The new year is always an excellent time for reflection, and this year it is especially so.
The nation in 2012 relished in part and suffered in part but yet survived another schismatic presidential campaign, only to be engulfed in national tragedy and sadness before we could get to Dec. 31.
In many ways, of course, the nation – a living body all its own – mirrors our individual lives. We and our families are often forced to make monumental decisions about our futures, judgment calls that affect us forever. We enjoy the good times, we grieve the sad times, and hopefully we emerge the stronger for it.
Along the way we sometimes misplace perspective as humans. We cling to regret and missed opportunities too long; we celebrate ourselves, as we should, but too often lose sight that individuals are nothing without the defining relationships in our lives.
We agree and disagree, we fight and make up, we pull and tug at the tensions between us – not to cut the ties that bind but to make them as tight as can be. Others are everything. Strip away our families, strip away our friends, strip away our coworkers, and we have nobody to feel for, one way or another.
The individual is suddenly void.
And so it is with nations. The United States of America is a great extended family, and an inclusive one. All those tweets by people with which you politically disagree are annoying, but they are quite like your sibling’s disagreeable family Facebook postings. You sigh, move on.
As a nation, we grapple with policies, and we should make decisions and move on. At times, though, as the humans we are, we forget we are all part of the family. It becomes rancorous.
We debate the policies, we prosecute the differences, many times sharply, we shove and shake our fists at the tensions between us, and often it seems we are headed for divorce. But the American way must be to resolve the disagreements at the constitutional table.
For strip away our various constituencies, our cultural diversity, our finely textured madras fabric of politics, and we have nobody to feel for politically or socioeconomically, one way or another.
The nation is suddenly void.
Lately, many say that none of us have done a very good job of sighing and moving on. The invective has become worse, the theory goes, though that too should be put into perspective – the American political family has always gathered around the dinner table a rough bunch of relatives.
And that brings us to the new year, and the need for national reflection. Being united does not mean we agree; it means we push and pull not to break the binding ties but to tighten them.
This year, then, let us pledge not to lose perspective. Regret is always a part of reflection, but it should not dominate the emotion. We should also celebrate our own politics as well as our differences in the true spirit of the opportunities their synthesis might afford the nation.
This new year will be no different from most others. Our national family shall once again be faced with monumental decisions that will affect us, and future generations, for a lifetime. We shall once again enjoy the good times, we shall once again grieve the sad times, for more sad times will come. They are part of the human condition.
Hopefully we shall emerge the stronger for it. As it turns out, the best way to reflect is to not to look back but to gaze forward. That is the pathway to new opportunity, for nations as well as people.