When I was a kid I always had a hard time putting together my list of the things I wanted for Christmas. Being the eldest of four children, I was always being told by my mother to be respectful of the family finances and to set a good example for my younger siblings. So my lists rarely contained the real expensive things that I would have loved to get. Instead, I’d find ways to content myself with what I assumed were affordable toys and such.
With that memory in mind, I have tried to put together a list of things that should be reasonably obtainable for my very grown up version of a Christmas wish list. The items are listed in no particular order, other than perhaps going from the global to the personal.
1. Reverence for the planet. I know this one is almost too ethereal to count as a real wish, but I would dearly love for the community of humanity to embrace the environment we have been blessed with and to act as responsible stewards of its health. Acknowledging the reality of climate change would be a start. Being open to the possibility that human activity is part of the cause would be a significant step. Acting globally to lessen those effects would be the road to a solution. At the least, it would be nice to have my own country take the lead, instead of dragging its feet in that effort.
2. World peace is obviously not a realistic wish, but how about a softening of tensions in the Middle East. (Yes, I know, even that wish might be deemed absurdly unrealistic in the current state of affairs.) That part of the world has been a tinderbox for over 60 years now (ever since Israel gained statehood in the heart of Arab land after World War II), and generation after generation of Arabs, Palestinians and Jews have refused to accept each other’s demands. Would it be asking too much for Israel to stop building settlements on land the Palestinians claim as theirs? Would it be too much for the Arab nations and the Palestinian leaders to recognize Israel’s right to exist?
3. A return of the Republican Party to its Lincoln heritage is also not likely to happen anytime soon, but couldn’t the GOP at least become rational again? Some will say the current state of the party is all due to the election (and now re-election) of Barack Obama, but I point to the “revolution” led by Newt Gingrich back in 1994 as the beginning of the party’s era of disenchantment with itself. Since then, the party has been caught in a vicious cycle of disdain for anything that has a government seal on it (figuratively or literally), and the result is a party that has lost its identity in favor of a form of radicalism that the country is finding increasingly easy to reject.
4. Following on that last wish, I’d very much like President Obama to stand tough against that radicalism in his second term. He’s never going to be a true liberal (at least not in the traditional sense of what a liberal is), but then we’ve never really had a true liberal as president. Even FDR, so hated by the far right, was more moderate than he could have been in dealing with the economic crisis he inherited. I’d just like Obama to stand tough against ridiculous Republican demands, like the current one that is holding up a resolution of the fiscal cliff crisis. If he can’t stare down the Republican insistence on maintaining the Bush tax cuts for the upper two percent, I’ll be terribly disappointed.
5. A return to serious contender status on a regular basis for my baseball team: the Dodgers. That’s what I was spoiled to expect as a child, growing up in a period in the sport’s history when the Dodgers were regularly in, if not winning, the World Series. But it has been a full quarter of a century since the team even won a pennant. Now, with new owners who have shown a willingness to spend whatever it takes, we may finally be on the verge of a return to those glory days. Yes, I know, it’s going to be uncomfortable doing it in the style of the Steinbrenner Yankees, but if you offer a starving man a feast, you’ll forgive him for stuffing himself.
6. A return to even a semblance of respectability for Sacramento’s Kings. At this point, I’m not even all that concerned about possibly losing the team entirely to Seattle or Virginia Beach or wherever their pathetic owners end up taking them. But for the time we have left as a major league city, couldn’t we at least avoid being the laughing stock of the league? We went through that when the Kings first arrived back in 1985 (and for a good decade thereafter), but somehow it wasn’t as embarrassing then as it is now. We aren’t a cow-town anymore, and we need a major league basketball team that plays that way.
7. A solid round of golf. I’m not asking here for a hole in one or a round in the 70s, but I’d be very pleased to be able to play a round where I didn’t have one blow-up hole (for me something in the double-digit area), and had more pars than double bogeys. I have been playing the game for about 50 years now, and as often as I think I’ve found my stroke, I invariably lose it, often no more than six or seven holes after finding it. And my putting? Forget about it. If I could just have any sense of consistent confidence on the greens, that alone would be reason to rejoice.
8. And finally, the good sense to know how lucky I am to have a beautiful wife whose love I too often take for granted, two wonderful sons who are everything a father could hope for, countless friends who make my life so much richer, and students who will be my “footprints” years after I’m gone.