Monday, January 01, 2007

New Years

By: Michael Akerman

Today is January 1st, 2007.

Today is a day for celebration and consideration, mourning and meditation.

We should celebrate the arrival of the new year, which, in keeping with traditions, is a blank slate for our achievements and skills. We have a fresh year in which to further perfect ourselves, and I hope you all do.

We should mourn those lost in the last year and celebrate what they gave in life. Each person grants unique traits and skills to the world, and every person, from a bishop to a murderer, is loved by at least one person. It is something to be thankful for: the human species is hard pressed to totally abandon someone. Even without families, there are millions of regular people who gladly help those in need, through organized charity or good old-fashioned pleasantness.

We should mourn the continued presence of evil in the world, which seemingly cannot be erased from human nature. We should do our part, though, to try to stop it in ourselves and our neighbors. We must try to consider the full consequences of our actions, and not let our baser instincts guide our actions. We must pay attention to the needs and actions of our neighbors, so that crimes cannot go unseen. Knowing of abuse or rape or any other heinous act and ignoring it is as criminal as carrying out the action yourself.

We should celebrate the strength of the American economy, which has only failed in any real sense once and is strong in boom or recession. However, we should mourn the state of the impoverished and unemployed, and consider what we can do to help our downtrodden neighbors. Perhaps this means government intervention or perhaps the ultimate solution is lower taxes to create jobs: either way, we can't truly effect that change. What we can do is provide our time, energy, and money to others. Donate to charities, bring a nice dinner to a family pressed into hard times, or volunteer to work at a church daycare, and always remember that those you are helping are dignified brothers and sisters in mankind who deserve not our pity, but our aide. Help others and others will help you: that is the only way mankind has ever survived.

We should celebrate our American republic. Even if you think our rights have been attacked, or that the administration seeks empirical power, know that the checks and balances still work. The Congress has been pushed back to the Democratic party, the Supreme Court stands stalwart, with no apparent bias (regarding the court as a whole, not individual justices). Even the fear and stupidity over terrorism has died down. We traveled by air over Christmas break, and only had to wait about 10 minutes or less after checking our luggage to get to the gate.

As the number of casualties hits 3000 today, we should mourn the soldiers lost in the continuing war in Iraq. In doing so, we should celebrate their bold sacrifice to our country (though not precisely in defense of it). Volunteers all, our soldiers knew of the risks of their profession yet still were willing to risk it all in service. That is the definition of bravery.

And we should celebrate that the war has incurred so few casualties. After nearly four years, only 3000 of our soldiers have died. In the approximately four years of US involvement in World War II, some 407,000 soldiers died. Though each death is tragic, this war has represented a triumph of technology and battle strategy that has prevented unnecessary military deaths.

That said, we should mourn the extended nature of the war and the failed post-war strategy. The Iraq War was an effective war that failed to stick the landing, with the war administration, from the President to the generals, failing to plan for the unique challenges of nation-building. We should consider why, and how to fix it. The problem, as I see it, is one of training and effort. Our generals, brilliant though they be, are not trained for nation-building. Though they are great at strategy, they aren't practiced in peace, and few people possess the kind of genius that allows them to tackle a problem effectively with no prior experience. While the government is in the unique position of knowing how to run a nation, very little effort was put forth to enact that knowledge in Iraq. I believe that the solution to the Iraq problem lies in our experience politicians: the governors, senators, and representatives who have proven themselves brilliant in the administration of government, in the provision of services, and in the maintenance of an economy.

These should be the overarching resolutions for our government and ourselves in 2007. Each American who cares for his country should try to meet these ideals, regardless of what his other resolutions be.

But most importantly this year, take some time to laugh. Find activities that you enjoy doing, and spend some time doing them. Don't kill yourself with work or worry, because life is short already, and all of our earthly achievements are distressingly fleeting. So, enjoy yourselves and let others do the same by having fun while avoiding causing grief to your fellow man.

And have a happy 2007, dear readers. Regardless of the quantity or frequency of posts, IVIC will still be here as long as I can maintain it. Let this be a year of learning and growth, of happiness and laughter, and of achievement and pride for each of you!

By my hand,
~Michael Akerman