Everyone has a list of significant stories about the preceding year filtered through their own lens. One may agree or disagree with The Journal’s selections for 2019. Bears, bunnies, and burning buildings aside, its list reveals a disturbing pattern of adults behaving badly. Most egregious of course was a murderous act born of rage and misogyny. There was courtroom bumbling and the arrogance of unelected hospital district commissioners. The predatory acts of an elected state official and of a school superintendent were contemptible in and of themselves but even worse, a betrayal of public trust. Then there was a juvenile contest at the senior center between those old enough to know better. It pitted those who embraced the fantasy of “safe spaces” against the usual gang of suspects whose mean spirited display of petulance was masquerading as patriotism “the last refuge of the scoundrel” (Samuel Johnson 1775). How embarrassing! Grow up, people!
It is encouraging that the community responded with remediation, replacement and appropriate retributive justice but sadly these actions were reactive not proactive. Likewise, it is unacceptable to shift blame for these displays of these juvenile displays onto “the spirit of the times.” As we move into what has already proven to be a risky new decade, we are accountable for our own actions and have fundamental choices to make. We may continue, as Thomas Hobbes wrote in The Leviathan (1671), “a descent into an amoral state where institutions have no trust, where every man is at war with every man… existing without security,” in a life that is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” Or, we can seek out, as Lincoln pleaded in a time much like our own, “the better angels of our nature.”
In what was an otherwise dismal annual review shone through a true source of hope for the future — the success of the Friday Harbor High School Aerospace Team. This cooperative venture of these young women and men guided by their mentors demonstrated what can be done. They were the adults in the room!
Happy New Year.
Mark Fishaut, M.D., F.A.A.P.