Out and About (Sort of): Is it Just Me? by Howard Freedlander

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Does anyone else feel a malaise in morale and spirit in our country? Is it just me?

Does anyone else feel embarrassed in our loss of moral authority and respect in our fragile world? Is it just me?

Does anyone else feel a lack of trust in our national political leadership? Is it just me?

As I think about 2017, as the days wind down, I feel a certain emptiness, an emotional sluggishness. I go to the gym twice a week for an hour each to restore and strengthen my aging body. But my mind and heart continue to experience a void in optimism and pride.

Choosing sides is more important than finding common ground. Extremism is valued more than compromise. Bigotry overrides generosity of spirit. Catering to hatred and prejudice supersedes appeals to decency and compassion.

Of course, the source of my angst is our president. His performance in office, inextricably tied to his shameful behavior—symbolized by his constant tweets of thin-skinned ad hominem condemnation– has no connection to rational leadership. Whenever you think that his personal attacks cannot get any worse, they do.

Any sense of community and shared sacrifice falls victim to self-absorption and selfishness.

So, what is good and generous in our divisive, dysfunctional body politic?

Locally, I look happily at the long list of people and groups donating to the Brighter Christmas Fund, sponsored by The Star Democrat. I think about Easton Utilities and its decorating the town. I marvel at the year-in, year-out efficacy of the Marine Corps Toys for Tots.

I feel uplifted by belonging to the Mid-Shore community with its sense of concern for neighbors and preservation of our human-oriented lifestyle and quality of life.

In the face of a president who feels no allegiance to truth, facts and civilized behavior, I believe that our society is placing greater emphasis than ever before on freedom of the press, the rule of law, government checks and balances and the inviolate nature of our court system.

And our democracy still flourishes, as exemplified by an increasing activism by citizens of differing political points of view and closely fought elections throughout our country.

Though discouraged and disgusted by our president, I retain faith in our shaky system. I believe that decency and common sense will prevail despite threats posed by poisonous partisanship, pervasive self-interest, and amoral behavior. I well understand the danger presented by naiveté; we have to fight for the triumph of grace and grit over incompetence and narcissism.

During the past few weeks, I must admit that I have watched more than my share of sappy, mushy Hallmark Christmas movies. Plot lines are similar. Despite some resistance, the Christmas spirit prevails. Grief over lost relationships yields to faith and trust in others. Christmas “miracles” are commonplace in these predictable movies.

While the Hallmark movies provide a mindless escape from life’s worries and heartaches, they also offer a viewpoint that cynics might disparage. However, they do place a premium on goodness and generosity.

The upcoming year will arrive without the bells and whistles of Christmas celebrations. Life will return to normal. No more gift-wrapping for a year. No more retail addiction.

The questions posed at the outset of this column demote pessimism and despair. Leadership at the White House is defective, if not destructive. As am an optimist, I must believe that voices of reason in Congress and the intrinsic value of an independent judiciary will provide much-need ballast to our roiling ship of state.

The New York Yankees catcher and accidental philosopher, Yogi Berra, once said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.” Whatever that means, Yogi had a point, I think: we can’t predict the future, but maybe we can influence it for the better.

That’s my take. After all, Yogi also said, “We have deep depth.”

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

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