Thursday, January 2, 2014



Like a silk sheet floating over smooth lake water, 2013 passed away and in comes a New Year we must now refer to as 2014. We’ll surely forget to write that date on new checks and letters for a while, but soon it will become the norm.

Looking back, if one were to create a list of what has changed it might amaze quite a few. We are slowly discovering things that once bothered us no longer do. Items we despised thinking about are not all that bad. Some might even say we have become anesthetized as a society because we no longer care about much of anything.

We have mastered the art of giving criticism but fail to stop long enough to examine things. We want changes, some demand them while others like the way things were. The winners of course create change and then people stop to take a look. No, that was not what they wanted, but it is too late. The changes became law.

We are so busy trying to make things work or blend together we no longer pay attention to the news, the rules, laws or important things that improve lifestyle.

I watched a couple of television shows where the comedian went out on the street to ask a few questions from people on the street. He was not picky he only chose folks from all walks of life. It is what he asked and the answers he received that opened my eyes. The people came from every walk in life meaning some were young and some much older. Some were White, Black, and Hispanic, from the Middle East and Asia. He did a good job of selecting a variety of outlooks and opinions. What he did not get were answers. He discovered the majority were functioning brain-dead bodies. The majority just walked through life without a thought in the world. Few knew anything about history or education or the news. He was asking questions to dead people who somehow were still functioning as living creatures. Some had no idea who ran the country or what their jobs were. A few people thought politicians were actors, newsmen or women. It became apparent almost all had limited knowledge about the country where they lived. Additional insults came when a few openly voiced opinions about the laws being stupid and unacceptable.

While he cleverly asked the questions, the answers were quite serious. Most do not like the idea of working and would rather get free things. Free was the word of the day. Many thought it was cool for others to pay for their education, phones and transportation. Most knew nothing about the stock market, banking or other questions I thought everyone knew. It wasn’t a test because he was just asking questions about life in general.

We all seem to hate taxes but are clueless to all the new hidden taxes. No one cares what the tax money might be used for it is just another tax. They now tax wine, beer, liquor, fishing rods, camping goods, clothes, and many other items. Sadly only the observant understand there are additional taxes added separately. Most stores just build the tax into the receipt or hide it. Some dare to expose it and still we miss it until the one responsible for paying the bills notices these new added on expenses.

It’s like Social Security. When my father was young, and I too was young, the government said Social Security was a savings account for when we got older. The government figured out few of its citizens saved much or nothing at all during the great depression. The Government decided they would save our money for us. It was safe and backed by the government. We had money taken out of each check. It was mandatory. They took it even when people disagreed with them. I believe they are still doing this. It had always been a safety net. When we got too old to work, we had this savings account waiting for us. It was safe, protected and backed up by the government like a pension plan. We believed it. Then along came this fellow by the name of Johnson. He was the President at the time. He took a look at all that money and decided to borrow it. He said they would pay it back. Without taking a vote or asking public opinion, the government chose to take the money and then spent it on other stuff. Poof, with the signing of a pen the trillion-dollar Social Security account vanished. They started using other’s money to pay for the older folks retiring. They said the program was now broke or would be in a few years. They changed the name and now refer to it as an “entitlement.”  The government stole the mandatory savings account. This was the citizens money thought to be tucked safely away and backed by the government. Those who operated the program could not figure out how to pay it back. It was too late. Oops. They got together and changed the title. Presently referred to as an "entitlement" the mandatory savings account every law-abiding citizen contributed into is no more. It is as though we are now all brain dead and would not notice. It is like a thief stealing your things and then selling them back to make the innocent feel guilty for making their lifelong contribution. They forgot they took the money to create an entitlement called Medicare and Medicaid both of which received their initial funds from Social Security money.

Of course, a divided country exists, but most do not know why or if they agree or disagree with either side. It is easier to complain until an unwanted change comes along that makes us mad.

It is easy to blame one party or the other if people behave reasonably. It may be unthinkable to rationalize both parties and independents are equally guilty of one thing or another. We vote people in because we like how they talk. Some politicians just look nice, or they are intelligent sounding. Some share great ideas that will never become a factor once they get into office. We vote for some because they are liberal or conservative. Most of the time the public does not have a clue who these people are? Are they honest? When voted into public service would they do the job as promised in the election?  Does the population care? Many vote straight down party lines without giving one thought on whom they are voting for. The man or woman could be a crook, liar or cheat. It does not’ matter because he or she is a democrat or republican and thus deserves my vote.

Of course, we do not talk about politics with friends and neighbors because the conversation always ends badly. That way, later on when the ones voted for fails, people can avoid saying they voted for them.

Looking at the whole, I realized we avoid voting the best person into office, instead we vote for the party and then blame them when things go wrong. When we look back, we realize this dreadful habit started a long time ago. There was a time we looked at each candidate closely and then picked the one who looked trustful and honest and would do the best job for us.

As a whole, are we better than the year before? Did all the things we hoped for happen? Has racial feelings changed? Do we like each other more? Do we have better jobs? Are the ethnics groups thriving? Have we improved the global outlook of the country we live? Have we made new friends, sought peace and opened communications everywhere? Have we improved the air we breathe? Did we help nations in need? Did we give and receive equal parts?

There will always be problems, disagreements and compromises. Are we doing the best we cab to improve these areas? Is it the fault of Congress or is it the Senate? It has to be someone’s fault, and we’d never admit it if we put the wrong person in the office.

The New Year brings hope, just like every New Year from the past. The bigger question is can we do what needs to be done so all of mankind can live a better life?

We make New Years Resolutions and keep them for a few days or a month. Then we forget about the resolutions just like politicians do on their way to the office. Why make a resolution if we know we’ll break it? If we need to lose a few pounds will we do it or just forget about the promise? Will be stop drinking or smoking or eat less chocolate?

If only we could slow down. If only we examined things before doing them. When was the last time we stopped to help a stranger, get an animal out of the road or assist a person with a handicap do something they can not do for themselves?

Have you ever thanked a policeman, fireman, or person serving in the military? When traveling, do we thank the pilot, the person checking your I.D. or the taxi driver? What about saying a kind word to someone serving their country and at the same time protecting all of us while visiting?

We’re in a hurry. We’re guilty of not doing many things we should be doing every day. When opening the eyes each morning, that is the moment to be grateful. When was the last time you said, “thank you” out loud for just being alive?

Reflecting over one year is fun and dangerous. Fun because we enjoy e a good time and take the fun over everything else. Dangerous because we understand all the things we could have done but skipped because being in a hurry was more important. The common excuse explained that there was no time, when in truth there was plenty of time. We have regrets. We carry guilt everywhere.  The chest wounds go deep and hide the pain of frustration. We forget the little things and take lots for granted. If we dare reflect over a few years, we get frustrated. We realize we could have easily avoided much of what we despise in life. To deal with things we should have taken a little more time to check them out.

Life is beautiful once we learn to live it. The journey can be a rough ride because of the choices made but if thought out would most likely have a different result. Endings are what we make them be and by nature complain when they do not work as planned.

Time just flows through the fingers like sand at the beach. It does not return. There are no makeovers and nothing that has passed on will come back for seconds. If we dare to live recklessly, we can expect a reckless outcome. We are what exclusively make us unique. We hear our own symphony and no one can take it away or improve it except us.

Let’s reflect together. With some effort, we can make mankind better for all. Let’s make 2014 special and help it work for many instead of only a few.

William Byron Hillman © 2014
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