BY DIANE DIMOND
As my father would have said about the year 2016, “So long, and don’t let the door hit you in the rump on the way out!” But I’m sure Dad would have used more colorful language.
It was a confusing, divisive and extremely frustrating year, wasn’t it? We saw terror attacks on American soil, civil unrest in the streets and inflammatory uncivil discourse that split the country into two factions. And now, following the most bizarre and costly presidential election the country has ever seen, America has become a nation full of destructive and instantaneous deepening intolerance. It is experiencing a schism that may take generations to heal. It’s as if we would rather take pot shots at one another than tackle the county’s pressing problems.
If you want to wallow in the current climate, well, I’ve got nothing for you. But if you’d rather put on your big boy/big girl pants and see the country move forward, here’s my crime and justice wish list for 2017.
First, with all this newfound interest in our political system, let’s make some demands of our elected officials, shall we? I wish for voters to insist that lawmakers stop partisan bickering and concentrate on what is best for the country, not their political party.
I hope this next session of Congress begins to look at big-picture problems, like the mess that is our immigration system. I wish Congress would reconsider mandatory sentencing guidelines that have packed U.S. prisons with oftentimes low-level nonviolent offenders, costing us billions. I wish lawmakers would fund a massive Manhattan-type project to improve the nation’s cybersecurity, so we never have to wonder which foreign power is trying to influence our election or tamper with our power grid. And wouldn’t it be great if they’d also figure out how to block those ugly Islamic State group recruitment websites that attract lone-wolf terrorists who attack in packed U.S. nightclubs or shopping malls?
I also wish for state lawmakers to cloak themselves in a new era of patriotic action, adopting legislation that actually helps citizens. I want voters to remove those who continue to play the same old political games.
I truly hope there is a genius out there who can figure out a way to determine which of the more than 310 million civilian-owned guns are in the wrong hands, because there is a murder epidemic underway in many locations.
Major crime rates have fallen nationwide, but major cities like St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans and Birmingham, Alabama, still have extraordinarily high murder rates. In Chicago, despite years of strict gun restrictions, there were around 770 homicides this year. That’s more than Los Angles and New York combined.
In 2016, police fatally shot way too many unarmed civilians, most of them black, and far too many police officers were deliberately injured or assassinated on the job. I want more parents to teach their children respect for human life and the job that law enforcement does for us. But I also hope for swift punishment for officers who step outside the law, and for law enforcement academies to devise training methods that rely more on conflict resolution and less on gunfire.
Solutions to our crime and justice problems don’t necessarily need to come from a genius. Solutions can originate within us.
We are a country founded on the cherished ideals of freedom of expression, religion and political thought. I humbly suggest we all work to repair the ideological division we have created and drop the snark-filled remarks aimed at those who hold differing viewpoints. People who truly communicate and are tolerant of all viewpoints are rarely criminals.
Let’s vigorously reinstate civics courses in our high schools and universities so knee-jerk protestors stop screaming in the streets for instant justice, displaying their ignorance about how the judicial, legislative and executive branches work.
I wish for a new era in which corporate, banking and business leaders adopt a new creed of honorable customer service and truly listening to whistleblowers instead of devising plans to destroy them.
I wish for defendants suspected of criminal activity to be brought before the court for judgment no matter how rich or famous they are.
And finally, I wish to abolish the current court-imposed elder guardianship system that ensnares so many aging citizens, strips them of their civil rights, isolates their families and often depletes their hard-earned estates, all in the name of protecting them. Nationwide, unscrupulous court appointees have created a cottage industry that systematically transfers wealth from the elderly and their heirs to the pockets of total strangers. I hope quarreling families come to realize they should never turn to a lawyer or the courts to decide what to do with an elderly parent.
Naturally, there are many more issues to be dealt with in the coming year. I just know in my heart that if we can find a more civil way to deal with one another, the problems won’t seem so insurmountable. Happy 2017.
Rockland resident Diane Dimond is a syndicated columnist, author, regular guest on TV news programs, and correspondent for Newsweek/Daily Beast. Visit her at www.DianeDimond.net or reach her via email [email protected]