Although the passage of time makes no such distinctions itself, humans make a great deal about the end of one year and the beginning of another.
As we close the chapter on 2010, we look back on a year filled with disasters, economic hardship and political gridlock. It was a tough year and one most of us are glad to see in the rear-view mirror.
Looking forward to 2011, there are some signs of hope.
When the Idaho National Guard returns home this year from its tour in Iraq they will be among the last combat forces deployed to that nation. Our long involvement there, which cost so many lives, will at last come to an end.
In the war in Afghanistan, some of our troops will begin coming home as well, as President Obama's "surge" there will come to an end and troop levels will begin to fall. But we'll still have troops in combat and we'll still lose American lives in that troubled land, which doesn't seem all that excited about being "saved" by us in the first place. We'll make gains there, but they will be incremental.
Meanwhile, the terrorists will continue to try and find ways through our layers of security -- and the law of averages says that eventually they will get lucky. We can only wish that they won't be as successful as they hope, and who knows, maybe we'll hang on for another year without getting hit.
We can expect the narco-war in Mexico to continue to heat up and spill across the border.
The economy is finally starting to show some sluggish signs of improvement, but it's not going to be a quick and dramatic turnaround. It will be a job here, a couple jobs there, but by the end of the year there's a good chance things really will be better than they are now.
We get a new Congress and that should be -- interesting. We'll be fascinated to see how all the Tea Party candidates do -- if they really can cut Social Security and other entitlement programs, if they really will make major slashes in the military budgets and if they really will end the pork-laden policy of earmarks. Meanwhile, we can expect Republicans and Democrats to go at each other tooth and nail, jockeying for power and position at the expense of progressive policies that will actually help the little guys like us. If you thought gridlock was bad in 2010, wait until you see 2011, as everyone tries to position themselves for the 2012 presidential elections (yes, unfortunately, those campaigns have already begun).
We'll almost certainly see our share, again, of political and celebrity scandals. But we'll also see, as usual, stories of people doing good and stories that inspire us all.
For all the bad that gets reported, there is a lot more good that doesn't, most of it in the day-to-day lives of simple and ordinary people. It's those simple, ordinary people with whom we place our hopes for the future. They're the ones through whom small, individual acts, will make the world a better, brighter place.
It's not the politicians and the pundits that will make 2011 a better year. It's each and every one of you.