The Herald Bulletin

December 27, 2011

Primus Mootry: New Year's and new fears

By Primus Mootry
For The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — It is next to impossible to go into a new year without reflecting on the previous one. Time does not come in boxes. More than anything else, the human condition is experienced in terms of trends, eras and ages.

For this reason, all the hoopla surrounding New Year’s Day is mostly just that — hoopla. We say “ring out the old, bring in the new!” But what does that mean? In reality, the “old” is not yet old, and the “new” is unknown.

For example, the seminal event of the last decade or so was the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The attack prompted widespread speculation that, for a variety of reasons, America would never be the same again.

Barack Obama’s ascendance to the presidency brought with it the faint hope that things would get better; that America had become post-racial in its thinking; that the deep wounds of 9/11 would be healed; that the economy would right itself; and that Obama’s promise of change would become a reality.

Instead, we find ourselves in a time of greater fear and uncertainty. A few years ago, Sarah Palin asked Americans, “how’s that hopey, changey thing working out for you?”

Though the remark was no doubt intended to deride the Obama presidency, it had merit. Where is our best hope?

To the point, the three institutions — home, school and church — that historically have been viewed as the pillars of our society appear to be crumbling.

As to the home, unemployment rates at 9 percent (and double or triple that for many working class groups) combined with wildly unscrupulous home loan schemes has led to depression-era levels of home foreclosures.

What that means is that many entire families are either homeless or dependent on government programs, family and friends to keep them in their homes.  

Nearly half of America’s people are one or two paychecks away from poverty. Fifteen million American children are already in its grip.

At the same time, as an institution, the family is changing dramatically. Primarily due to high divorce rates, the traditional nuclear family (dad, mom, Dick, and Jane, and Spot) is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Schools? All the way from preschool to the university level, America’s schools are undergoing fundamental changes, primarily due to a lost commitment to public education.

In addition, however, highly publicized incidents of violence and the misdeeds of, no doubt, a relatively few teachers, coaches and school administrators, have led to a sharp increase in the rise of home schooling.

To the point, parents do not want to send their children to schools viewed as failure factories.  And worse, no parents send their children to any school with even the faintest expectation that it is a place where they may be harmed.

As with schools, churches are experiencing their own troubles. Again, due to the much publicized misdeeds of what is probably just a handful of pastors, ministers, priests and other church leaders, people are losing faith in the church as an institution.

Without going into any great detail about it, if our basic institutions — home, school and church — are in trouble, are we not in trouble as a society? According to recent polls, at 11 percent, our lost faith in government is alarming.

We are witnessing the emergence of powerful new groups such as the tea party and Occupy Wall Street. Also, the press of citizen groups such as gay rights activists and immigrant populations is placing new stresses on a government people already have lost faith in.

In the face of these and other well documented man-made or natural threats, like it or not, whether we can control it or not, change is coming. Change is here.

I suspect, however, that change of whatever magnitude is not our great enemy. Our great enemy is lost hope.

Our great enemy lies in the failure to understand the power of loving our neighbors as ourselves.  Our great enemy is holding on to ancient seeds of hate instead of planting new seeds of hope.

In the final analysis, the change we seek is in ourselves. We will find it only if we believe in ourselves and in God.

As it is written, God is love. Men will either begin to act on this simple precept, or continue on the ancient dangercourse to self-destruction.

Have a nice day.

Primus Mootry is an Anderson resident. His column is published each Wednesday.