So hereís the Roman god Janus,
looking backward and forward again.
Did you know that his temple doors
were open during war and closed during peace? My
World Book encyclopedia doesnít say why, but we
can suppose that the Romans were like some of us:
more inclined to go to church and pray during times of
danger and trauma.
Looking backward as a nation, we see
danger and trauma enough. But we also see a
renewal of spirit that gives us reason to look
forward with optimism to 2002. The temple doors
should stay open, however, in eternal vigilance. On
the state level, the administration and Legislature did
work together to do something right this year. By insisting
on MCAS as a condition for huge increases in education
spending, and continuing to support charter schools,
they created some accountability and competition in the
But in general, we can look back with
disgust at the behavior of most of our alleged
representatives. In January 1996, Tom Birmingham
was elected senate president with this pledge:
"The cynics, the naysayers, the meanspirited we will always
have with us -- those who disparage government itself and
demean those is public service. As your presiding officer
... I will shout it from the rooftops that ours is a noble
and honorable calling".
Six years later, almost everyone has
become a cynic about the Legislature, and even
generous-spirited yay-sayers are shouting their
dismay at its laziness and foolish priorities from
the rooftops. Good job, President Birmingham, Speaker Finneran,
and all the little nobles. Your kind of governing has
disparaged itself beyond our wildest expectations. Now
an optimist can celebrate the new civic awareness that
will perhaps lead to citizen action in the new year.
Meanwhile, Governor Swift has been
filling the role of Beacon Hill grown-up by urging
the children to get their budget homework done and
then resetting some of their mean-spirited
priorities. By defending the will of the voters on
the income tax rollback and clean elections law, she
did her part to battle cynicism toward state government.
I still donít understand why she and
her two predecessors have insisted on owning the
Big Dig project and defending unfair toll
distribution to pay for it: this fiscal disaster began
so far back that even a god like Janus needs binoculars.
Heís looking at you, Mike Dukakis: weíre still paying
for your administrationís mismanagement, though the income
tax rate will be back to normal soon -- unless, of course,
Libertarian Carla Howell succeeds in repealing it altogether
this coming year. There will also be a long overdue
ballot discussion on bilingual education.
Optimistically, at the very least,
voters might think twice about putting Democrats
in charge of the entire state government when itís
time to vote for governor in November.
On the negative side for Governor
Swift: why is Gerald Amirault still in jail? She
could have done a commutation during the
traditional good-will holiday season, but instead let
him spend his 16th Christmas away from his family.
They tell me she is taking time to
hear both sides and make a wise, non-political
decision. Well, I took time to thoroughly research
the Fells Acre daycare case too, but it didnít
take me half a year to figure out that the Amiraults were
innocent. Governor Swift doesnít have to make a determination
of guilt or innocence; all she has to do is follow
the July recommendation of her advisory board and announce
that Gerald has served enough time. The era of daycare
hysteria is behind us; I hope justice lies ahead soon.
Being cynical about politics is not
the same as being cynical about life in general.
Looking back at my own year, I could focus on pain
and trauma: a car accident in February, surgery in
October, and the stress of moving mother into a
nursing home in August and saying goodbye in December.
Instead, Iím just happy I survived
the accident and the surgery. Iím glad that
mother has escaped the nursing home, for she was
ready to move on. Iím grateful for my partner Chip
and all those who cared for me and for her. And any year
that brings me twin grandchildren has to go into the ledger
as one of the best of my life.
With Janus, we look back and see the
unchangeable reality of what was. We celebrate the
obviously good, explore what good has come from
bad, and determine what we have learned and how we
have grown. Then we look forward to what we can make
of 2002. Happy New Year to us all.