My hopes for the new year are quite simple.
After witnessing a nasty and controversial election for President, including accusations of foreign interference, many residents of the U.S. are still feeling a bit uncertain about what 2017 may bring in terms of changes in politics, media, economics, civil rights and ecology.
Following these emotional and unpredictable roller coaster rides, it’s not surprising that folks might be experiencing some well-founded public apprehension. As a result, new coalitions are being formed to address these issues involving activists, educators and organizers who are worried that their efforts to encourage progressive policies may have been in vain in light of the current right-wing corporatist trends coming from the new administration.
Popular points of view reflect an all-time low in regards to the “trust factor.” Many members of both major political parties are unhappy with their own leadership. Independents think both Democrats and Republicans are simply corrupt clubs for millionaires.
Locally this opinion is being expressed in numerous ways, including an ongoing series of community meetings that have been taking place all around the city. These well-attended gatherings began with a mass convergence on Capitol Hill after the election of Donald Trump.
So, with this context in mind, here are my simple wishes for the new year:
I hope that our political system is able to reform itself enough to begin directly addressing the vital issues that we all face locally and across the rest of the country. These issues include threats to democracy and fair elections, use of fossil fuel and the resulting environmental damage, extreme economic inequality, normalization of racial prejudice and bigotry, etc.
So far there hasn’t been much evidence that our traditional institutions are adequate to deal with these major challenges.
I hope the highly compensated corporate CEOs, managers and stockholders will learn to display responsibility and compassion when it comes to controlling economic and natural resources, treating workers with respect, monopolizing markets, displacing populations and adversely affecting culturally vibrant communities.
I hope for an improvement in our international relations and in our reputation as a democratic and globally conscious nation.
I wish for a recommitment to the First Amendment guarantee to freedom of the press. I hope for a move toward higher professional standards in journalism and honesty in reporting. There is an impression among media democracy activists that the mega-giant corporate networks have replaced journalistic integrity with a crass desire for profits and sensationalism.
Lately I find it more difficult to determine whether some of the “fake news” is actually coming from previously trustworthy national news networks. Walter Cronkite would be disgusted by the often vapid and illiterate super-hype machine that has now become the U.S. news media. Media pundits certainly did a lousy job of predicting the results of the most recent election for president.
New forms of sane, responsible and independent media sources will have to be created online to inform us of what’s really going on. Without access to available platforms to speak the truth, accurate information will not be heard by a mass audience.
Current restrictive control of U.S. media by multinational corporations is one of the major obstacles to press freedom, and one of the main reasons that Reporters Without Borders ranks the U.S. as 41st in the world in terms of freedom of the press. We can and must do much better than this! It’s up to all publishers, editors, producers and journalists to speak out on this subject and to reform our own profession.
If any of these hopes and wishes are to be realized, the public must become engaged in the local and national dialogue. New working class and minority voices must rise up to be heard through those noisy campaign rally loud speakers. Progressives must either regain their political party or finally resolve be done with the organization and let it die a natural death...
And, most of all, extremism in all its forms must be confronted directly and exposed as the destructive force behind all totalitarianism and political oppression.
The historic events of 2017 have not yet been written about or even acted out, so in that sense the slate is still blank. The fact that no one has been able to accurately predict recent events proves that many possibilities still exist. My wish is for cooler heads to prevail, and I hope some parts of this country will still continue to move forward with our experiment in diversity and economic/social opportunity.
We have a lot of work to do in the coming year if we have any chance of avoiding an extremely regressive turn toward the bad old days of oligarchy, corrupt politics and racial/gender discrimination.
We are still fighting that long continuous battle for civil rights that began in 1776.