So, 2014 is done for. It was a year that happily ended with a pickup in the economy and other blessings but also had its excruciating moments and sometimes something making those moments and others in the further past worse: inappropriate or overreaching reactions.
Civilized, life-enhancing opportunity can emerge when there are constructive, if deeply sorrowful, answers to destructive events while mistaken turns keep hurting more and more. Not least of the mistaken turns this past year occurred after a policeman fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. There were riots and arson that afflicted the innocent, destroying businesses owned by community residents, serving residents and employing residents.
Heartfelt, deep, angry concern that some policemen may let race dictate deadly deeds is understandable, but riots are not understandable and neither were the arguments that a fair, thorough grand jury investigation in the Ferguson case should have been manipulated to bring about an indictment.
Nor was it justified to condemn all New York City policemen after another horrid incident, especially when the force as a whole has done more to deter crime, save lives and avoid mass incarceration than maybe any police force in America. We need interracial healing that acknowledges and addresses what’s wrong without generating other wrongs, that looks for more civic involvement, at deep cultural issues affecting all races, at education, at better social programs and at a criminal justice system that in some respects in some places does not operate as it should.
Another reaction to a past issue — this one during the administration of George W. Bush — was a Senate report on torture that had some grievous faults. Big ones were that it was a partisan Democratic effort in which key intelligence players were not given a chance to testify and that denied the convincing case that some of the methods employed in seeking information did produce useful information.
There is good reason for discussion of all the report’s major points (along with discussing the killing of civilians and a U.S. citizen in President Barack Obama’s drone attacks), but why insist on an official, off-key trumpet blare when Secretary of State John Kerry was warning it could cause the killing of hostages in the Middle East? Despite their own skirting of the matter, it should be pointed out, too, that many congressional leaders had no objections when informed of CIA policies when they were being instituted.
The computer hacking attack on Sony Pictures, whether committed by North Korea’s thuggish leaders or others, is frightening because it underlines a massive, new-age vulnerability that could cripple this country in a host of ways. It was made worse when news outlets as much as did the bidding of the hackers when they shared embarrassing, internal emails with the public and when Sony initially said it would not show a movie making fun of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Sony is now sharing the film after all and what news outlets should do is understand that they were in effect using stolen goods to further inspire criminals or enemies for the sake of no higher purpose than reader titillation.
Finally, let’s visit with Obama’s way of dealing with the self-imposed plight of illegal immigrants by essentially making many of them legal for at least a little while. There was no hurry, the deportations were not coming hot and heavy, and there was an opportunity to negotiate with a newly elected, Republican-controlled Congress that might have said OK while finding ways to keep more illegal immigrants from pouring in.
If Obama is at least technically within the law, he is certainly violating the spirit of the Constitution by doing something so massive despite clear, outspoken, congressional opposition to this unilateral action. He has moved to alienate when he could have moved to collaborate, and the excuse of past Republican defiance in different circumstances is mostly further evidence of his own shortcomings.