As my father would have said about the year 2016, “So long, and don’t let the door hit you in the rump on the way out!” Although Dad surely would have used more colorful language.
It was a confusing, divisive and extremely frustrating year, wasn’t it? Terror attacks on American soil, civil unrest in the streets and inflammatory uncivil discourse that, literally, split the country into two factions. And now following the most bizarre and costly presidential election the country has ever seen America has become a nation full of destructive and instantaneous intolerance deepening a schism that may take generations to heal.
It’s as if we would rather take pot shots at each other instead of tackling the county’s pressing problems.
If you want to wallow in the current climate, well, I’ve got nothing for you. But if you’d rather put on your big boy/girl pants and see the country move forward here’s my crime and justice wish list for 2017.
First, with all this new-found interest in our political system let’s make some demands of our elected officials, shall we? I wish for voters to insist lawmakers stop partisan bickering and concentrate on what is best for the country not their political party.
I hope this next session of Congress begins to look at big picture problems like the mess that is our immigration system. I wish Congress would reconsider mandatory sentencing guidelines that have packed U.S. prisons with, oftentimes, low-level, non-violent offenders costing us billions.
I wish lawmakers would fund a massive Manhattan-type project to improve the nation’s cyber security so we never have to wonder which foreign power is trying to influence our election or tamper with our power grid.
And wouldn’t it be great if they also figured out how to block those ugly ISIS recruitment websites that attract lone wolf terrorists who attack in packed U.S. nightclubs or shopping malls?
I also wish for state lawmakers to cloak themselves in a new era of patriotic action, adopting legislation that actually helps citizens. I hope voters remove those who continue to play the same old political games.
I truly hope there is a genius out there somewhere who can figure out a way to determine which of the more than 310 million civilian owned guns are in the wrong hands because there is a murder epidemic underway in many locations.
Major crime rates have fallen nationwide but major cities like St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans and Birmingham, Alabama still have extraordinarily high, per capita, murder rates. In Chicago, despite years of strict gun restrictions, there were more than 770 murders in 2016. That’s more than Los Angles and New York combined. Clearly, more gun control laws have not stopped the carnage.
In 2016, police fatally shot way too many unarmed, mostly black civilians and far too many police officers were deliberately injured or assassinated on the job.
I want more parents to teach their children respect for human life and for the job law enforcement does for us. But I also hope for swift punishment for officers who step outside the law. And for law enforcement academies to devise training methods that rely more on conflict resolution and less on gunfire.
Solutions to our crime and justice problems don’t necessarily need a genius to fix them. Solutions can originate with us.
We are a country founded on the cherished ideals of freedom of expression, religion and political thought. I humbly suggest we all work to repair the ideological division we have created, dropping the snark-filled remarks aimed at those who hold differing viewpoints. People who truly communicate and are tolerant of all viewpoints are rarely criminals.
Let’s vigorously reinstate civics courses in our high schools and universities so knee-jerk protesters stop screaming in the streets for instant justice, displaying their ignorance about how the judicial, legislative and executive branches work.
I wish for a new era in which corporate, banking and business leaders adopt a new creed of honorable customer service and the ability to truly listen to whistle-blowers instead of devising plans to destroy them.
I wish for defendants suspected of criminal activity to be brought before the court for judgment no matter how rich or famous they are.
And finally, I wish to abolish the current court imposed elder guardianship system that ensnares so many aging citizens, strips them of their civil rights, isolates their families and often depletes their hard-earned estates all in the name of “protecting” them. Nationwide, unscrupulous court appointees have created a cottage industry that systematically transfers wealth from the elderly and their heirs to the pockets of total strangers. I hope quarreling families come to realize they should never turn to a lawyer or the courts to decide what to do with an elderly parent.
Naturally, there are many more issues to be dealt with in the coming year. I just know in my heart if we can find a more civil way to deal with each other the problems won’t seem so insurmountable. Happy 2017.
Note: I invite everyone to read my series in the Albuquerque Journal on the elder guardianship problem. It focuses on New Mexico but it is a nationwide problem