Paul W. Barada
Can you believe it? Today is New Year’s Eve day. The last day of the year 2012 has already arrived. Where does the time go? This is another of the special holidays we use as benchmarks to see how far we’ve come and, perhaps, how far we have yet to go. It’s perfectly natural to think back over the last 12 months and measure our achievements, progress, and goals yet to be attained. It’s also a time to reflect upon what’s been lost during the last year. But more than anything else, it seems that New Year’s Eve is a time to be thankful that we’ve simply made it through another year.
Normally, I use this year-end column to do a little prognosticating about what 2013 may hold in store and an equal amount of reflection upon the highlights of 2012. I find myself, however, up a stump about speculating what the coming year will hold. At most, about all that can be said is that we will probably continue with another year of conflict, uncertainty, and change. Gone are the days when it was relatively easy to predict what the New Year was going to hold in store – usually it was more of the same, but that certainly doesn’t seem to be true anymore.
There is a whole movement underway to redefine what this country is about and for what it stands. Oh, the basic principles will remain the same, and the greatest experiment in self-government will continue to evolve. How it’s going to evolve is a much touchier issue, however. The progressive movement in the United States has new life, and we’ve seen more division created among our people than every before: rich vs. poor, the role of government in leveling the playing field for all, the divide over whether we need more or less government in our lives, and a host of other issues that divide rather than unify us as one people. There’s even been more labor unrest lately than has been seen in at least the last decade, if not longer. How all these disparate groups will sort themselves out is impossible to say. What the economic future of the country will be is equally difficult to predict. One thing seems clear, however, and that’s the nature of the economic problems we face – it’s not a matter of raising taxes at the federal level; it’s a matter of reducing spending – that much seems clear. Everyone seems to be for less spending, unless the money is for some Congressman’s pet project that just magically seems to get attached to new spending legislation.
So, what 2013 will hold in store for the nation is extremely difficult to predict. About all that can be said is that we’re going through a period of profound change – whether it’s change for the better or change for the worse remains to be seen in the months and, perhaps, years ahead.
The world situation appears more unstable, especially in the Middle East, than it has since those long ago days of the Cold War. The United States has to remain a force for good in the world. If we were to return to the isolationism of the days between world wars, the forces of radicalism will continue to spread their evil influence over more of the Middle East and empower those who would destroy our way of life if they could, emboldening them to keep trying. We may find out that Theodore Roosevelt was right that the best foreign policy is to “walk softly and carry and big stick.” That approach seems to be the only one that Islamic extremists really understand. Isn’t it ironic that some of the greatest civilizations in the world were in the Middle East and how far they’ve fallen during the intervening centuries? It seems to me, that much of that part of the world is still stuck back in the days when it was dominated by tribes of people whose loyalty was to their tribe and not to the emerging nation-states. Worse yet, the conflicts within the Middle East do nothing productive except make it easier for radical Islamists to fill the resulting power vacuum and drive that part of the world even further back into the shadows of the Dark Ages.
On a much smaller stage, it’s equally difficult to predict the future for this county and the communities within it. We have made solid progress in terms of reigniting community pride and putting people in place, who can, if they choose, keep us moving forward. Economic development, it seems to me, will be harder and more difficult to sustain without the cooperative leadership of entities like city government, county government, the Economic Development Corporation, the Chamber of Commerce, and Rush Memorial Hospital. What seems to be missing is a common vision of what we want this county to be and, therefore, a shared plan to start us moving toward the achievement of that shared vision. Oh, we’ve tried to come up with a strategic plan for Rush County a half-dozen times, but there never has been a complete buy-in based on a shared vision of what we want to be and how we’re going to get there. Or, if there is a shared vision, no one has told me what it is. The one thing it cannot be is maintaining the status quo. Doing nothing, which we’ve been good at in the past, is no longer an option.
Unlike the nation or the world, for that matter, we do have control over what the future holds in store for Rush County – we’ve just never articulated a plan, strategic or otherwise, to make that vision a reality.
That’s -30- for this week and have a happy and health New Year!