Out and About (Sort Of): Hoping, Not Resolving, For 2016 and Beyond By Howard Freedlander

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At a New Year’s Eve dinner party at a friend’s home in Centreville, the hostess asked each of the guests to express a resolution. I couldn’t do it. Not feeling resolute.

Instead, I voiced a hope, tinged with some pessimism, or is it realism? I said I hoped that my children, 41 and 36, and grandchildren, ranging in age from 3 to 15, would live lives safe from physical or mental mishap. I talked about my utter admiration for parents who care for children suffering from physical, emotional or mental difficulties. These parents are my heroes.

As I further explained my hopes, trying not to be too somber and thus dampening the festive mood, I spoke about my oft-stated fear and premonition:

Sight of the Discovery Space Shuttle at the Smithsonian Annex near Dulles Airport gave me hope about what amazing things our nation can accomplish when our focus is clear.

Sight of the Discovery Space Shuttle at the Smithsonian Annex near Dulles Airport gave me hope about what amazing things our nation can accomplish when our focus is clear.

Our children and grandchildren will live in a far more dangerous and unpleasant world than the one occupied by the parents as children and young adults. And that really bothers me. We are supposed to leave a better world for our children and grandchildren. That indeed is not the case.

Terrorism strikes fear and anger in all of us. Not since 9/11 can we blithely travel through airports without enduring obnoxious but necessary security measures. Nor can we feel secure in public places, schools or even at work in offices or factories due not only to inhumane and crazed terrorists but also those suffering from mental disease—mixed with senseless hatred of our nation or groups of people who unknowingly prompt unconscionable actions for no good or sane reason by the perpetrator.

I think about climate change, though still denied by many despite the science, and its impact on how and where we will live and prosper. I wonder if our children should move to higher ground. I wonder how global warming will affect lifestyle and work choices. Despite my personal efforts to conserve resources through recycling and prevent pollution, I feel powerless. I realize nothing huge will happen without a groundswell of public will usually motivated by a crisis.

And I ponder the sad, dysfunctional state of our public and private discourse. Our human environment is fractured. It’s become toxic. It bespeaks hatred in some cases and coarse feelings in other instances. We live in cocoons populated by people who think like us, who read what we read and watch the same television news shows. It seems like tolerance is in short, depleted supply, Disagreement is personal. Polarization marks our everyday environment.

Do I sound like a grouch, an annoying skeptic? Not my intention.

I said at the outset that I worry about the future for my children and grandchildren. And I do–a lot. I am hopeful too, an optimist by nature. Perhaps we are going through a bad patch in our 240-year-old nation trying to cope, often uneasily, with an interconnected world buffeted by dreadful terrorists, morally corrupt dictators and an uncertain, unsettled economy.

I am hopeful and optimistic that our children and grandchildren will be smarter than we in facing and resolving complex, difficult challenges demanding innovative and open-minded solutions.

I hope so. And one last thing: I pray for their wisdom, patience and perseverance.

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On a brighter side, I commend Gov. Hogan’s decision to promote Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio as deputy chief of staff from her former position as director of intergovernmental relations. Jeannie is a terrifically competent and conscientious public servant. Anyone who has had the pleasure to work with her when she served as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates and then as director of intergovernmental relations knows that Jeannie listens well and reacts professionally.

And kudos to Helen Van Fleet, who has retired after 29 years of service to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. As a board member since 2006, I always felt boosted when I saw Helen sitting at the front desk or scurrying around doing something for the good of the cause. Helen never sought the spotlight, understanding that the real work goes on when no one is watching.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

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