By Bill Robinson
As the earth starts a new lap around the sun at midnight Monday, many will celebrate the passing of 2012, even with the uncertainty the new year brings.
The nation seems to be inexorably divided along ideological, regional and economic lines, even after a national election. Political leaders seemed intent at year’s end on waiting until the brink of calamity before agreeing on a path for the nation’s future.
After immense natural disasters, unspeakable tragedies, and an ugly political campaign, most of us will be relieved to close the book on 2012. The anxiety spawned by the real upheaval of recent years led some to buy into the false prophecy of the earth’s demise at the end of 2012.
Although the apocalypse didn’t begin on Dec. 21, the coming year will still not be a time for the faint of heart.
Often, we feel ourselves to be at the mercy of overwhelming outside forces. An economic crisis in Europe or Asia, or a war or revolution in the Middle East has an almost immediate affect on our lives. Regardless of how we brace ourselves, our lives still seem to be pushed about by the impersonal forces of nature and the irrational acts of humanity, both near and far.
However, the challenges we face are no greater than those of World War II and the Great Depression. There is a reason those who came through those times have been called the Greatest Generation.
They didn’t wither or whine in the face of adversity and expect to be rescued. Fortified by the core values of faith, family and community, they stepped up to the tasks before them. The prospect of success seemed remote, and many sacrificed their lives to the effort, but they brought their nation through to a brighter day.
We are finally realizing that those who promised we could “have it all” misled us. We have learned to be more content with what we have and do more with less, just as our parents and grandparents did.
The Greatest Generation is fast departing, but their example is one we best not forget.
Elections at the local, as well as the state and national level, brought some changes that may be reflected in approaches to our common challenges in the new year. It remains to be seen whether elected officials realize that our permanent interests rarely change, even if we disagree on how to attain them. I hope they will at least be willing to make incremental progress through sensible compromise and resist the madness of insisting on all or nothing.
An example of such reasonableness can be found in the agreement to fund continued work on the chemical weapons destruction plant at the Blue Grass Army Depot, even if overall federal spending by the stalemate in Washington.
President Obama and U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell pose as bitter political enemies, but the Senate minority leader and the administration were able quietly to forge an agreement that will keep work at the weapons plant from halting if the federal government goes over the so called “fiscal cliff.”
If they can do that on a small scale, why can’t they build on that relatively small success and work toward doing the same on large issues?
The same kind of cooperation will be needed when the General Assembly convenes next month in Frankfort and a new city commission takes office in Richmond.
State tax reform that could foster economic development will not be achieved through posturing or intransigence. The same goes for reform of the state’s underfunded public pension system.
There will inevitably be more diversity of opinion on the city commission as two newcomers take office, but no one’s interest will be served by working at cross purposes.
They city coffers, that once were bare, are starting to fill again. However, some monumental problems no longer loom over the horizon. They have become rude guests who won’t leave on their own.
Twice this year, water filled our streets and occasionally our homes after torrential rains fell. Systematically fixing the problem will cost more than $1 million a year for the next decade. Where will the money come from?
The new year will be interesting, if not difficult. It can be less difficult, even if less interesting, if elected leaders and the rest of us put the common good ahead of personal and partisan interest.