Last New Year's Eve, I realized I'd never been so glad to see a year come to an end. And then 2012 happened.
My readiness to put 2011 out of its misery was mostly personal, but this year's sorrows and challenges seem pretty widespread. I know plenty of cheerful people, of course -- and in 2012, I found it easier to be cheerful myself -- but I sense we are working rather hard at it, trying to buoy our own and one another's spirits as we look for blessings in an onslaught of frustration, disappointment and tragedy.
That sounds a bit too grim, perhaps? I hope you think it does, because that means your 2012 was brighter than mine.
If you feel more like I did last year, though, take heart! The world did not end in 2012, and 2013 awaits our renewed courage and resolve.
Let's sort through the old year -- bright spots, rough patches, momentous passings and some "column cleanup" -- and then raise a glass of good cheer to the new one.
Let's begin with the local:
The best news of the year for Pittsburgh was the Act 47 overseers' recommendation that the city be released from state financial oversight. The next-best news is that their recommendation hasn't been followed -- yet. Here's hoping for another year -- an election year -- of holding our local politicos' feet to the fire.
The worst news for Pittsburgh residents was the failure of the tentative deal between West Penn Allegheny Health Systems and Highmark. An agreement would have put WPAHS into a better position to compete with UPMC and would therefore have been a big win for all of us health care consumers.
Pennsylvania's biggest story of 2012 was thoroughly terrible: the appalling crimes and adequate punishment of Jerry Sandusky. There are smatterings of good to come out of it, though: Penn State's housecleaning indicates that people in positions of responsibility decided (finally) to behave responsibly; victims have been vindicated by the justice system and will hopefully get help; and the university's whopping NCAA fine will pay for such help and for preventive measures (hopefully entirely within the commonwealth).
Nationally, the second biggest story of the year was, tragically, the numerous mass killings -- in Newtown, Conn.; Aurora, Colo.; and elsewhere. The immediate, ill-informed and injudicious discussions of gun control don't bode well, however, for stanching the flow of innocents' blood.
The biggest national story was the re-election of President Barack Obama and of a Republican-controlled Congress. We the people voted for gridlock.
Which is why the stupidest story of the year is the "fiscal cliff." Like we didn't see this one coming ... .
And if any sizable number of us didn't foresee this one, then there's no sadder commentary on democracy to be had.
In 2012, we said goodbye to some great and interesting people. Stars like Andy Griffith and Whitney Houston will be remembered for the pleasure and shared cultural experiences that their roles or music gave us. Some deserve a different and greater recognition, I believe, for what they accomplished and what they represented.
Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon and upon his return, he walked on Earth so humbly that it's still astonishing. He refused to cash in. He was a worthy repository for our nation's aspiration and pride. RIP.
Norman Schwarzkopf led "Desert Storm," America's first major military engagement since the inglorious end of the Vietnam War, in such a way that it restored confidence to our country. He wrote "It Doesn't Take a Hero," but he was one. RIP.
And now some brief housecleaning. Column-writing creates predictable hazards.
Beyond the normal "conflict of visions," I will sometimes state things badly, and you will sometimes read things badly. Sometimes those tendencies of reader and writer are difficult to disentangle.
One example of this is so recent that it still throbs. In my column immediately following the Newtown tragedy, I wrote: "... (T)he breathless coverage of President Obama's emotional statement Friday was not a good sign. It was sophomoric. He spoke eloquently for the nation; his media acolytes did not."
The "it" in the second sentence clearly refers to "the breathless coverage" of the president's statement; so, contrary to what I heard from a few readers, I most certainly did not call his statement "sophomoric." I called the coverage of his statement "sophomoric."
And I stand by that: Devoting any attention to whether a supposedly "cold" leader is moved by the slaughter of innocents is unseemly and diverts attention from the only place it belongs -- with the victims.
The old rule of thumb is that a message from one reader represents 1,000. So if I heard from three readers who thought I'd called the president "sophomoric," that could mean that thousands of you thought the same.
To better understanding and a brighter future in 2013!
Ruth Ann Dailey: email@example.com