The New Year

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It’s good to have a fresh start with a New Year.

Time to look back and reflect on the past, the good old days and the bad old days.

There is little nostalgia for 2002. There was too much spillover from September 11, 2001. The fear of something “big” happening that would terrorize us as much as September 11 haunted us, as it does still.

Our outlook on life has changed: more uncertainty, less freedom, more anxiety. We know that terror is likely to strike again; what we do not know is where and when.

2002 was a year in which corporate American exposed its raw capacity for greed and corruption.

It was a year during which the drumbeat of war with Iraq has become louder and louder, waking us up in the middle of the night as we reach the conclusion that in 2003 war is almost inevitable.

It was a year in which global warming got worse and American environmental policy took a huge step backward.

But bad news sometimes turns into good news.

The good news is that we are taking as many steps as possible to prevent further terrorism, even as we know there is no certainty in these uncharted waters.

The good news is that the United States learned that we can’t go to war unilaterally and must work with our allies and the United Nations, even as the administration is champing at the bit to go it alone.

And it is good news that a small but vocal peace movement has begun to speak out.

Even the corruption in corporate America may lead to reforms to curb the criminal and immoral actions and create more transparency for the public.

The resignation of Senator Trent Lott under pressure for racist remarks has a kernel of good news, if you look closely. Instead of sloughing off his sentimentality for the “good old days” of racism, the public soundly rejected him, and he became a political embarrassment.

But there is an irrepressible urge to look at the new year with optimism, even if we do not greet it with cork-popping revelry. Despite our apprehensions about 2003, it is part of the human condition to continue to hope.

January first is a new beginning. We feel it when we put the new calendar on the wall. There is a chance, after all, that we will get a fresh start, learn from the past, and live in a more just world.

There is only one wish that I ask of the New Year as it arrives, as a newborn babe in swaddling clothes: I wish that 2003 will give us what we most desire – peace on earth, goodwill to all.

This is Madeleine May Kunin.

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