Sunday, December 31, 2017

Another Turn of the Calendar

Well, 2017 was one for the record books for the nation and the world. January brought the inauguration of a new President of the US, Donald Trump. Part of the public seem to almost have a nervous breakdown at the mere thought of a Trump presidency, while others looked forward with eager anticipation, or at least with a sigh of relief that the excesses of the recent past might be corrected.

Charges and counter-charges filled the air, with investigations into alleged Trump-Russia collusion in the 2016 election. While the special prosecutor's investigation is ongoing and inconclusive so far, revelations have surfaced about alleged misdeeds by the Clinton campaign and the Obama Administration. Here too, the real situation awaits further investigation. How much and what you've heard about any of these situations may depend on what sources you are obtaining your news from. One of the top stories of 2017 should surely be the credibility gaps of various sources of information. It's no wonder the public is so divided when there are differing perceptions on what is real v. "fake" news.

To the approval of some and the distress of others, real accomplishments were achieved by the Trump Administration and Congress. The confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and numerous lower court judges could signal a dramatic shift in court rulings on various legal and social questions in the coming years. A year-end tax bill that also included provisions on heath care and other issues broke a months long logjam in significant Congressional legislation and could help enable long-term economic growth. A new more muscular foreign policy appears to be taking shape with implications for America and for peoples around the world who strive for liberty and peace.

Acrimony extended beyond politics in DC to other social questions. The most bizarre was probably the uproar over the presence of statues of Confederate war figures in public places. (Maybe there should be more focus on the injustices of today v. refighting  the Civil War 150 years later.) More currently consequential were the revelations of sexual harassment and sometimes assault by various public figures in politics, media, entertainment, sports, etc. This problem is part of something that goes much deeper than policing specific behaviors and requires a challenging of recent cultural assumptions about human nature and sexuality.

For all of the social and political controversies, natural events took center stage, especially in the late summer. The total solar eclipse that crossed the US on August 21 was an occasion of awe and scientific curiosity, even among many who seldom look up at the sky at other times. The following weeks brought natural events of a more destructive nature with three hurricanes that devastated parts of the US and the Caribbean. Wildfires in California and elsewhere also exacted the toll of destruction, as did earthquakes and other events in parts of the world during the year.

As we turn the page to 2018, the controversies and upheavals will likely continue. Meanwhile progress in medicine, technology and other fronts may become increasingly amazing. The test launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket (hopefully) in January will accelerate progress toward expansion and commercialization of space. We may see humans launching into space from the US again aboard commercially developed  (by Boeing and SpaceX) spacecraft before the end of the year.

May we continue to make headway in protecting life and defending liberty while respecting the dignity of every person despite our differences. And may God's blessings and peace  be upon you and yours and wishing all the best on this new frontier we call 2018.

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