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1-3-18

A Look
Back at

2017


By Jeffry Boatright


Every new year is ushered in with hopes and dreams, as well as promises and resolutions, and 2018 is no different. Sure, we want to improve on the good things from 2017 and forget about the bad, or at the very least, learn from the bad. While it might be easy to focus on the discord and discontent in society, there really is much to be optimistic about. Harlan Howard said it well in his country music song, Pretty Good Shape. Howard wrote, “We’re in pretty good shape for the shape we’re in.”


Of course, 2017 echoed the sentiments of political conflict from 2016 and previous years. It seems the Democrats and Republicans have found resolve in finding no resolve, and divisiveness has even brought tension within the parties. Partisan politics is nothing new. Even during our nation’s infancy, the Federalists and Anti Federalists were at odds with one another. We could compile an endless list of what might have been wrong in 2017, especially on the political front, but really we should also consider what was right during the year.


The ever-present and seemingly growing threat of North Korea’s rogue leader, Kim Jung Un, certainly warrants attention. When we consider, however, the lunatic dictator and his current military capabilities, we are reminded that our military has the resolve, leadership and firepower needed when called upon.


Much uncertainty revolving around last year’s inauguration of President Donald Trump was, or should have been, put to rest following the success in the ongoing war against terror. That is not to say the battle is won, or that it is even close to being over. Significant success, however, was achieved in the fight against ISIS in 2017.


Most reports indicate the terrorist organization is now only a fraction of what it once was. It now controls significantly less territory and the organization’s fighting force has been greatly diminished. These accomplishments are credited to our military’s leadership, the endless dedication and sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, the support of American citizens and unceasing prayer.


Sadly, we were reminded on the world stage, as well as at home, that the threat of terror reaches beyond the fields of battle. Attacks might unfold anywhere, and at any time. Terrorists struck with various forms of weapons that included knives, guns, bombs and even vehicles.


The music community was stunned during 2017 with unfathomable attacks during live concerts. Panic consumed the world when a bomb was detonated at an Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester, England, causing multiple injuries and deaths. Terror later sprayed from the windows at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas during an Oct. 1 music festival, leaving dozens of concert-goers dead.


From each of these tragedies, though, heroes emerged, resilience grew and our awareness increased. We readily recognize the value of our first responders, police and military. Even more importantly, we have learned just how crucial it is to be prepared, alert and even willing to protect ourselves in the face of terror. In many cases, the hatred of terrorists has deepened the love and compassion that decent human beings have for one another.


We have realized that even in the most sacred of places, we are not always safe. During 2017, we learned of horrific church shootings. A senseless attack took place on Sept. 24, in Tennessee, at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, when a Sudanese immigrant opened fire on parishioners. That attack resulted in a death and several injuries. A few weeks later, on Nov. 5, another church shooting took place at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Texas, leaving 26 dead and dozens wounded.


Our faith did not break. Instead, parishioners across the country joined in fervent prayer for the victims and their families. America’s Christian base grew stronger and our spirit increased. We refused to cower and more American citizens recognized the right of victims and potential victims to protect ourselves.


Florida and most of its counties had already been working diligently throughout 2017 to simplify the process for law-abiding citizens to obtain a concealed weapon permit. Applicants now have access to a simple process in applying for a concealed weapon permit through the offices of our local tax collectors. Digital fingerprinting, photos and applications are now completed in one brief visit.


While 2017 was noted for scandals, especially in the political arena and entertainment industry, Americans demanded more accountability from our celebrities and public servants.  Appropriately, it was reiterated that the majority of Americans honor our flag and the national anthem. Our First Amendment Right allows for freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Unlike many other nations, we can peacefully protest matters that we take issue with. Protesting the flag and national anthem in America, however, ultimately leads to increased patriotism, which is a good thing.


We recognize that our military, along with our first responders, play an essential role in the preservation and protection of this great nation while athletes and entertainers do not. That doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate and enjoy sports and entertainment because we do. We realize, however, that neither is essential to our survival.


The world was once again captivated with a royal engagement in 2017. Meghan Markle, an American actress, captured the heart of England’s Prince Harry and was thrust into the spotlight of royal romance.


Meanwhile, the economy seemed to improve for many Americans. The Dow Jones has recently flirted with 25,000 points, and just last week, it reached a record high of 24,876.


American tax payers were given a Christmas present in late December in the form of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Adam N. Michel, a policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, asserted that the act is the most sweeping update to the U.S. tax code in more than 30 years. Michel further stated the bill will lower taxes on businesses, leading to higher wages and more jobs. The bill, which President Trump signed into law on Dec. 22, will also lower individual tax rates.


Locally, we saw the completion of the Sabal Trail Pipeline and have been optimistic of the growth of solar programs. But, we were shocked and saddened with the unexpected and sudden passing of Live Oak City Councilman Keith Mixon.


Hurricane Irma took her toll on the Suwannee River Valley, but we persevered. Neighbors and families pulled together, and once again, we were reminded of the things that are really important. It was simply by the grace of God that so many of us were spared serious injury or even death during the Sept. 11 hurricane.


We were left with renewed hope as 2017 gave way to this new year. Educators will tell you that our schools have many wonderful students who genuinely strive to excel. While we do see an alarming number of students that deal with issues that no child should have to endure, they proceed in their studies while developing morally and academically. It is easy to condemn the blunders of youth, but if we’re really honest about it there is a considerable percentage of our youth who do care about our constitution, the economy, our community, their families and their future. Furthermore, we must also recognize that many of them, like many of us, are simply late bloomers who will contribute greatly to the health and wellbeing of this great nation.


Although 2017, like other years, had its share of difficulties and adversities, it also brought forth many joys and triumphs that should propel us into 2018 with hope and optimism. Sure, we have concerns for our region, nation and world, and we always will, but we really are in pretty good shape for the shape we’re in. Most of us even acknowledge that the One whose birth we recently celebrated is ultimately in control. Happy New Year!