At midnight on Jan. 1, 2005, I felt the thrill of time's passage as I joined others in that traditional heartfelt yawp, “Happy New Year!”
An ugly year was finally over. That realization struck with genuine euphoria, for 2004 had been unbelievably dishonest, catastrophic, and, it seemed, unending.
Two catastrophes—one contrived by people, one by nature--pummeled like-minded friends and relations at year's end with the force of body blows
An executive I know in Detroit's automotive industry summed up the first one, when he said, “I can't believe we re-elected the village idiot president.” OK, that's harsh, but maybe not harsh enough. After all, it ignores the cruelty, dishonesty and secretive nature many detect in our president. Still, it'll do in a rush.
Videos showing towering walls of water summed up the second catastrophe—the tsunami that struck much of coastal Asia the day after Christmas last year.
As I say, those disasters arrived with the force of body blows—laying waste to consolation offered in Christmas cards--notions of peace and good will on Earth. So, good riddance to 2004—I felt the sentiment strongly in the first hours of 2005. It was something to celebrate. By then, most anything would've done.
Of course, that was before Katrina waltzed on-stage and swallowed New Orleans. Before earthquakes, drought, brushfires and other natural disasters marred 2005. Before torture, deceit, use of illegal weapons and other corrupt activities made headlines.
Still, such headlines provided THE silver lining for 2005. The national media finally showed signs of stirring. The country was getting smarter. There was hope again. The president's approval ratings plummeted. Scandals broke out all over—unsavory, yet healthy signs. Suddenly the Bush agenda was in trouble. That's why I won't be so euphoric to see this year pass on come New Year's Eve.
After all, 2005 will be remembered as the year Bush lost his bid to “reform” social security in the way he'd planned, by privatizing and shrinking the program.
It's the year he officially gave up on building a new generation of nuclear “bunker busting” weapons (though who knows what might be happening behind the scenes).
It was the year critics managed to derail one Supreme Court nomination and stall another.
The year the Downing Memos became well known enough to make more people than ever question Bush's official reasons for invading Iraq.
It was the year the Valerie Plame affair finally broke out into open scandal and Vice-president Dick Cheney's top aide, Scooter Libby, was indicted.
The year the Senate moved to ban torture and bring us back into compliance with the Geneva Accords.
The year the press bothered to report what many had suspected—that the government was illegally wiretapping hundreds or thousands of U.S. citizens.
The year Congressional corruption broke into public, as indictments were handed down against Tom Delay and others. The year Bill Frist's insider trading activity was finally scrutinized.
It was the year that lobbyists' rip-off tactics against Native Americans became public, igniting a scandal that threatens to grow and grow.
It was the year a majority decided in hindsight that invading Iraq had been a bad idea.
The year election reform took off and states began saying “no” to Diebold voting machines.
It was the year more and more people began to say the word “Impeachment” in public.
Admittedly, we're ending 2005 in a deep hole. Osama bin Laden remains at large. The national debt is growing so fast it could swallow future generations like some fiscal Katrina spewing red ink. Iraq appears headed for civil war. Genocide's bloody maw continues to ravage the Sudan. The oceans are heating up, the ice caps are melting, species are dying. The air, especially around here, is poisonous. Mountaintop removal has become a favored way of extracting coal. The religious right threatens to swamp all rational debate.
Still, signs of life and progress are stirring in the wasteland, and 2006 promises to be another year of “getting real.” Bring it on. There's lots of backfilling to be done.