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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

As the year draws to a close, I think about how much more divided this country is than it has ever been in my lifetime. I was not around for the civil rights protests of the 1960’s, but I remember the riots of the 1970’s and they scared me. When everything seemed to calm down, even as a kid, I was relieved.

Today, thanks to the persistent efforts of the 24-hour news media and attention hogs like Al Sharpton, the country is never given a chance to rest in order to heal. Each violent act against the police brings us closer and closer to the very martial law that we have abhorred throughout our history. The land of the free and the home of the brave is about to become the land of the locked-down and the home of the cowards who throw rocks from behind their naïve, racist shields.

I didn’t like 2014 from the moment it started. I sensed from the beginning that something was wrong and that feeling never went away. At first, the senseless deaths were of celebrities who were struggling in silence and never felt like they could reach out for help. Then the struggles took to the streets and morphed into a grayscale hue that has never looked right to me.

People. We are all People. We, the People. Why do some insist on using race as a reason to be destructive or as an excuse to be ignorant? I have always been, and always will be, a firm believer that the content of our character matters and the color of our skin does not. I stole that from a great man, as we should all steal the teachings of that great man.

To divert our attention, every once in a while, a little gnome in North Korea pipes up and keeps us all entertained. As we find out more about the Sony hack, we are starting to think that it could have been an inside job and Kim Jong Un had nothing to do with it. But don’t change protocol now. It has been great sport to watch the little guy pipe up, make his threats and then fade away.

Kim Jong Un is like a blast of unpleasant gas passed in church. The tension builds and builds until it erupts with an inappropriate and foul blast of energy. Then, it slowly dissipates while the people all around continue to stare with disapproving scowls. After a while, the tension and the energy are gone and the whole thing is forgotten. But unlike gas passed in church, watching Kim Jong Un in action is a lot of fun.

Can we do better in 2015? I’m not sure. For our little corner of the world, 2015 represents the single most important election year in the recent history of Lockport. If we do not educate ourselves and vote for the right people, then there very well may not be a Lockport to leave our children. Bankruptcy means a rise in crime, a decrease in basic maintenance and the decay of our city unlike anything we have ever seen.

If we get complacent and vote in the same Harrisons cronies that we vote in with each election, then our city is done for. But if we take the time to learn about the people who want to run for office, then we have a fighting chance at getting better. We have a long road ahead of us Lockport, and we can determine whether or not there is light at the end of the tunnel by our decisions next November.

What about the country? A country that gets more sharply divided each year will find itself mired in a full-out presidential war as the 2016 campaigns again. Politicians who are supposed to be uniting the country will tear the country down to its very foundation just to further their own causes. Politicians do not unite – they divide. Until we learn that, we will never make any progress.

We will be subjected to two years of inappropriate comments ruining political careers and 40 year old war records shaming politicians into getting off the campaign trail. Is it really any wonder why men like Colin Powell refuse to run for president? Being president of this country is not about making America great; it is about burying your opponent so deep in mud that the voting public can no longer see that opponent. That is the basis for a political system that, at some point very soon, will fail.

On the one hand, we have our city’s destiny in our own hands. We will decide whether Lockport makes a slow comeback, or whether a lazy reliance on old habits drives us into the ground. On the other hand, we have to sit back and watch the rest of the country implode knowing full well there is nothing we can do about it.

Happy New Year.

Nick Oliver is a Niagara County resident who is running out of hope for the future. His column appears each week and offers hope to no one.

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