Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Beginning a brand-new clean calendar at the turn of the year provides all of us the perfect opportunity to take stock of the past and make changes for a better future, especially those things we may have been procrastinating about. It is also a new legislative session for Mississippi lawmakers, joining the new 112th Congress in Washington to search for and find solutions for the myriad of issues facing our country in the decade ahead.
The first 10 years of the 21st century were perhaps one of the most contentious in memory, what with terrorists attacking the United States, the world's free-falling economy, the rise of the ultra-conservative tea party and hysteria toward America's first African American president. The decade saw our involvement in two of our longest-running foreign wars, international economic instability and a handful of major environmental disasters including a tsunami, a few devastating hurricanes, earthquakes and a disastrous oil geyser in the Gulf of Mexico.
Given the turmoil we find ourselves in at the dawning of the second decade of the century, it's easy to forget that the previous decade began in relative peace. Our biggest worries New Year's Eve 1999 may have been whether our computer systems were ready for the millennial change, or whether the doomsday prophets were right in saying the world was going to end at the stroke of midnight.
Which of us in January 2000 would have foretold the World Trade Center attacks of September 2001, or the near-collapse of the international economy less than eight years later?
The events of the decade have been a boon for fear mongerers and sensationalists, and that's a real shame, because fear is not useful. Fearful people are likely to make illogical snap judgments instead of calm, clear, rational decisions. Our two- to four-year political system makes it difficult to engage in long-term decision-making, yet that is the mandate for every new Legislature and every new Congress.
As Tom Head so eloquently states in his opinion column this week, this legislative session, perhaps more than any other recent convening of our elected leadership, gives ordinary citizens the opportunity to shape what kind of future we want—in our state and for our country. We must demand that our leaders tone down their rhetoric on divisive wedge issues and keep their eyes on what is important to all of us: quality education, health and wellness, businesses responsible not just for profits and to their stockholders, but to the environment, their workforce and to the consumers of their products as well.
Democracy and the freedoms we hold dear in this country come to us hard won with blood and tears. It is up to each of us to fully wake up and watch our leaders with eagle eyes, ever vigilant for divisive speech and ineffectual knee-jerk policy. It's up to us to bring them back to crafting a future that works for us all.