3 improbable resolutions for New Year
By John M. Crisp
New Year's resolutions often spring from short-lived regrets over holiday excesses. Shame provokes us to vow, for example, never to drink again or, at least, to lose some weight. Resolutions like these don't bear much hope for long-term success, but it doesn't hurt to make them. You never know.
Similarly, I'm not particularly optimistic about the prospects for these three not-necessarily-related national resolutions; nevertheless, I propose them in the spirit of the season and with hope for the New Year:
Resolution 1: Learn something good from a bad war: It would have been interesting to be a neurological fly on the wall on President Barack Obama's cranium in mid-December as he welcomed the last American combat troops home from Iraq. After almost nine years of war, Obama said, in wild understatement, that "Iraq is not a perfect place." But at least, he added, "we are leaving a sovereign, stable and self-reliant country with a representative government elected by its people."
Of course, part of Obama's job is to put the best light on things. But one wonders if it wouldn't be healthier to admit that nothing of the rosy picture that the president presented is true about Iraq at present and that the prospects for stability and democracy are grim. In fact, civil war is much more likely.
The troops deserve a good homecoming. Out of all the players in Iraq during the past nine years, they've behaved with more honor, courage and competence than most others. Nearly 4,500 didn't come home from doing precisely what we asked of them.
But we do them a disservice if we casually record Iraq as another successful war and forget its origins in the mendacity, arrogance and incompetence of George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. Let's resolve not to make this mistake again.
Resolution 2: Start taking climate change seriously: Whenever I mention climate change, readers write to tell me that the jury is still out. No, the jury has returned, and the verdict is "Guilty." The main question is whether the sentence is "Life Without Parole" or "Death."
Ironically, in the face of mounting evidence that human activity is having a significant impact on the weather, Americans are less and less inclined to believe in climate change. There's only one word for this: denial. We should have started on this problem sooner, but given that we haven't, 2012 would be an excellent year for taking action; it represents one of a rapidly diminishing number of opportunities.
Resolution 3: Save the Post Office: Okay, this resolution may be impossible to keep. Still, as I stood in line to send a package this Christmas, I considered what a fine privilege it is to be able to push a physical object across a counter in Texas and have it delivered rapidly, efficiently and accurately a few days later for a very reasonable price to any address in the United States.
From the early days of our republic, the Post Office's influence has been democratizing. It tied every citizen to every other and had the effect of drawing the country together: everyone was included and got the same service, and the 1 percent always paid the same as the 99 percent.
Privatization might be more financially efficient. But the purposes and effects of the Post Office were never entirely commercial: it probably shouldn't be expected to make a profit any more than a battleship or aircraft carrier should.
By the way, the Post Office clerks were efficient and courteous, and my package arrived in plenty of time for Christmas. Let's resolve to assess the value that the Post Office provides for American life and consider maintaining it.
Of course, these resolutions sound more like a Christmas wish list than feasible goals. But Santa won't be dropping solutions to these problems down our chimneys anytime soon. We'll have to resolve to make these things happen on our own. Happy New Year!
John M. Crisp teaches in the English Department at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is also a columnist for Scripps Howard News Service (www.scrippsnews.com). E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.