By Joe Rector

Well, I certainly expected some good things, or at least better ones, to come with the new year. However, fate, karma, the good Lord, or something made the decision to keep things going the same. It’s been a long stretch for even the strongest optimist.

Millions of us nervously waited for the Covid-19 vaccinations and boosters, and we faithfully stood in lines or reserved dates to receive them. About 62% of Americans have been vaccinated. That means 4 out of 10 folks are in danger of contracting the latest variant of Covid-19: Omicron. Although some break-through cases have appeared in vaccinated individuals, the majority of infected people haven’t been vaccinated. Right now, our country is seeing record hospitalizations and new infections every day. This is year 3 of this pandemic, but some folks just haven’t gotten the message yet.

Yesterday, a report indicated that our carbon emissions into the atmosphere rose 6% last year. I can understand that such increases were going to happen as more people ventured out of their homes and back to work and to stores. Still, we are poisoning the air that we breathe and the atmosphere that protects us. My greatest concern is that our attention to cleaning up this earth will wane. That means some people alive today will find new beaches closer to home as sea levels rise. Killer storms will continue to descend on communities and destroy homes, businesses, and lives.

The U.S. finally exited a war that had dragged on for 20 years. Yet, before we could take a deep breath and let out a long sigh, Russia amassed its troops and war machine around Ukraine. Putin then began threatening with a list of ultimatums that neither the U.S. nor any other NATO nation was going to accept. The Russian leader seemed to be just out of kilter enough to be willing to start another war just to regain the power once held by the Soviet Union. The world might be witnessing the return of the Cold War.

Inflation is slamming our economy. Citizens see it clearest in the soaring prices at the gas pump. Even more shocking are the prices at the grocery store. They keep climbing, and families are cutting items from their normal diets because they can no longer afford to purchase them. Even items such as Coke and Pepsi are raising prices by whopping amounts.

When inflation is controlled, the sure bet is that prices at the pump and in the aisles won’t drop. Once businesses gain a hold on higher prices, they are hesitant to lose gains to give customers a break. Any increases workers achieve in pay are gobbled up by soaring prices on necessities.

Our government is still as divided as at any time in history. Parties refuse to work together to solve problems. Instead of working on problems, representatives choose to fight any idea the opposition suggests. More important to them is whether they can win re-election. “To hell with the citizens” is their mantra. Loyalty to a person or party provides safety for their positions. In the meantime, democracy swirls around the bowl.

So little is needed to make this year a good one. Vaccinations will relieve the crunch on the healthcare system. Standing strong against a dictator requires calling his bluff and seeing if he will endanger his country should he push war. Freezing prices for 90 days will help families to stretch their paychecks until prices are rolled back. As important as anything is our work on electing persons who are more interested in caring for citizens than their personal wealth and success.

I hope we see a sharp turnaround so that by summer we are once again the shining beacon on the hill and the country which others look to for guidance. We shall see soon enough because the years seem to fly by.