New beginnings, old regrets

From left: Lucy Cooke, Katie Cooke, Amy Middlemiss and Clarissa Newham use torches to display the year 2016 as they get ready to celebrate the Hogmanay, New Year, celebrations in Edinburgh, Thursday Dec. 31, 2015. (Andrew Milligan/PA via AP)

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

— George Santayana

The month of January gets its name from the Roman god Janus, who is depicted in ancient and contemporary art as a man with two faces, one looking forward and the other backwards. What this pagan god teaches both individuals and states is to know where you and your country have been before striking out on new roads to where you plan to go.

Only a fool, it’s said, learns from personal experience; a wise man learns from the experience, particularly the mistakes, of others.

Think ancient Greece and Rome. Think the Ottoman Empire. Think the British and Soviet empires. Think America.

The New Year is a time for making resolutions — resolutions to lead a more fruitful life, to give up bad habits, to finish neglected work, to be a better husband or wife. Those who make resolutions willy nilly know in their heart they will not be kept for long.

The exigencies of surviving one day to the next in the high pressure world we live in simply preclude it. iPhones, Facebook, Twitter — they do not save time. They eat it.

The year 2016 is ominous in its portent for Americans of all political persuasions, for this year we must choose a new president, a new captain to steer the ship of state through waters more troubled than those seven years ago when Barack Obama was first sworn into office. Whatever you think of him as a leader, you have to know this.

The American people are more divided than at any time since the Civil War.

Racial animosities have not been expunged, they’ve worsened. Law and order has broken down too many times in too many places.

The abysmally stupid “war” against the police has been allowed to fester. The Department of Justice, too often under this administration, has even seemed to encourage it.

This is insane.

Who will keep the peace if city police no longer venture into inner cities? A newly created American Gestapo?

The economy has been stuck in the doldrums for far too long.

Two percent annual growth is declared “the new normal.” Everyone with half a brain knows that it is government taxation, government regulation, government growth, government overspending, and government incompetence that keep the economy from expanding at its traditional pace.

Illegal immigration is making a mockery of immigration law. Our borders are not secure. (Some would say they never have been.)

Yes, we are a nation of immigrants. It is one of the glories of our country — unless, of course, you happen to be a Native American.

We accept more legal immigrants than any other country in the world.

We permit an estimated 12 million illegals to live here. No one really knows how many there are.

America, for better or worse, is a welfare state. It can be that, and it can have open borders. But not for long. In the end it is one or the other, not both.

The Middle East is a mess. In one sense it has always been a mess, but if we are honest about it, a delusional U.S. foreign policy has made it far worse than it needed to be.

We applauded the ouster of dictators in the halcyon days of the Arab Spring. We gave little thought, however, to who or what would take their place. First mistake.

Second, having established nominal security in Iraq, the Obama administration, acting against Department of Defense advice, withdrew all U.S. forces, thus creating a power vacuum quickly filled by radical Islamist factions who call America “the Great Satan.”

The hope and change, the reversal of the oceans’ rise, that President Obama promised seven years ago, inspirational then seem pathetic now.

A new president will have a lot of pieces to pick up when he (or she) enters the White House.

Good luck to him (or her).

Whoever it turns out to be is going to need it.

R.L. Schreadley is a former Post and Courier executive editor.