1999 wish list

Not looking for perfection-but just a few helpful nudges

Issue: "Parable of the perjurer," Jan. 9, 1999

Instead of making myself look silly a year from now with a list of predictions that probably won't come true, or even a few New Year's resolutions I almost certainly won't keep, let me instead try a personal wish list for the final 12 months of this weary millennium: Wish #1: Horrifying though it would certainly be, I'm wishing for CBS's 60 Minutes to do a documentary featuring an actual partial-birth abortion. After all, if the producers have concluded it's permissible to show an illegal act as part of an important social discussion, as they did recently with Jack Kevorkian's act of euthanasia, why not document-in detail-a perfectly legal act? What could possibly make clearer to a jaundiced population that the abortion debate is very much about real human beings? Well, perhaps a really compelling movie or a memorable novel-on the order of To Kill a Mockingbird or Uncle Tom's Cabin-might have the same effect. Not a narrow moralistic tract, you understand, but a deeply dramatic work, probably from a source none of us is even aware of right now, that grabs the heart of the nation and prompts folks to ask for the very first time: "What on earth have we been doing?" Wish #2: A divorce court judge (or, better yet, a whole school of such judges) who will stop pretending that awarding shared custody of the children of divorce is somehow a favor to those children, or to society. I'm weary of watching the children of a typical divorce-tugged and stretched and spread-eagled helplessly and piteously between and among their various self-centered parents. How much better it would be for judges simply to decree, in a sort of reverse-Solomonic fashion: "One of you gets the children, but they're not up for sharing. The other parent will simply have to do without. And if that prompts you to rethink your differences, and maybe work things out after all, so much the better." I know it's accepted wisdom that shared-but-separate parents are better than just one parent-but I disagree. Children desperately need to know who their source of authority is, and where the object of their loyalty lies. Shared-but-separate arrangements all but preclude both those needs. If divorce must come (and we need to work much harder to prevent it), at least stop confusing the children with bewildering assignments of obedience, loyalty, and love that even mature adults could never fulfill. Wish #3: Freedom during 1999 for the patient people of Cuba. Since visiting Havana for a week several years ago, I've longed for Cubans to have their own clanky Iron Curtain lifted. Forty years is a long time to wait in this fast-moving world. The best way to end the Castro regime: Let the president announce that we're lifting economic sanctions and are ready to trade Fidel into oblivion. Wish #4: That none of the aging pro-life judges on the U.S. Supreme Court will yield to the temptation to retire while a pro-abortion president still has the power to replace them. Wish #5: That the accelerating approval for school vouchers among the U.S. public will pick up even more speed this year, so panicking the leaders of the National Education Association that they begin to sound even more senseless than they already do. Vouchers, to be sure, aren't a perfect solution, since they admittedly leave the government as an intermediate source of funding for education. But vouchers have the best chance of helping the public understand that it's parents-not government-who are responsible for children's education. Wish #6: That relief efforts in Honduras and elsewhere in Central America won't merely alleviate the suffering there, but in God's good providence perhaps spark something of an economic boom to bring about a more productive society than the people there have ever known. It has happened before. Recovery efforts, when thoughtfully funded, can produce new jobs that would have been unthinkable before, even without a hurricane like Mitch. As people's hopes are lifted, an upward spiral is initiated that becomes hard to stop. Wish #7: That some true and noble-souled statesmen would appear in Russia. It won't be long before freedom in that country rounds out its first decade-but freedom right now isn't much prettier than bondage used to be. For millions, freedom is much more painful than bondage ever was. So far, Russians have seen only the worst side of the free-market system. It will take some deft and visionary leaders to show them anything else. I hope such leaders show up soon. Wish #8: That major league baseball will take its cues from last year's wonderful run with Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa-and not from the National Basketball Association's frightening tug-of-war between players and management. Mr. McGwire and Mr. Sosa showed the world all the best about sportsmanlike competition. From the hoopsters has come all the worst. That's my January wish list. It wouldn't make for a perfect world. But neither would the world be perfect even if the U.S. Senate next week decides that the House was right in voting to impeach Bill Clinton. Until that great day when everything is resolved, this world's creakings and groanings will have to be dealt with just one at a time.

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Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.

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