This has been a year of war, pestilence, famine, terrorism, religious zealotry, as well as startling and gruesome examples of man's inhumanity to man.
The Arab world, convulsing in paroxysms of unspeakable religious sangfroid, hatred and brutality, provokes undue existential anxieties in the West. Our drones fly around and kill people without trial or jury, assuaging our fears, but not our consciences. We have been at war for thirteen years with no end in sight. The government snoops in our personal business and belongings and runs us through scanners to see if we are weaponized. Explosives become more sophisticated. Airliners are shot down by a kleptocratic, self-absorbed, homophobic, egomaniacal, murdering ex KGB officer who wishes to destabilize Europe to preserve his notions of being the next Czar and possibly forging a new Soviet Union. It will not happen; Russia is now a second rate power with a sputtering economy.
Google, Amazon, and other Internet giants invade our privacy, foretelling a dystopian, Orwellian denouement. The top 1% of the American public controls 90% of the wealth and the middle class is caught in a technology vice displacing their jobs, their security, and their self-esteem. Robots threaten to replace almost all human tasks within a hundred years. Many scientists, including Stephen Hawking say that we are engineering our own demise, and that evolution is about to take a quantum leap with the frail, imperfectly designed human about to be discarded on the slag heap of history. Either we will be slaves of the machines or their masters, probably the former, he says.
Climate change threatens to inundate coastal cities in a slew of super storms, melting glaciers and drowning polar bears.
Despite all that, in the short term, there is reason to hope that the world is getting better. Religious fervor is diminishing in most nations, the younger generation yielding to social pressures and the new religion of the Internet, technological innovation and scientific skepticism about age-old myths.
The Obama administration, empowered by its freedom from voter approval is set upon a course of leaving a transformational legacy, despite what promises to be a more ossified congress. The great recession is over, the doomsayers have been proven wrong about the economy, unemployment is at a new low, the US Auto industry is on the upswing, the stock market is at new highs, medical science is on the verge of curing a host of intractable diseases including many cancers and other maladies, corporate profits are roaring, the US is now energy independent, and Petro nations including Vladimir Putin's Russia are reeling from one trick pony economies that are in free fall. People have health care and cannot be dumped by their insurance companies for pre-existing conditions.
Here in Miami, some old-line Cubans are decrying the new move toward relations with Cuba, long overdue.
Fifty years of a failed policy, despite Marco Rubio's disingenuous bloviating, are correctly to be jettisoned along with an immigration policy that has failed miserably. On the other hand, the younger generation of Cuban-Americans, born here and with no intention of returning to Cuba to become sugar farmers, cigar rollers, or nightclub impresarios, are mostly happy with the new direction of US policy.
The Cuban government fears that its chief oil supplier, Venezuela, will be a failed government. Nicholas Maduro, the successor to Hugo Chavez, is running into increasing problems running his economy, because his oil revenues are down 60% and his social programs are not sufficiently funded, which could lead to riots in the street, not a good image for his socialist paradise. Watch out for this in 2015.
Some of us remember the Cuban missile crisis, the Bay of Pigs, the bungled CIA attempts to assassinate Fidel with an exploding cigar and a number of other intelligence fiascos involving Cuba. We have always conducted diplomacy with a host of dictatorships---Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Soviet Union, East Germany, etc. Why not Cuba? The arguments for punitive disengagement in the case of Cuba, a small nation just off our shores, and embargo is so 20th century. It has failed miserably. Nations follow their interests and do not always do well on a diet of morality, even be it the ultimate ideal.
Opposition lies in a small cadre of Cubans who have controlled Florida swing-state voting. Clearly that is why a moderate like Bill Nelson has voiced opposition to a movement he would normally favor, since he is ordinarily quite progressive.
National polls in other states mostly favor trade with Cuba, or at least diplomatic relations, and just think of it, those who still smoke Cuban cigars will no longer have to smuggle contraband through Canada. What is next for Florida? Humm, let me think. Legalized weed in Cuban cigars and Gay marriage?