Bad Year, Good Year
Commentary by Steven A. Smith
It is said that time seems to move faster as we get older.
In some ways, I think that has been true for me. I wake up on a Jan. 1 and the next thing I know we are celebrating New Year’s Eve.
But 2022 has not moved so quickly. It has seemed interminable.
This year has had as many positive developments as negative. Oh, there was plenty of bad news. But, in the end, the year was OK, both in the world and in the Smith-Savalli household. Given recent years, that is quite an improvement.
Disclaimer: My perception of good news and bad is shaped by my progressive political views. Clearly, some will see things differently.
The bad: The world has seen far too many bloody conflicts since the end of World War II. But the Russian invasion of Ukraine is different, a European war between two first-world nations. Russian President Vladimir Putin set off this catastrophe in hope of a quick victory and restoration of Russian hegemony in the region. But he has been frustrated at every turn by a resilient Ukrainian populace with military and financial backing from the West. In return, Putin’s forces have resorted to a terror campaign against civilians, not surprising if you consider the way Russia has always conducted its wars. At year’s end, Ukrainians are cold, many are hungry, but they have made substantial gains against the Russians while awaiting a fresh offensive in the spring.
The good: President Biden has had a mixed record this year. But his handling of the Ukrainian crisis has been a textbook case of moderation and diplomacy. He has managed to build a Western coalition in support of Ukraine, providing financial and military support but withholding advanced weapons systems that could provoke an aggressive Russian response. The war is still a threat to world security, but less so under Biden’s measured leadership.
The bad: In June, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, leaving the states to regulate abortion. In red states, the worst possible legal restrictions are already in place or soon will be. In blue states, abortion rights remain protected. The really bad news, the Court may be poised to roll back protections for gay marriage and even interracial marriage.
The good: At the end of the year, Congress passed legislation protecting gay and interracial marriage at the federal level, although the Court may yet have the final say. Meanwhile, states may still impose restrictions. Still, the legislation is a glimmer of progress.
The bad: This year, the COVID death toll in the U.S. exceeded one million, an incomprehensible number, unthinkable at the beginning of the pandemic. And as the year ends, the country is suffering from an outbreak of other respiratory diseases, including the usual winter flu, RSV and even monkey pox.
The good: The COVID vaccines have let most Americans resume a normal life. That may be the best news of the year.
The bad: He is back. Donald Trump has announced a third run for the presidency even as the Jan. 6 committee released its voluminous report detailing how the former president attempted a coup against the U.S.
The good: Democrats performed beyond all expectations in the midterm elections, retaining control of the Senate and losing control of the House by only a few seats, unprecedented for the party in power and despite an unpopular president. The election results have weakened Trump. Of course, this game will not be over until the fat lady sings while sitting on his feet.
The bad: Racism, antisemitism and homophobia are on the rise in the U.S., and with the help of Donald Trump, Black Americans are still subject to all-too-frequent instances of police brutality.
The good: The police killers of George Floyd were sentenced to significant prison terms in July, bringing an end to the case that gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The bad: World climate is changing faster than scientists predicted. The effects of global warming are irreversible now. My generation will not suffer over much. But my children and grandchildren will live in a world far less hospitable and increasingly dangerous to the humans who are destroying the planet.
The good: International talks aimed at slowing global warming continue and new agreements have been reached. But … all the talk in the world will barely slow the inevitable.
The bad: Elon Musk took control of Twitter and opened the platform up to hate groups and conspiracy theorists.
The good: The foremost purveyor of fake news and conspiracy, Alex Jones, has lost court case after court case connected to his lies about the Sandy Hook massacre. If the verdicts stand, he will be bankrupt, at least.
The bad: Queen Elizabeth II died in September. I am 72 and her reign spanned my lifetime.
The good: The British monarchy lost any power over us in 1781 and is now simply an object of curiosity in the former colonies.
Sadly, no review of the year can ignore the brutal murders of four University of Idaho students early in the morning hours of Nov. 13. The case has gained international attention and has spawned a social media frenzy that has harmed victim families, the university and the community. There is no good news surrounding this unspeakable tragedy. Even if the case is solved soon, which seems increasingly unlikely, it will take some time, maybe years, for the community to recover. In the short-term, inevitable UI enrollment declines this winter will harm the university, putting at risk programs and jobs.
Fortunately, in my home, there were no cataclysmic events, and the news was mostly good.
My family remained healthy excluding the usual bumps, bruises, colds and infections. I had my share of nagging health issues, but nothing terminal.
We could all wish for a better economy and the cost of living has taken a toll on disposable income. Workforce shortages and supply-chain difficulties have proven inconvenient. But as with most Americans, we carry on.
Perhaps the most significant development in our house was the adoption of a cat, my first pet in decades. Eggnog, a two-year-old Siamese, is inquisitive, active, vocal and endlessly entertaining.
It is hard to over-worry about events outside your door when a cat is asleep in your lap.
To everyone, especially those who continue to read my columns, please accept from me, my dear Carla and little Eggnog, our wishes for a Happy New Year and a wonderful 2023.
Steven A. Smith is clinical associate professor emeritus in the School of Journalism and Mass Media at the University of Idaho having retired from full-time teaching at the end of May 2020. He writes a weekly opinion column. Smith is former editor of The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington. As editor, Smith supervised all news and editorial operations on all platforms until his resignation in October 2008. Prior to joining The Spokesman-Review, Smith was editor for two years at the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon, and was for five years editor and vice president of The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Newspaper Management Center Advanced Executive Program and a mid-career development program at Duke University. He holds an M.A. in communication from The Ohio State University where he was a Kiplinger Fellow, and a B.S. in journalism from the University of Oregon.