George Hasara – Columnist
The start of a new year is a time for reflection as well as an opportunity to imagine what the future holds. I don’t have a crystal ball but I do have the collective insight of Franklin’s Open Forum to consult. This informal discussion group meets once a month and I consider it to be the area’s unofficial think tank. The following are some 2019 predictions and 2018 observations from January’s meeting. Not surprisingly, the President was prominent in the discussion. “Trump will remain in office throughout 2019,” countered by “Will not see the end of 2019 as President.” Right off the bat, we have a correct prediction. Trump’s tenure wasn’t the only one forecasted. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg will step down. Conservative woman will be nominated and confirmed despite howls and character assassinations from Senate Democrats.” This prediction dovetails with the opinion that the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing was an important event in 2018, highlighting the “nastiness and divisiveness” of politics. Internationally, it was predicted German Chancellor Angela Merkel will resign. Rough times are apparently ahead as well on the financial front. “Dow will fall 20 percent,” and “TSA will walk off the job due to no pay during shutdown, triggering airline shutdown and another 1,000-point Dow decline.” I love it when someone makes a bold, unambiguous prediction without any weasel words to fall back on. There wasn’t much optimism expressed on the environment either. The continued proliferation of the “use of plastics” and its effect on the environment was cited. Climate change was described as, “The point of no return on global warming.” I like this because if true, we can at least move on to something else to obsess about. To add to those dire forecasts, the possibility of civil war in this country came up in the discussion. The likelihood of a national schism following an impeachment of the President was mentioned. Governmental instability was not limited to the US as one prediction said there will be a breakup of China in the style of the Soviet Union’s dissolution. I am intrigued by the various predictions and I consider them to be a reflection on how each one of us sees the world. A large part of perception is due to what our research mechanisms are. Do we digest a steady diet of doom and gloom? (I know I do, and I’m trying to cut back to consuming no more than two doomsday predictions per day.) Do we limit our associations to like-minded people? Do we create the proverbial “echo chamber,” leading us to think in terms of “us” versus “them?” As one woman at the meeting said, “Labels hide the unique qualities we all have.” One might think that after a round of predictions, we would be reaching for the Prozac. However, when the conversation turned from national and global to local, the mood altered dramatically. One person’s most significant event of 2018 was moving to the area. And, even if the forecast of “No progress will be made on solving the broadband problem in Macon County” is true, the consensus is that in 2019, “Life will be very good in Franklin.” Contact George at firstname.lastname@example.org.