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In 2019: United we stand

December 31, 2018

Where did 2018 go?

Down dark alleys of isolationism, up against an imagined Wall, onto its knees with grief at the deaths of high school students, adrift in the uncertainties of investigating a president. In 2018 it rained, rained, rained — except where fires erased the landscape. The earth shook, tsunamis rolled, seas rose, temperatures rose, tempers rose.

Yet here we are, survivors once again. This is the dawn of 2019, and although there are clouds on the horizon, America’s institutions are strong, our people resilient. We’ve weathered many a storm before. We know how to navigate.

The year 2018 never had a dull moment. Sometimes the news flow was head-whipping: stock markets up, down, up; Christine Blasey Ford or Brett Kavanaugh? Yet there were also transfixing stories that had the world holding its breath: the brave and ingenious rescue of stranded child soccer players from a flooded cave in Thailand, the marvel of NASA’s InSight space vehicle landing on Mars, the courage of the persecuted and the kindness of strangers to refugees, opioid abuse victims, asylum-seekers. With that irony that time loves, the year seems to have sped until we count up all that has happened since newspapers published their last New Year’s forecasts.

And so we begin again. Political legacies will color 2019, starting at once with the need to resolve the shutdown of the federal government over President Donald Trump’s will for a wall on the Mexican border.

The investigations of the president’s 2016 campaign activities will ripen, and with each stage of discovery will come further uncertainty about the administration’s ability to carry out the duties of the executive branch, particularly under the temporary status of some in key offices: attorney general, defense secretary, EPA administrator, White House chief of staff.

The judicial and legislative branches will have to mull the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, following a decision by a federal judge in Texas. The health insurance of millions depends upon a working system.

As President Trump deliberately diminishes U.S. influence abroad by pulling out of military, trade, and climate commitments, a nation divided will begin to feel what it’s like not to be the acknowledged and committed leader of the free world. We can hope to find in that awareness a new impetus to unite and re-direct. 

If the financial markets carry their year-end roiling into 2019, as many predict, growing economic uncertainty will get the attention of investors and worry the increasing ranks of the retired who count on 401(k) income to support them.

Unforeseen things will also happen, as they always will until someone perfects a crystal ball. Some developments may surprise us with good news, like solutions for longstanding problems. We would like to hope for that here in Connecticut, where the change of state leadership offers a new opportunity for cooperation across political parties and governmental branches in the state’s struggle with deficits.

Internationally yet also painfully close to home, the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal is liable to continue to rock the church, the faithful, and non-Catholics appalled by the institutional handling of decades of crime. We urge justice and hope for reform.

Drug-related issues of all kinds will challenge lawmakers, law enforcement, medicine, and daily life. All eyes need to be on unaffordable prescription drug costs, the epidemic of opiates and how they get to the streets, and whether recreational marijuana will be available in Connecticut.

We hope for great wisdom, resolve and action on the urgencies of climate change.

What we make of 2019 will depend not just upon the struggles of statesmanship vs. opportunism. It will derive from the stability of American society — or, in the admired words of President John F. Kennedy, in asking not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.

In the dark days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush took note of Americans’ unanimous, determined response. He asked that the country go on as normally as possible.His request was more of an acknowledgment that even in shock and grief Americans were already pulling together, because what else would we do? It’s in the American DNA. 

In 2019, let us remember who we are, and how we rock. In whatever this year brings, let us be true to our birthrights: Freedom. Justice. For all.

Happy New Year.

 

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