“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”
So, that’s the way Charles Dickens began his classic “A Tale of Two Cities.” Though the 1859 story centers on details of life leading up to the French Revolution, a duality of the times is certainly present today. As in Dickens’ time, we now find ourselves at cross purpose.
2012 was the best of times. It was the first year in several in which people began to feel a bit better about the economy. Each month, we heard of more people returning to the workforce. Alas, 2012 was also the worst of times. The world watched as the Greek economy teetered on the verge of collapse. Other economies weren’t much better. America’s political system reached an all-time low ... mired in such partisanship that virtually nothing was moving out of either house. Such inaction the year before had led Uncle Sam to see his credit rating lowered for the first time in history.
2012 was the age of wisdom. Suddenly, groups, individuals and even television shows seemed to open their arms to understanding and to the acceptance of their brothers — regardless of the many things that made them different. 2012 was the age of foolishness. Just how many times did we hear of mentally troubled individuals taking a weapon and turning it on people they didn’t even know?
In Norcross, Ga., a man asked to leave the family spa left and returned with a gun. He shot his sisters, their husbands and then himself. In Chardon, Ohio, a 17-year-old walked into a school cafeteria and killed three. In Oakland, Calif., a university drop-out returned, lined people up against the wall and started shooting. Seven were killed. Of course, there was the strange incident of the “Dark Knight Rises” movie. James Holmes entered the theatre and began shooting. Twelve were killed, 58 injured. And, most recently, there was the Sandy Hook shooting in which 28 died. These just scratch the surface.
2012 was the epoch of belief. After years of Internet access, Americans suddenly found the ability to research almost anything and have results in front of their eyes within seconds. Alas, the world quickly learned anyone can post anything on the Internet and just because something is read there, does not make it so. Alas, 2012 was also the epoch of incredulity.
Americans joined hands to help those hit by a New England “perfect storm,” those affected across the globe by a year that just seemed to sling one disaster after another. Undaunted, Americans joined hands to help. It was truly a season of light. Yet people still clung to ancient prophecies. Many were certain the world would end on Dec. 21. It was another season of darkness.
2012 was the spring of hope. Citizens looked for silver linings in almost every news story. Surely, we all told ourselves, prosperity must be just around the corner. Yet, it was not. As election season neared, and hope truly lifted, the people found little more than typical political posturing. That spring of hope led to a winter of despair.
In 2012, we had everything: the war in Iraq ended, the war in Afghanistan was winding down. Osama bin Laden was killed, Moammar Gaddafi was ousted, and a man even managed to parachute to earth from outer space.
In 2012, we had nothing before us. Despite all the good news, many Americans could not make it past the fact that the economy remained mired in the mud. Iran was still playing with nukes and North Korea still managed to fire a test rocket.
That brings us to the “going to Heaven or Hell” part of Dickens’ opening paragraph. That portion of this tale of two cities has yet to be written. That portion depends on each of us. History shows people have a way of fulfilling their own prophecies. If we believe the worst will happen, it usually does. On the other hand, there’s no limit to the power of positive thinking.
Given all these facts, we think it is obvious what is incumbent upon each of us in 2013: Expect the best, give our best and never accept anything less than this. Believe in ourselves, believe in each others. Even if we die having never reached this goal, it’s one worth the effort.
If we do all this, perhaps we can end 2013 by reminding ourselves of the closing line of that same Dickens work:
“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
From your friends at the Press Gazette, Happy New Year!