One can only wonder if the new year is to be anything like the past year, both domestically and internationally; whether the 90-year-old parents of a friend of mine are right when they mischievously respond as to how they view the current world situation.
"We're probably getting out just in time," they observe.
One might well seriously agree with them if it were not for the fact that many of us have children and grandchildren, and we would like to hope that we could leave a world for them that, at least to some degree, was better than the one they entered.
With each passing day, however, we find ourselves faced with the consequences of the Machiavellian principle that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We see our nation's social, political and economic order repeatedly using our social mores, our economy, our mass entertainment, our media, our political parties, our government and the lives of our men and women to further an agenda built on hypocrisy, deceit, secrecy, violence and greed that benefits the few at the expense of the many.
Even more tragic, contrary to what the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld crowd keeps repeating about spreading our form of democracy throughout the world, we see the exporting of our form of the aforementioned immorality to those other nations.
Contrary to what many political and media pundits keep repeating, little if anything good has emerged in the aftermath of the horror of 9/11. In the name of "fighting terrorism" we see not only our civil liberties at home being slowly scuttled but the loss of over 2100 of our sons', daughters', mothers' and fathers' lives, with some further 15,000 being wounded, fighting in an immoral war where the term "victory" is as hollow as the leaders who instigated it.
At the same time as we've become occupiers in an area of the world we know little about -- except that it supplies us with fuel to pollute our environment and to provide energy companies with obscene profits -- our country remains nearly as vulnerable to attacks such as September 11's than it was on that fateful day, as the recent 9/11 Commission's report card dramatically illustrated.
The first function of any government, as the Commission members repeatedly pointed out, is to protect its people. One does that through education, preparedness and transparency, not by spending over $400 billion on making the nation's defense contractors rich and by openly disregarding our basic human rights.
What makes this whole situation even more tragic is how the media and our so-called entertainment industry has allowed itself to become manipulated. In the media's case, we have seen it take the role of a mere stenographer for the White House and the Secretary of Defense's office propaganda, while our movies and television shows and programs in the name of "reality" and "action-packed" become increasingly and intrusively shallow and violent.
As we recently witnessed on our TV screens and on the Internet during the holiday season, advertisers, not content to peddle their wares outside the sanctity of the home, offered up a plethora of ads for home video games, replete with violent images and situations.
While the "moral crusaders" that roam our country like to frequently denounce "sex and violence" in our entertainment industry, it is the sex part that draws their particular outrage as the principal corrupter in our society today.
This, despite the fact that numerous studies have shown that sex has little or no influence when it comes to instigating criminal behavior, while witnessing the violent behavior that we have become subjected to in recent years has frequently motivated such human tragedies as those we have witnessed in our nation in the past ten to 20 years.
Thus, the self-styled "moral crusaders" obsess on corpus morality while the truly important moral questions facing the world today -- feeding and housing the poor, universal health care, equal justice under law, war and peace, love of neighbor, etc. -- go neglected, if not ignored.
Unless it is understood, removed from the political arena and addressed within the context of a multicultural, multi-religious world, this division between radical fundamentalism and what Jim Wallis has so succinctly described as "God's politics" in his book by the same name promises surely to be the major battleground of the 21st century.
Ultimately, it is up the peoples of this world to help resolve these challenges in the name of our peace and well-being. On the political level, that requires more than answering questions to this or that poll concerning the level of confidence one has in one's leaders.
It is going to require hard work, the courage of one's convictions, the ability to speak truth to power and to organize, such as the relatives of the victims of 9/11 have done in the intervening years since their tragic losses.
E. Stevenson once wrote, "People get the kind of government they deserve." In an age when hardly a day goes by that an increasing number of Americans aren't appalled and shocked by what they see and hear emanating from their governmental leaders, it would be wise to once again consider not only Stevenson's warning, but also the wise words of Pogo:
"I have seen the enemy and it is us."
A.V. Krebs is director of the Corporate Agribusiness Research Project, P.O. Box 2201, Everett, WA 98203. He publishes a free email newsletter, The Agribusiness Examiner; email firstname.lastname@example.org.