The Best Of Times, The Worst Of Times

I always love writing the year-end column. It gives me a chance to pause, reflect and always be stunned by how many things — good, bad, happy and sad — occur in a mere 365.25 day orbital rotation around the sun.

Charles Dickens, in A tale of Two Cities, set during the French Revolution, wrote, “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 could be said for 2014.

Personally, our family also had bests and worsts: a death to ALS, a great-granddaughter’s birth, a birthday milestone, then a stroke with a happy ending. Close friends passed on and old friends became closer. Travels to Africa proved fulfilling. And seeing our 10 grandchildren is always the best part of any year.

Politically, wisdom prevailed as Mainland voters overwhelmingly spoke up for change. Hawaii voters stayed home, ensuring the status quo and leaving Hawaii with no status in Washington’s new GOP-led Congress. At home, more traffic, higher living costs, low-paying jobs and a 4-percent higher state budget for next year don’t bode well for us. Despite that, we have the world’s best people, evidenced by local football star and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.

Nationally, businesses lead the charge in slowly inching our sagging economy upward. The dollar is stronger and gas prices lower, but while thousands of unemployed and under employed Americans still hurt, no celebration yet.

Foolishness: After vandalism, riots and protests in Ferguson, Mo., chief race-divider Al Sharpton officially became self-appointed spokesman for all African Americans, and has effectively alienated every other race plus police forces across the nation. Martin Luther King Jr. he isn’t. Our police are now more vulnerable to attacks, like the point-blank assassinations of two cops in New York by a killer motivated by protesters’ chants: “What do you want? Dead cops. When? Now.” Statistics don’t support systemic racism in police forces.

In world news, tragedy often impacted the poor and vulnerable: the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the strange disappearance of Malaysian Air flight MH370, and Vladimir Putin snatching Crimea from the Ukraine — because he could. The Islamic State or ISIS launched its demonic blood bath across Syria and Iraq, noted for its beheadings of children and American hostages, enslavement of women and children, and a stated goal of planting its flag in the White House.

The president has commit- ted 3,000 more troops to Iraq. Yet they are ordered not to fight, which many feel will put them in grave danger.

Canada and Australia lost their innocence after their first terror attacks. But here’s one on the “best” side: Tunisia, the small Arab nation between Algeria and Libya, just adopted a new post-Arab Spring constitution that includes freedom of worship, conscience and gender equality — the first of its kind in the Arab world.

North Korea’s alleged cyber attack on Sony Pictures was a wake-up call but not as concerning as Communist China’s aggressive buildup of its air and sea power. Its leaders call the U.S. China’s main adversary, while also touting a new ICBM with up to 10 multiple nuclear warheads and a range of about 7,456 miles, aka the entire continental United States. As we shrink our U.S. Navy and military force strength, Chinese People’s Liberation Army is expanding.

Despite dangerous times, I end this year feeling positive. Most Americans are good, optimistic souls spreading kindness in the world, including our 2,900 troops in Liberia helping in
the Ebola crisis.

Dickens said these truths: “There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast. No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else.” He also said, “This is a world of action, and not for moping and droning in.”

We need action to fix what broke last year and will expect it from our new Congress, but we citizens must become engaged, too.

Wishing you an active, mope-free 2015.