Pubdate: Tue, 01 Jan 2008
Source: Amarillo Globe-News (TX)
Copyright: 2008 Amarillo Globe-News
Author: Greg Sagan


Well, Happy New Year.

For those of you who had too much cough syrup last night, just 
pretend I whispered that.

I wished a friend of mine a happy new year last week, and he began to 
muse about why the new year always seems to bring the same old 
problems, and since that seems to be generally true year to year, 
then why do we bother to call it a "new" year?

As I thought about this exchange, I was fascinated at the possibility 
that we might actually face new problems in a new year. So here are 
some of the problems I would like to see us let go of, in no particular order.

I would like to see fewer "SWIFT-boatings" of political candidates. 
That means ordinary people like us need to register our disapproval 
when we hear it. But I want to hear arguments that address the best 
ideas of all viewpoints, not just all the ideas of one viewpoint. 
Arguments that impeach the credibility of a candidate who served this 
country honorably under arms had better be factual or they had better 
die at birth.

I would like to see us stop trying to reconcile science and religion. 
In case it hasn't hit you yet, this argument is futile. It's like 
Tic-Tac-Toe:You soon learn to start at stalemate and then try to 
improve your position. There are certain things about science that 
rely on belief, and there are certain things about religion that rely 
on fact. The remaining chasm cannot be bridged from either end. Part 
of what science is supposed to do is challenge belief with 
observable, demonstrable, repeatable theories and experiments that 
don't rely on a deity to either create or sustain. Part of what 
religion is supposed to do is to fashion defensible propositions 
about the nature of God, life, and man's role in the universe, given 
what science reveals about how the universe seems to work. Each needs 
to work its own side of the street.

I would like to see us drop "war on" as a reflexive introduction to 
everything our government does. I understand why we do it - the role 
"war" as a concept plays in mobilizing societies is well-documented - 
but it's time we recognized that the word is trite, hackneyed and 
lame. So, I propose a war on "war" before it goes the way of 
"nuking." When first coined, nuking meant to do the worst harm we 
were capable of doing to another civilization. Now we use it to 
describe how we heat our tea water.

One specific war I would like to see us end is the war on drugs. 
Anyone who has read my column regularly knows how I feel about this 
sinkhole of the public treasury. But I sense that those who believe 
this war is worth waging are missing a key point that works against 
them. It has to do with accountability. Right now, accountability for 
the drug problem in this country rests with the government. Our 
expectation is that government will find the drugs and destroy them, 
find the people who grow, transport, sell or use drugs and imprison 
them, and keep doing this until either the money or the drug use stops.

One huge problem with accountability is that it requires choice. The 
way to destroy accountability in any organization, or nation, is to 
convince people they have no choice, and in America we emphasize over 
and over again that no one who uses drugs has any choice anywhere in the loop.

Not the user (he's addicted), not the police (they're just enforcing 
the law), not politicians (it's a social evil), and not the 
government (the people want us to do something, and this is all the 
government can do). Telling people their choice is to "use drugs and 
go to jail or don't" is a false choice, the bully's choice.

Ending this ridiculous "war" would put the responsibility for drug 
use squarely and solely on the user. Where it belongs. Like we do 
with alcohol and tobacco.

Finally, I'd like to see more older drivers off the road. AARP be 
damned, it's time we got these menaces from behind the wheel. When 
people can no longer see, hear, react, notice and interpret their 
surroundings, understand their vehicles or know the law, it's time to 
surrender their licenses.

I've faced it in my own family, and the hurt cries of shock and pain 
when a grown man has to accept that he doesn't have the moxey anymore 
can be devastating. But not quite as bad, I suspect, as carrying 
someone's death on your conscience.

Anyway, these are a few of the changes that would convince me we're 
dealing with new problems.

We should know in a month or two if someone slipped us a used year.

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Greg Sagan is an Amarillo business consultant and freelance writer. 
His column appears Tuesday.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom