A recent post dwelt on the dangers of extremists, not only in Israel and Palestine, but also here at home in these United States. Those dangers are real, as are plenty of others. Nevertheless, are there also reasons for being (cautiously) optimistic as we enter upon 2024? Perhaps sensing a bleak mood among their readers, some of the columnists/commentators I follow began the year by trying, or so it appeared, to talk us back from the edge.
One was our local political columnist at the Seattle Times, Danny Westneat. Danny is not afraid to tell it like it is on the vexing issues we are facing in Seattle. But, taking a broader view, nation and state-wide, he cites five reasons for hope in this Presidential Election year (unless Trump is your cup of tea). I’ll sum those up checklist style. You can read his longer musings, fleshing out his five points, here.
- Trump looks stronger than he actually is. He’s still got his base, but that’s never been a majority and isn’t likely to become one. (“I’d put it this way: Trump was new and novel in 2016. No longer.”)
- Election denialism is a proven loser.
- Rescinding rights (e.g. a woman’s right to choose) is another political loser.
- The Washington State GOP is showing signs of creeping away from Trump and his local syncophants.
- “Chicken or Fish.” You may be able to suss this one out on your own, but if not check the article link.
Meanwhile, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman answers the title question of his column, “Is American On The Mend?” with a resounding “yes!” Krugman puts his analysis in the context of the pandemic, arguing that America has done pretty darn well in coming back after all. He points to the economy, employment, and declining crime rates. Here’s Krugman:
“It was easy to imagine that the pandemic experience would leave long-term scars — that long Covid and early retirements would leave us with a permanently reduced labor force, that getting inflation down would require years of high unemployment, that the crime surge heralded a sustained breakdown in public order. But none of that happened.”
Krugman acknowledges that this positive assessment hasn’t (yet) filtered down to many of the people stung by rising costs. But he thinks that eventually the good news will break through — as Joe Biden devoutly hopes!
A third hopeful sign: While the Russian War in Ukraine is being described as a “stalemate,” and the GOP and its Putin faction are cutting aid to Ukraine, Ukraine has an advantage that they are increasingly leveraging. That is, countries that invade and occupy other countries tend to 1) lose in the long term as they tire and find occupation too costly, and 2) are vulnerable to guerrilla tactics, which Ukraine is utilizing more and more.
As we forget just how devastating and challenging Covid really was, we also forget how nearly everyone believed that Russia would crush Ukraine in an overnight cakewalk. However you assess things now, that dire prediction failed and does not seem to be on any conceivable horizon.
I also, to squeeze in more on the world-scene, remain hopeful that Netanyahu’s grip in Israel has been broken and will end when the immediate crisis/hostilities subside. This week the Israeli Supreme Court dealt a blow to his “judicial reform.” Israel needs new leadership and new thinking, but then who doesn’t?
While it might be nice to cite some closer-to-home and more personal reasons for cautious optimism, I’ll hold off on that for now. But I’ll close by noting a warning that an older friend gave me 30 years ago, when he was the age I am now. “At my age,” he confessed, “it becomes all-too-easy to join the ‘ain’t it awful club.’ That is, ‘No one is getting it right. Everything is in decline.’”
At this age/stage, it’s tempting. But it’s also a temptation to be resisted. And I do try, although one of you likes to describes my blogs, cleverly, as “wonderfully curmudgeonly.” And given an aging population, perhaps the percentage of grumps is elevated!
For sure, there’s plenty to worry about and to grieve. And we should never lose sight of any of it or of those who are suffering. But when was this not the case? You’ve got to carry on and to do so with gratitude for all the many — some we know, countless we do not — who are “fighting the good fight,” and bringing decency and hope to our bruised and broken world. Happy 2024!