The Prepetit Column
Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down 2013
By Ralphael Prepetit
As we begin the calendar year 2014, the winds of change are just around the corner. But before we jump too far ahead, I think that it’s important to take one last look behind to those people, places, and things that made an impression on the fabric of the past year. I present to you “Thumbs up, thumbs down 2013.”
Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Most recently known as the 266th Catholic Pope, Pope Francis. His ascendancy to this position was remarkable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that he is the very first Jesuit to be named pope. He is also the very first pope to hail from the Americas. Those two facts would be cause for admiration on their own merits; however, in my opinion, what makes this pope truly special is his willingness to embrace and understand the plight of the downtrodden, the destitute, and the underprivileged classes of his flock. He brings with him a breath of fresh air to a papacy that has seemingly grown stuffy because of ancient, and often closed, windows–a church considered detached after the layers of scandal and litigation separating the Vatican from followers. Thumbs up, Pope Francis.
The Boston bombers. What can anybody say about these deluded and depraved animals? Their callous and savage act extinguished lives prematurely, and affected many more lives permanently. If there is a silver lining to the chaos and terror they caused, it’s that Boston, the New England area, and the nation as a whole was made to understand and admire the meaning of “Boston Strong.” As for the lone terrorist survivor who is in federal custody–and whose name that I refuse to even print here–may God have mercy on your soul. Thumbs way down to the young man with severe psychosis.
Edward Snowden. Depending on your political leanings you may see this man, and what he did as either ‘Whistle Blowing’, which should be commended, or a traitor, which is why he is currently on the run. In my estimation, anytime a person makes a principled stand to inform his/her fellow Americans as to any malfeasance, government, corporate, or otherwise, that person should be commended. What he did took extreme personal risk, and life-long sacrifice. Strictly for our benefit, and not his own. That is what I consider a selfless act on a massive scale, and as such, Mr. Snowden gets a Thumbs up. The truth doesn’t care if you are uncomfortable, or embarrassed. It’s just the truth.
George Zimmerman. The story of a man, who was found not guilty, but is clearly far from innocent. Instead of showing any remorse for his senseless, murderous act, he has chosen to double down and hide behind his personal cowardice, and overall bigotry. An unarmed seventeen-year-old boy is dead, and gone by his hand, as he continues to live out a cowboy fantasy. In The United States the motto of our justice system is that it is better to let ten guilty persons go free, than to send one innocent person to prison or death. In this case Mr. Zimmerman was one of those ten. While he may be free from the constraints of prison, he is still a convict in the court of public opinion, and has the rest of his life to look forward to living out as a social pariah in many circles, including this one. Thumbs down to you Mr. Zimmerman.
Texas State Senator Wendy Davis. She became the newest darling of the Democratic Party in 2013. She came to national prominence after her brave and principled 11-hour filibuster on the floor of the Texas Senate. The purpose of the filibuster, which is just another way of saying that she stood at a podium continually for 11 hours talking, was to help block and fight the passing of the controversial Senate Bill #5 that contains abortion regulations and provisions that would effectively shut down a majority of the access to women’s health services in Texas. Though the law was eventually pushed through the Senate and is awaiting a federal court challenge, Senator Davis has shown herself to be a bright political mind. She is currently gearing up to make a run for the governorship of Texas. Thumbs up and best of luck to Wendy Davis.
Aaron Hernandez. If I told you that in August of 2012 this man had inked a five-year contract worth $40 million–with around $16 million of that amount guaranteed–only to throw all of it away less than a year later because he allegedly decided to murder his “friend” execution-style in a gravel quarry behind his million-dollar home, would you believe me? Life is truly stranger than fiction. The name of the victim was Odin Lloyd, who was just 27 years old at the time of his murder. He was also a football player, but not anywhere near the level or pay grade of his accused killer. In fact, he played semi-pro football for the love of the game, and made his modest wages not from football, but landscaping. He is dead today because, as the District Attorney of North Attleboro, Mass. alleged and charged, Aaron Hernandez, star tight end for the New England Patriots, murdered him. And the story that has developed from the initial evidence gathering, sadly, points to no good reason, as the reason. One of the saddest things to see in life is squandered promise, but what is even worse is the kind of senseless violence that robs society of its future and creates an environment where far too many parents have to bury their children. Aaron Hernandez is more than a cautionary tale; he is now another absentee father, brother, son, and lastly, pro-football player. I don’t presume to know what kind of thoughts are going through Hernandez’s head at the moment, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he regrets being in prison instead of Gillette Stadium. But I do know that Ursula Ward would like her son to be alive today.
