The year is coming to a close, and along with it the thorniest, most sticky problems that came along with it. Heck, what am I saying? A lot of these problems are so sticky and thorny that they’re following us right on into the new year. Why not reminisce with me over the following ten topics? No matter where you stand on each of these, you’ll probably agree that most people don’t agree on the following:
Pluto demoted from planet to mere satellite.
An embarrassing situation for an ambitious celestial body, to be sure, but in August and September of this year, poor Pluto lost its ranking as an official planet in Earth’s solar system, causing a huge debate among astronomers the world over and upsetting all those hanger-and-styrofoam-ball models ubiquitous to elementary school life all over the nation. True, the official uproar consisted mostly of 300 scientists protesting to the International Astronomical Union, but it was either demote Pluto or raise other existing objects to the status of planet. There’s only so much room on a hanger for those Styrofoam balls, after all…
Madonna hanging herself on a cross on her world tour
Madonna, the master of controversy, was up to her new tricks in her summer world tour for her album, “Confessions on a Dance Floor.” Hackles (as well as eyebrows) were once again raised as she proceeded to theatrically “crucify” herself on a glass cross. The Catholic Church loudly objected, especially when her tour hit Italy. We should be used to Madonna’s shock tactics by now (her first album debuted when, 1981?), but just a few months later she scored another hit by adopting a young boy from Africa, sending social workers’ blood pressure pounding the world over. Madonna-watching has become an Olympic sport.
Pedophile priests and the Catholic Church
This problem stems from accusations raised in 2002 in Boston, and has spread to almost every corner of the world. A mighty outcry grew out of the efforts by the Holy See, the world’s largest religion, to prevent priests from facing criminal prosecution, suing to keep records secret, or transferring priests from area to area. Thankfully, this very thorny problem seems to be peaking and clearing up as of this year. Pope Benedict has come out much more forcefully than John Paul did, in recent months decrying the actions of priests who commit sexual abuse, and a Mexican priest convicted of abuses last May was retired from his papal work to a life of “prayer and penitence”, according to the New York Times.
Abortion rights banned in South Dakota
Abortion rights is the nagging headache that just refuses to go away, and forces everyone to take at least a personal stand, if not a political one. This year’s takedown fight was a doozy. In this corner…Governor Mike Rounds, who started a firestorm when he signed a bill into law that outlawed nearly all abortions in his state of South Dakota. It was the first time in 14 years that a state had directly challenged the Supreme Court decision of Roe vs. Wade. In this corner….Planned Parenthood Federation of America, with its lawsuit to challenge the new law. It may be decades before we ever see a resolution of this issue, if ever. Hope you brought some popcorn….
The Hurricane Katrina recovery
…or perhaps the statement should be, WHAT Hurricane Katrina recovery? True, the Saints are home again in their freshly scrubbed new stadium, and Fat Tuesday returned (a bit thinner than usual), but what of the citizens? Over two hundred thousand people remain displaced, and plans to rebuild poorer communities that were flooded out in August 2005 have begun to evaporate. Why? Realism (tremendous costs and renewed threat of flooding in future storms) or racism (these were poor, black neighborhoods, after all. Why are other neighborhoods being rebuilt while these particular ones are bulldozed?)? The answers continue to change depending on who you talk to.
Another issue split neatly between conservatives and liberals. This year, a little less than a million illegal immigrants will enter America and the lion’s share of them will find low-wage jobs. Who will work them if they go away? Teenagers?
Immigrants must earn their citizenship and become Americans if they want to work in this country, yet much of our labor force is already living the shadow life of illegal aliens, and they continue to work until they are found out and deported. And then what of their families, their children that were born in this country, etc. Temporary workers? Forget it, say conservatives, until they find this great nanny that works really cheap…
After September 11th, the impact of terrorism can no longer be denied. Fragments of bodies found at the site renewed the horror anew this year. The issue at hand is how to fight an invisible enemy before your world explodes. Do you get them before they get you? Do you go on the offensive? Do you deprive everyone of their rights and freedoms in the name of safety? How far do you go? While Osama bin Laden is choosing curtains for his latest cave in the mountains of Afghanistan or wherever he might be, the free world is tearing their hair out, trying to decide how to live in an age where nothing can be taken for granted anymore.
Anything at all that has to do with the president
There’s too much to even talk about. Our controversially-elected president never fails to stir up conversation amongst friends and enemies. Fortunately, we have the potential of Hilary Clinton in 2008…?
George Bush wants us to stay the course. Iraq and a large percentage of the people in America just want the US out. What are we fighting for again? Terrorism? Sadaam Hussein? Sadaam could be headed to the gallows soon, and we’re still there. Safety of the free world? Worthy, but vague. A better standard of living and more freedom for Iraqis? Also worthy, but a tighter definition with a deadline would be helpful. The Iraqi occupation defies deadlines, and as the election grows closer, each political party will most certainly use the war for their own personal ammunition.
The Hydra of all controversies. Even within the pro- and con- camps, there is a wild difference of opinion, depending on what particular worldview you espouse. However, the more unified camp appears to be the one in favor of it, and gays have gained some ground in their fight for perfect and total fairness with married heterosexuals, whatever that definition of fairness may be. The other half of the world will fight back with the fervor of their convictions, as they should, and the butting of heads (absolutely NO pun intended) is inevitable.
A new year is often seen as a new start to things. Some of these controversies will wander on and change, and new issues will come up. At the end of the year, it’s good to take a breather and review before the human race pushes on. After all, change is the only constant in life. What we can’t seem to agree on is the how.