Every New Year, we each take some time to look backward at what came before and to gaze forward at what looms ahead. What will the New Year hold? Will it be better or worse than the past?
The 1947 movie “The Bishop’s Wife” contains a famous Christmas Eve sermon, which tells the story of an empty stocking:
“And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. It’s his birthday we are celebrating. Don’t ever let us forget that. Let us ask ourselves what he would wish for most, and then let each put in his share—loving kindness, warm hearts and the stretched out hand of tolerance—all the shining gifts that make peace on earth.”
Looking back at 2015, both here in America and across the globe, I saw too little loving-kindness and less and less tolerance. The background noise around our days was ramped up as we entered the harangue that is our presidential election cycle. Nearly every candidate in our political parties tried to outshout each other and to be harsher and more strident toward immigrants in general, Muslims in particular. As we become more fearful, both here and abroad, those who march to the beat of racially, religiously, ethnically, nationally pure politics gain more followers by promising security via blaming and attacking those who are different. Thus the source of our troubles and fears.
Looking forward to 2016, the primaries and general election will continue to ramp up the rhetoric. I foresee free speech devolving into free-to-hate speech. There are so many challenges facing us. At one time, as a nation, we pulled together for the greater good. Now, we continue to treat our politics and our government as a horse race between the two parties. Who is ahead and by how far? How many races has each side won? What the candidates and the elected officials want to accomplish as policy is nearly irrelevant.
Near the end of the Civil War, Lincoln proposed a plan of reconciliation and reconstruction. The plan was based not on punishing the southern states, but on swiftly reintegrating them into the Union. Although the moderate majority of Republicans in Congress supported the plan, the radical Republicans continued to hold out for an extreme plan requiring harsh punishments.
While the radical Republicans were the minority party, they managed to sway many moderates in the postwar years and came to dominate Congress in later sessions. This led to harsh policies and decades of suffering. We will never know what might have happened had Lincoln lived to lead the nation after the war ended. Instead, we got a different leader who marched down a different congressional path.
In 2016, we will likely see another such schism between two extremely different leaders looking to march us in two very different directions. This time next year, we will be awaiting the inauguration of our new president, looking down the path of the next few decades trying to get a glimpse of our future.
Submitted by Craig Donovan