Will 2022 be a good year? That depends on how one judges years. Sometimes we judge them on a personal basis: for example, 1964 is etched in my memory because it is the year I graduated from high school (good), but it is also the year I received my draft notice from the army (bad). The years each of my six children were born are very special to me, though I tend to forget exactly which years those were.
Some years are more historically significant than others. For example, in 1492, Columbus discovered “the new world;” in 1776, we declared our independence from Britain; in 1929, the stock market crashed; in 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. 2020 and 2021 were years of the corona virus pandemic, storms, forest fires, riots and unhinged political turmoil. Judging from the headlines, 2022 may not be much better.
But the United States has faced troubled times in the past and we have managed to pull through. The worst year I can recall was 1968. It began with North Korea seizing the USS Pueblo and holding its 82 crew members as prisoners. Battles were raging along the Israeli-Jordan border (nothing particularly unusual about that). The war in Viet Nam was going poorly—the Viet Cong launched their Tet Offensive and attacked the U.S. Embassy in Saigon as anti-war protests were escalating around the U.S. In March, our gold reserves at Fort Knox were running low, so Congress repealed the requirement that the U.S. dollar be backed by gold, which allowed the Federal Reserve to “monetize” the federal debt by simply printing more money to buy government bonds. (Gold was $32 an ounce at the time; today it takes $1,800 dollars to buy an ounce of gold). In April, Martin Luther King was assassinated and riots broke out in many of our major cities. Then Robert Kennedy, John Kennedy’s younger brother, was assassinated in June. In August, the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia to crush the “Prague Spring” uprising, while in the U.S., anti-war protestors battled police during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
The result of all this was that Lyndon Johnson, who had defeated conservative Republican Barry Goldwater in 1964 by the largest landslide in U.S. political history, had become so unpopular that he decided not to run for re-election. The Democrats then nominated Hubert Humphrey as their candidate; the Republicans nominated Richard Nixon; and George Wallace, the former governor of Alabama, jumped in the race on a populist platform that appealed to many Southerners and blue-collar workers. Wallace carried five southern states with 46 electoral votes, allowing Richard Nixon to become president with only 43 percent of the popular vote.
If you think political consensus is the key to peace and prosperity, you are wrong. Our longest period of political consensus was when Franklin Roosevelt was elected to four consecutive terms as president. But that was during the Great Depression and World War II. Other than that, American political history is full of turmoil and controversy. Yet we managed to survive, grow, and prosper.
So, there is reason to believe that whatever comes our way, the nation can pull together to meet the challenge. My greatest fear is that the longing for peace and tranquility may lead the U.S., and the world, down the path to authoritarianism and autocracy. There is a strong case to be made for that; political history shows that when people are fearful, they often trade their liberty for security.
No one knows what the next 12 months will bring. One can only guess. Russia could invade Ukraine; the Chinese could move to re-take Taiwan; a new variant of the corona virus could pop up; inflation could increase, causing interest rates to rise and weakening the dollar in foreign trade; the Republicans could regain control of Congress. But what would that mean? Would they be traditional Republicans or candidates beholden to former president Trump?
In times of such uncertainty, the best investment one can make is in their family and their faith in a God that rewards love and kindness. Those are the things that brought our nation through troubled times in the past — not a trust in politicians who promise to use the power of government to smite our enemies. For in the end, good shall prosper, and good comes from individuals, not the government.
I recently lost another dear friend when Dr. Anita Fields-Gold died on Dec. 7. She was a dean emeritus of the College of Nursing at McNeese for 25 years, but I knew her best from her involvement with ACTS theater. I was on the board when Anita volunteered to work backstage. But it wasn’t long before she was persuaded to play some roles on stage, and she was great at it, eventually winning “Best Actress” for her performance in Solid Gold Cadillac. She became the chairman of the board and guided ACTS through some difficult times.
I last spoke with her at the production of 42nd Street. She wasn’t feeling well, but was determined to see the theater’s comeback production. Cathy and I miss her very much and extend our condolences to her husband, Maurice Gold.