Saturday, December 29, 2007


By William Fisher

The year is racing to a close. Lamentably, it’s going out with a Bhutto Bang.

Almost as pathetic as this cruel assassination is the wisdom spewed out by our presidential wannabees. Funny how they all morphed into instant Pakistan Pundits to continue their endless pandering to those who will bundle themselves up to venture out into the chill air of Iowa and New Hampshire to cast their primary ballots.

My vote for the most pathetic goes to Mike Huckabee, who was in charge of Arkansas’ foreign policy during his years as the Republican governor of this historically Democratic state. Rev. Huckabee suggested that after Bhutto’s assassination the United States should, “have an immediate, very clear monitoring of our border, and particularly to make sure, if there’s any unusual activity of Pakistanis coming into the country. We just need to be very very thorough in looking at every aspect of our own security internally.”

Right on, Mike. Gotta watch those Paki terrorists turning up in California to pick lettuce.

That comment struck just the right tone to end a year filled by consequential events too numerous and too depressing to catalog here. Suffice it to say that, for a journalist, 2007 was a very good year. “If it bleeds, it leads,” was the year’s press mantra. And there was more than enough bleeding to keep all of us scribblers very busy.

During 2007, I wrote several hundred pieces of news and opinion. Almost all of them reported bad news – imperial wars, government incompetence and intransigence, thousands of dead civilians, soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, tens of thousands more seriously wounded, poverty ignored, populations displaced, preventable diseases not being prevented, the toxic extremism of fundamentalist clerics and their followers of all faiths. And on and on. You get the picture.

But, at the risk of being called a Pollyanna, let me give you the good news.

And, yes, for Americans at least, there was some good news.

Despite our government’s efforts to re-create 1984, we Americans continued to live in the freest country in the world. Free to think, write, speak, organize, get involved, associate with whomever we wish, worship or not worship.

Our courts may be filled with judges we disagree with, but Chief Justice Roberts is not under house arrest.

Our legislators may be the world’s most talented Kabuki dancers, but they still read our letters and take our phone calls, and occasionally even do what we pay them to do.

Our president may think he’s King, but next year, he’ll leave office peacefully and say nice things about his successor.

We should be grateful for all these blessings, but they are all macro blessings. The really good news happens and keeps happening at a totally unreported, but far more meaningful, level: Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Like my 60-plus cousin-in-law, who learns to knit so he can make a blanket for his first grandchild.

Like the mother of a friend’s cleaning lady, who works three jobs so her daughter can get to college.

Like the neighbor who just shows up year after year to plow the snow off a friend’s driveway and never asks for a penny.

Like the friend who organizes farmers to get our town to appreciate the benefits of local agriculture.

Like the local psychotherapist who gives up her Thanksgiving Day to distribute food to our less fortunate neighbors.

Like the hundreds of volunteers who show up to work phone banks or lick postage stamps to support their chosen candidates for town supervisors, local judges or county commissioners.

Like the retired UN official who turns her acreage into a refuge and recovery center for our county’s orphaned, abandoned, abused or injured wildlife.

Like the retired college profs who spend hours mentoring kids who have no role models.

Like the management consultant who shares her “happy gene” with a depressed widower and gives him a new life.

There are millions of these kinds of acts of kindness. They happen every day in every American town and city. We rarely hear about any of them. They are the acts of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. They are the real threads that hold the fabric of our country together.

As long as they continue, we can be hopeful.

As long as they continue, 2008 may yet turn out to be a good news year.