environment-friendly fuel and
energy; fair treatment of minorities, immigrants and women; and a more
equitable distribution of our wealth. Those are the things that will
ensure our endurance as a nation, and our security.....far more than
inspecting our shoes at the airport or tapping our phone conversations.
Perhaps, with a new Congress, some of these issues will be addressed.
Or perhaps there will simply be an endless round of hearings and
inquiries and investigations that will keep us mired in the past,
unwilling and unable to move forward.
While we contemplate the big changes and new challenges in our world,
we should also be aware how our personal lives and perceptions have
altered.... for better and for worse.
For example, consciously or not, we buy products that are recycled
and biodegradable, we sort our garbage, we eat food that is organic. All
this is good, and commendable. But on the other hand, we over-consume, we
over-react, and we can act foolish, even paranoid, when it comes to our
personal welfare. Besides seat belts and air bags in our cars (an obvious
necessity), we also have alarm systems in our homes and shredders in our
offices and spam filters on our computers. We consume more medication
than any generation in history, but keep discovering new "diseases" and
"syndromes". We buy on credit and go deep into debt, but still try to
insure everything, from our real property to our very real lives. The
cost of malpractice insurance has driven many physicians OUT of practice,
while lawyers and their whining clients rake in millions in compensation.
It seems we have become both more careless and more cautious, more
righteous and more irresponsible. It is a paradox.
Just think: If we followed our strict moral convictions, we would
forego the wasteful paper hats and favors on New Year's Eve, and we would
serve tofu and mineral water instead of cold cuts and beer! If we
indulged our reckless hedonism, we would serve Champagne and caviar and
chocolate truffles! Where is the happy medium in this crazy world?
Somehow, amidst all the uncertainty and confusion, we have to keep
our faith -- faith in ourselves and our ability to choose and to act;
faith in the power of tolerance and understanding and justice, even if we
have to go it alone. It is not a question of conquering or converting our
adversaries, or ignoring our problems, but of nurturing the best in
ourselves and creating a life that balances logic and passion, that
embraces reality and dream.
Faith -- that alone or together, we shall overcome.