The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

January 2, 2014

Geoff Caldwell, columnist: Remember that we've still got it good

JOPLIN, Mo. — The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is  a week of boredom for political junkies. Members of Congress are scattered to the winds, the president is away from prying eyes, and the regular media anchors are all grabbing some down time while they can. (One could argue that we’d all be better off if they just didn’t come back, but I digress.)

While news from somewhere about something or other does find its way into the 24-hour news cycle, as far as the American political scene is concerned, the world stops spinning the last week in December.

The “news” of the day becomes a constant loop of the best of this, the worst of that, the born, the dead, the tragedies and the joys; it is 51 weeks crammed into one to feed the news beast.

And, of course, we must have the year-end polls to tell us what anyone with more than half a brain already knows: Americans of every political stripe agree that 2013 pretty much sucked.

Who can blame them? The unemployment number is down, but that’s only because the labor participation rate is at its lowest level in over three decades.

In just five years of our 237-year existence, we have stolen almost $7 trillion from our children’s future to distribute entitlements and buy votes today.

More Americans have lost their lives in the desolation of Afghanistan during President Barack Obama’s “ending” of that war than all of the Bush years combined.

Gasoline is still above $3 a gallon, the boxes on the grocery store shelves continue to shrink while the prices inch ever higher.  

Thanks to an Environmental Protection Agency that prefers ideology over sound cost-benefit analysis, electric rates are higher than ever. The disruption and economic uncertainty brought to us by the Affordable Care Act is only beginning to be felt.

As depressing as that news is and as uncertain as the future may be, we’ve still got it good.  

There have been far, far worse New Year’s Days.

Take Jan. 1, 1778, when George Washington was settling in his fledgling Continental Army for a winter that would see the first “do nothing” Congress fail so miserably that nearly 2,500 men would never live to fight the British — taken down not by a redcoat’s musket but a simple lack of food and clothing.

On Jan. 1, 1945, in Bastogne, Belgium, what was left of the 101st Airborne Division could only watch as one after another of their buddies succumbed to their wounds and the elements. In just the first two weeks of what is known as the Battle of the Bulge, the 101st alone would suffer over 2,000 casualties.

Six years later, on New Year’s Day 1951, American troops faced a surge of 500,000 North Korean and Communist Chinese forces in the bitter cold of the Korean peninsula.

Yes, 2013 may have been a crappy year, and yes, this New Year’s Day opens with much uncertainty, but when viewed through the lens of history, I challenge anyone reading this to say they’ve got it worse than those who went before us.

God bless the men and women of the American armed forces, who year after year make every new year here at home safe and free.

Geoff Caldwell writes on national and international affairs. He lives in Joplin. Contact him at gc@caldwellscorner.com.

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