Opinion Columns & Blogs

A less than fond farewell to 2009

For many Americans, 2009 no doubt brought good tidings and unforgettably joyous occasions.

But count me among those who will be eagerly watching the clock as this year finally draws to a close.

At the risk of sounding like a completely ungrateful soul, I acknowledge that I have plenty to be thankful for. I have a loving family. I have good health. I am still employed.

Nevertheless, 2009 has left me feeling more pessimistic about the future.

To be sure, the year began on an optimistic-enough note. I recall the excitement of seeing the nation elect its first African-American president, a day I thought would not come in my lifetime.

I was jubilant as I sat in the home of some fellow county residents who listened intently as Aretha Franklin — in her larger-than-life hat — sang “My Country Tis of Thee” at President Barack Obama’s inauguration, ushering in what I hoped would be a new era of cooperation.

But the fervor of that moment quickly faded as trouble brewed on countless fronts, overshadowing the many accomplishments of the past year.

Partisan bickering soon returned in full force in our nation’s capital. The economy inched ever closer to collapse as our government scrambled to bail out our financial system.

Homeowners, many of whom bought more home than they could afford, struggled to pay their mortgages. And employees — among them San Luis Obispo County teachers and some of my colleagues at The Tribune — lost their jobs as the unemployment rate ticked ever upward.

My hometown of Detroit fell into an even deeper hole following the bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler.

Meanwhile, in California, the state’s budget crisis left gaping holes in education and social services, and government workers were furloughed.

Then, swine flu paid a visit, raising fears among a public that anxiously awaited a vaccine to protect them, only to find out later that thousands of doses of the vaccine were recalled because they may not have been strong enough.

Closer to home, several hard-money lending firms bilked investors — some of them older people who invested their retirement savings — out of millions of dollars.

With all of this swirling in the universe, it seemed that 2009 gave us all big lumps of coal in our stockings. It’s going to take years just to clean up the mess.

It was no wonder that in my encounters with many in our community this year, I often detected a case of the blues, and a sense that at least things can’t get any worse.

I know that I am looking at the glass half empty, and that there are wonderful acts of generosity, kindness and good will happening far and wide.

In the midst of hardship, people always find ways to survive and even thrive. Sometimes, we have only to look to our family members, colleagues and neighbors to see how each of us can make a difference, even in the most trying of circumstances.

As I cuddle up with family on Dec. 31, I’ll close my eyes and pledge to do my part to move this community and our nation forward in words and deeds.

So, here’s a toast to 2010. May it signal a return to hope, peace and joy, something that for many among us has been sadly overdue.