Recaps of the highlights and lowlights of 2019 have filled our televisions, newspapers and the internet for the past several weeks.
It’s human nature to look to the past — to savor our accomplishments and to remember the tragedies, losses and hardships we had to endure in the past year.
I was tempted to go down that road. I was tempted to rekindle some of the memories — the anger, disappointment and frustrations that were felt as we experienced the absurdities of life.
It seemed that many people in power accepted those absurdities. Many other people in power, and many folks in general, simply chose to stand by and watch as weird things, absurd things, continued to happen. It was frustrating.
It was frustrating to watch the same mistakes being made over and over again. President Trump, as have presidents before him, promised to drain-the-swamp.
Instead, the swamp seems to be getting deeper and more hazardous. Alligators seem to be crawling into the swamp from all directions, from the far left and the far right.
There is supposed to be a distinct separation between the three branches of government, but in the past few years that separation appears to have become more of a chasm. The only separation that appears to be wider than the one between our branches of government is the giant chasm that separates the Republicans and Democrats.
It would appear that the distance between the extreme-left of the Democratic Party and the ultra-right-wing of the Republican Party can now only be measured in light-years.
As we face 2020, with the national, state and local elections that occur every four years and the dialogue, commercials and debates that surround those elections, we can certainly expect… well, I guess we should expect about anything.
If the election of 2016 can be used as an example, we better tighten our cinches and hang on. There will be insults, name-calling, wild claims, gross exaggerations and out-right lying coming from every direction.
We may not want to listen to the political rantings and rancorous language that will fill 2020, but we will need to listen close enough to decide who is going to get our vote. We will need to sift through all the words being said, the statements and claims coming from one side and the other.
Regardless of your political affiliation, we have decisions facing us in the coming year. Those decisions must be made logically, not with the passions and misinformation that will flow during the debates.
When remembering the debates of 2016, I am reminded of a famous quote from the Irish playwright, political activist and Nobel Prize winner George Bernard Shaw.
He once said, “Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.”
The same can be said of politicians. They certainly don’t mind wallowing in the mud. So, next year, as usual, I will listen to anyone who is running for office. I will prayerfully consider who might be the best person to have in office and I will vote accordingly.
Next year, I will attempt to live my life according to the teachings of the Gospels and, additionally, I will try to adhere to the principles of an organization I belonged to for many years – The Optimist Club.
The Wilmington Optimist Club met weekly for breakfast. We started every meeting with a group recitation of the Optimist Creed. The creed is an acknowledgment of how an optimist should live each day.
“Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet. To make all your friends feel that there is something in them. To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
“To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best. To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own. To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future. To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile. To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others. To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.”
2020 will soon be in our hands. We will be responsible for making next year a great year or not.
Starting tomorrow, it will all be up to us.
Always remember, our futures have not yet been written.
Let’s start writing.
Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.