Nelson Mandela. Though it might be considered a bit unorthodox to give a thumbs up to a man who passed away in 2013, in this case the exception has been made. The reason is simple: The celebration of his life through his death has reminded people around the world what one man’s dedication and sacrifice can accomplish. I know that it was a nice refresher for me, in my life. This was a man who spent more than a third of his life in prison, for an idea. It was the kind of idea that eventually led to the emancipation of South Africa from the ruthless shackles of the apartheid. Moreover, it wasn’t simply the substance of his triumph. It was the style. His willingness to forgive, working with the very people who were part of his imprisonment, is nothing short of remarkable. And the world is truly a better place because this man lived. That’s saying something. Thumbs up, Mr. Mandela, and rest in glory.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R). For a man who is in his very first year on Capitol Hill, Cruz has certainly made a splash. Unfortunately, it was the American people who got all wet. Cruz is credited with orchestrating the wildly unpopular 16-day government shutdown of October 2013. At the end of it all, the government did reopen, but with absolutely nothing in terms of a stated goal being accomplished–except for the fact that it cost tens of thousands of government employees their normal wages, and the U.S. economy tens of millions of dollars. The good news for Cruz is that he has used that stunt to raise boatloads of money from the lunatic right-wing fringe in this country for what will be his eventual losing campaign bid for president in 2016. Other than that, the American people suffered needlessly through a political charade, and you will find the blood for that squarely on Cruz’s hands. I could go on, and perhaps I should, but frankly, I don’t have the stomach for it. Thumbs down, Ted Cruz of Texas (who is really from Canada). I told you, truth is stranger than fiction, didn’t I?
The families of Newtown, Conn. They suffered the unspeakable, and had to do so with the entire world watching. To revive an aforementioned statement, it is truly horrible–and completely unnatural–for parents to have to bury their children. The fact that the victims of the evil act perpetrated at Newtown Elementary on Dec. 14, 2012 were 6, 7, and 8 years old is beyond heartbreaking. The reason these families deserve a thumbs up here has a lot to do with the fact that they worked tirelessly throughout the year of 2013 to try and get some meaningful, sensible, and necessary gun reform legislation passed in Congress. Sadly, they were unable to get Congress to, well, do anything. But the mobilization has begun, and their work and dedication will eventually yield results. They have made it a mission to not have the deaths of their children be in vain, because they know that sympathy alone will not make this country safer. They want and demand sensible gun laws in this country. They want and demand that our nation’s children can live in a safer society. I agree with them. More than 80% of the American people also agree with them. Therefore, I say that we should all applaud them.
Bashar Assad. This man is the murderous president of Syria. This man’s military actions, in which he gassed his own citizens, men, women, and children with chemical weapons, are well documented. Those actions almost dragged the United States back into another military action (or war). Luckily, that course of action was averted through diplomatic means, but the fact that a leader of a nation would be willing to act in concert with the murder of its own citizens is the stuff of nightmares. I don’t pretend to fully understand the barbarism and violence that has plagued the Middle East for centuries, but one thing I do know for certain is that violence begets violence. Round and round they go, and the carousel is drenched in blood. This man’s methods for trying to remain in power are deplorable. If there is ever going to be peace in that region of the world, it will surely not come from the example of men like Bashar Assad. A definite thumbs down. The man is gross.
United States Senator Harry Reid. The reason Reid appears on this list is because he finally did what he needed to get things done in the U.S. Senate: He changed the filibuster rules so that all it takes to get votes taken and passed is a simple majority rules up or down vote. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Believe it or not, Reid was forced to make that change because the Republican Party in the Senate was abusing its right to filibuster in a civil fashion. The filibuster used to be a rare thing. Before Barack Obama became president in 2008, there were a grand total of 80 or so filibusters in the 200 plus years of this nation’s existence. Since Obama was elected the Republicans have filibustered 79 times, just in the past five years. Harry Reid is the Senate Majority Leader, and he did his job–he led. And for that, a huge thumbs up.
North Carolina’s new voter ID laws that are the most radical ever. Thumbs down.
The people of Sandy Hook, New Jersey. They keep fighting through it. Thumbs up.
Speaker of the House John Boehner. Has refused to bring immigration reform to the floor of the House, even though there are enough votes to pass it and end family suffering. Thumbs down.
The 18 states that have passed marriage equality to date in 2013. A big thumbs up.
It is very likely that I have left out some people, things, and issues that you may have felt worthy for 2013.
I made this list after much personal reflection, and I hope you enjoyed reading it. Thanks for reading.