Trouble ahead, trouble behind

With 2012 winding down and the New Year right around the corner, it’s naturally a time for reflection – as well as looking forward – and a quick Internet search is all that’s needed to see just how crazy last year truly was, from hurricane Sandy to the recent presidential election, civil unrest in the Middle East to the legalization of marijuana in a number of states, not to mention the push for equal rights when it comes to same-sex marriage. Controversial issues, all, for obvious reasons, whether one’s debating global climate change; a second term for the Obama administration; how to curtail the outbreaks of violence we’re seeing across the globe; or the decriminalization of a drug that many feel is practically harmless when compared to tobacco and alcohol, two of our nation’s biggest killers.

Looking ahead, on the other hand, it’s obvious we’ll be facing even greater challenges in 2013, from gun violence here in our own country to the looming fiscal cliff debacle. And while your favorite touring hippie would be the first to tell you “The Music Never Stopped,” a look back on 2012 – as far as the biggest news stories go – reads more like “The Madness Never Stopped.”

According to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, the presidential election topped the list of all things big in the news, followed closely by the recent Connecticut school shooting; the aforementioned Hurricane Sandy; the always popular rising-cost-of-oil-and-or-gas debate; the Colorado theater shooting; the economy; and the deadly mid-west storms of early spring, to name a few. And looking at that list, I must admit it’s a bit depressing considering the only piece of good news (besides Obama’s November victory ... and that depends entirely on one’s personal political point of view) would be the summer Olympics.

Is it just me, or does the bad news always seem to drastically outweigh the good? Then again, the times they are a-changing, as Bob Dylan would say, and it seems we’re likely stuck with our current mess, no matter what we may or may not try to do to change things. And there are times, it’s sad to say, when it looks like we’re going to remain stuck in this rut, damned to repeat the same mistakes time and time again.

Even more interesting, however, are those stories that did not generate a lot of attention, as reported by the Pew Research Center, namely the political violence in Syria; the NFL and its replacement referees; Whitney Houston’s death; Europe’s economic woes; the discovery of the Higgs boson particle; and Kodak’s bankruptcy, among others. I suppose it’s simply interesting to see what caught people’s eyes and what they deemed not so important.

That said, 2012 was ... unpredictable ... if nothing else, and downright terrifying at times. And it’s a testament to the strength of this country that we’re able to (some of the time, at least) overcome many of our differences and come together as a nation. Granted, there will always be debate, particularly over topics as controversial as gun control and our government’s apparent lack of empathy and – for better or worse ­– common sense. Yet those debates are vital to America, and the right to freely discuss these and other issues is central to what makes this country great. Sure, we don’t always get along, and it’s obvious that we never will, at least not 100 percent of the time. However, as long as we remember those core values that make this such a great place to live, I honestly think we’ll be alright. The most important thing, I suppose, is remembering that everyone has a right to their own opinion, and just because we don’t always agree doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. Simply stated, cooperation and understanding will always be better than division and ignorance, and keeping an open mind is crucial.

Now if we could only get Washington to realize this, we might be getting somewhere.

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunbrian

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