A plea for sanity and ‘better angels’ in the New Year | Whale’s Tales

Like many of you, I have a wish list for the coming year.

Wars in Ukraine, war in the Middle East, mass shootings, high prices, ineptitude of public officials, disease — it’s been a complicated year for us all.

On Jan. 1, the calendar advances, but problems remain.

Like many of you, I have a wish list for the coming year. Inevitably, some of my own hopes center on my life and those of others whom I know, but many more are for the country and the world.

On the personal front, I had expected by now to have gone under the knife in my battle with cancer, but doctors have put this off for now. One week ago, a surgeon told me my case has become “complicated.” To put that in blunt terms, the disease has broken out from the place where it had been and may have ridden my bloodstream to begin swinging its insidious scythe in three, perhaps four, places, making surgery something of a whack-a-mole proposition. The solemn expression on the surgeon’s face when she gave us the news has shaken me.

So in 2024, it’s back to chemotherapy. The one thing I truly fear about chemo is the terrible fatigue and the fuzz it makes of my memory. At 61, I can’t tell where chemo ends and advancing old age begins.

What happens to me happens, though I have to say I never pictured ending my days drooling in a bib, and I hope such will not be the case. What truly saddens me about this business is the real possibility of making my wonderful wife, Ann, a widow. For while the partners in too many marriages grow hostile, by some miracle, it has not happened to us. Truth is, as we enter our ninth year, things continue to get better. And I can say that for the first time in my life, I am truly happy.

What hurts most is that with all the bright things at the moment waiting to spring forth, it seems a crime for cancer to smother them in their cradle. I know this same thing happens all over the world to people every day, and not one of us holds an “exempt card,” but I would like more years with her.

Casting the net of my wishes farther out, I still hold out hope that some lighting flash of sanity pierces the darkness of our current national malaise and bitter divisions — and brings people on all sides of our political spectrum to a realization of what our mutual hatreds are doing. We’re killing the thing we love — our country.

People in the media and online with a financial incentive to spread falsehoods are behind much of the sickness.Yes, many have and will become rich in this endeavor by knowingly spewing falsehoods with little-to- no-thought given to the willingness to do harm and mad selfishness that lifted their particular stars. I liken them to drug dealers spreading their poison and getting wealthy without a nano-concern for the bodies they leave behind.

Yes, the bad eggs may be wealthy, but as Shakespeare’s Banquo said of Macbeth when he first suspected his friend had a hand in murdering King Duncan as a step to the high office and power the witches had promised him on the moors: “Thou hast it now — King, Cawdor, Glamis, all, as the Weird Women promised, and, I fear, thou play’dst most foully for’t.”

When I was a kid, I expected adults to act like adults. Back then, seemed like they did. But I can’t hide my disappointment as so much of our political discourse has devolved into school-yard name calling, and not particularly clever name-calling. It’s on the level of that killer rejoinder, “Oh, yeah, well … you’re a, you’re a fatty, fat fat!”

Too many on each side of the great divide are so convinced they possess all the truth and have made people who think otherwise out to be absolute monsters and devils. And in that self-congratulatory delusion, they find justification for threatening others with death or carrying it out. For having different opinions.

Still, I maintain a simple hope: that people in places of influence will stop the lying as a means to accruing personal power and wealth. The lies are destroying us.

In this world, I hope that what has been happening since human beings first appeared on this planet continues: that babies will continue to be born to fulfill their promise, taking the place of folks who have passed from the world and left it “signed with their honor.”

The only sane way forward is to recognize, in humility, humanity’s insanity. For if human history has taught us anything, it is that we are all capable of great evil and great good. As President Lincoln pleaded in his first inaugural address on the eve of Civil War, so I plead for 2024: let us all be guided “by the better angels of our nature.”

Robert Whale can be reached at robert.whale@soundpublishing.com.