Where do I even begin with my annual Wish List for the New Year? Because the fog of despair still hangs over us from the elementary school shooting in Connecticut — and because the list of individually meaningless gun-control ideas continues to grow — I’m compelled to start there.
I fervently hope that we, as a nation, can come to an agreement on a whole package of anti-gun-violence ideas to try to make this country safer. I hope the shrill hysterics — heard from both sides — can be tuned down in favor of common-sense solutions.
To those who think all we need to do is get rid of assault weapons, 30-bullet magazines or those video games youngsters spend so many hours playing, I say: Don’t kid yourself. After Newtown, there was another gun massacre in Webster, N.Y. I seriously doubt the shooter, William Spengler, who served 17 years in prison for beating to death his grandmother with a hammer, had ever played a violent video game.
For some sick reason, Spangler, 62, set fire to his home to lure volunteer firefighters. As they rushed in, Spengler opened fire, shooting four of them. Two died, as did his elderly sister trapped in his house. As seven other houses were engulfed in flames, the gunman committed suicide. Under law, this mentally ill ex-con was not allowed to have a gun, but he had three of them — a semi-automatic Bushmaster rifle, a .38-caliber revolver and a 12-gauge shotgun. Proof that mere law doesn’t make us decent.
My wish is for everyone — from the loudest activists on the gun issue to the most partisan politicians — to understand that only cooperation and compromise will make 2013 safer for all of us. If the senseless murders of brave firemen in New York and 20 first-graders and seven adults in Connecticut is not the right time to find common ground on gun violence, tell me: When would be a better time?
I wish for a major sea change in the way Washington works. I want policymakers and lawmakers to find the moral courage to stop operating for their party’s sake and consider what is truly best for the country. Massive financial problems lie ahead, and most often the only thing we hear is that the other party is to blame. How about some solutions, Washington? Voters didn’t elect the 535 members of Congress to bicker. We elected them to lead. I hope politicians stop wasting time talking about yesterday and, instead, think about an improved tomorrow.
For the tens of thousands of returning veterans, I wish a stress-free repatriation. I hope both the military and Veterans Affairs really step up to help these warriors readjust to life back in the states. As America winds down 11 straight years of war, these heroes will need assistance with housing, higher education and job training. Many will need medical care, both physical and psychological. Some will get in trouble with the law, and our special veterans courts will need to help them understand why. If America fails to help these brave souls, shame on us.
And one more military note: When a servicemember (male or female) makes an allegation against a colleague charging a sexual attack, it must be investigated as seriously as if a civilian had made the report. I hope any superior who sweeps such a charge under the rug faces automatic court martial.
I wish for all district attorney’s offices to take a page from Detroit prosecutor Kym Worthy’s book. In 2012, she led a massive effort to investigate thousands of abandoned rape kits for DNA evidence, and nearly two dozen serial rapists were identified. Worthy’s manhunt continues, and I fervently hope her program spreads nationwide. Think of how many predators we could get off the streets if we just tested the evidence that is sitting there.
I hope that following the crazy and destructive weather we suffered in 2012 that Mother Nature settles down. I hope municipalities devise better emergency plans. I wish to never read another story about thieving looters who took advantage of a crisis situation to rob homes and stores. I pray for judges to throw the book at these criminals.
For the first-responders who help in times of emergency — from 9-1-1 operators, ambulance drivers, paramedics, police officers, firefighters and all the volunteers along the way — I hope in 2013 we stop to acknowledge how much they do to keep us safe.
We’ve become such a divided country. I really wish that in the new year we could re-embrace the idea that in America everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion without being berated, categorized or bullied. In the months ahead, let’s all try tolerance. Keep an open mind about differing opinions. You can’t always be right.
I wish everyone would pledge to commit at least one good Samaritan act per week, preferably without bragging about it later.
I hope everyone accepts that new state laws on same-sex marriage and legalization of marijuana were passed because the majority of voters wanted it that way. The laws may not be to your liking, but that’s our system. People who strongly believed in those issues worked hard for their cause. As anthropologist Margaret Mead famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Amen.