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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 12/24/19

Best and Worst

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Tales serial.
Tales serial.
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(syndicated nationally by PeaceVoice) Charleston Gazette-Mail

The immortal novel, A Tale of Two Cities, begins:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way."

Actually, I think this yin-and-yang contradiction exists right now, today and probably existed at every moment since the beginning of recorded history.

These are America's worst times under a ludicrous president who has uttered 7,600 countable lies and shut down part of the federal government in a temper tantrum. But life also is good, with full employment, booming prosperity and superb personal freedoms.

Writers like Chris Hedges are correct that right-wing greed is pulling America apart in ever-worse inequality, and that industrial pollution causes global warming that threatens the planet. But writers like Steven Pinker are correct in claiming that our "better angels" cause life to improve constantly, with fewer wars, fewer murders, fewer rapes, fewer cruelties, fewer ethnic persecutions and relentless retreat of other evils.

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times and it always was.

The hero of Scaramouche was "born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world is mad." But that's just half the story. Laughter can be dampened by grief and suffering. A better assessment of our ongoing carnival is the cliche': Life is a comedy to the person who thinks, and a tragedy to the person who feels.

Columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote that, despite daily horrors in the news, "2018 was the best year in human history." He cited:

Each day, about 295,000 people around the world gained access to electricity for the first time.

Each day, about 305,000 got safe drinking water for the first time.

Each day, 620,000 more people acquired access to the Internet.

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James A. Haught is editor emeritus of West Virginia's largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail.  Mr. Haught has won two dozen national news writing awards. He has written 12 books and hundreds of magazine essays and blog posts. Around 450 of his essays are online. He is a senior editor of Free Inquiry magazine, a weekly blogger at Daylight Atheism, (more...)
 

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