Friday December 28, 2012

Mike Bethel

Here comes 2013. When I look back on 2012, I have to hope next year is more inspiring. Lately, the news has been all bad, all depressing. I can't stop thinking about the tragedy in Newtown and those little children and teachers. The recent senseless killing of two firefighters by a madman in New York came on top of that. These acts of violence cannot be understood or condoned. But the question remains, what will we do about it?

This debate on safety will necessitate legislation that will protect the innocents of our country. We need to have a full dialogue on gun control at the same time that we ensure that the mental health needs of our communities are fully met. There is no one sure solution for this problem.

Then there's the weather. Who expected our lives would be so affected by storms and wind? What a heartbreak to see the loss of life and destruction that followed on Hurricane Sandy? Who can forget Irene, and other storms with gentle names that were so furious and damaging.

We sit on the edge of a fiscal cliff, with dire predictions of a second recession, and political gridlock in Washington continues, to everyone's dismay.

Internationally, there is Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Israel and Palestine, all smoldering, and ready to erupt.

Where are we and our country and the world going to be in 2013? Sometimes, it seems that the world is going mad, but I have hope we can survive these crises.


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We always have.

Our goals must begin by making a commitment to a number of common missions, including the safety of our children, the health of our economy, and peace in the world. The question is not whether we have the will, but whether our leaders have the vision to lead.

These large social and cultural events make the doings of Bennington seem small and unimportant, but in fact what happens here is a microcosm of the kinds of stresses and forces that have created so many challenges in the country as a whole and in the world.

There is no question that the speed of change has accelerated. In no time in history have people been so connected with each other, through social media and the net. The world is shrinking, and we are bombarded with a 24-hour cable news cycle. You can see this in the Middle East, where despots have been dethroned, and values such as the equal rights of women, free speech, and the right to assembly are becoming more acceptable, because of this connection. You can also see it right here.

Pundits analyzing the 2012 election have featured this cultural and social change among a majority of voters in this country as one explanation for the outcome of the election. The Republican Party, they say, is in the eclipse. Now I don't believe that, but I do admit that the party does need some soul-searching. I also recognize that I don't have all the answers on how to change the course of these events.

I look to our leaders for those answers. In history, we've had some remarkable leaders --Washington, Lincoln, Churchill, FDR--and we have to wonder, are our present leaders of equal caliber?

We will know that in 2013, to be sure. These cliffs are coming at us in all directions. In these times, we have to demand that our leaders stand up and manage the situation. Even in a democracy, where the people rule, there have to be people who will ensure that sanity will prevail in an unruly world.

For civilization on a worldly level to survive beyond 2013, we are going to need a bit of luck in our corner, and a little help from above. We must have hope.

Mike Bethel lives in Bennington.