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2016: The Beginning of the End, or a Bright, New Start?

Musings on what the coming year may hold for us all.

As I’ve noted before, it’s always a dangerous proposition reading the newspaper or turning on the TV news first thing in the morning. Usually not a great way to commence the day if it’s an upbeat start you desire. And this past Wednesday was certainly no exception what with The Kansas City Star featuring a spread detailing every major calamity that may befall humankind in 2016. Quite a disastrous litany.

First off was the “underreported” war in Yemen which is ongoing, escalating and spreading further instability throughout the Middle East. It only adds to the intractable challenges in dealing with ISIS and the Syrian crisis.

Near the top of the list too was the potential beginnings of a civil war in Turkey. Considering the key role Turkey plays as an ally and moderate bridge between the Middle East and the West, that would be devastating. I myself once published an essay, and presented it at a Muslim conference in Rotterdam, praising certain aspects of Turkish society. Sadly, perhaps it’s time for a retraction?

Then there was the little-noted “breakthrough” in Colombian peace talks, which on the surface would seem to bode well after four decades of conflict and 220,000 deaths. However, this has brought about a surging illegal coca cultivation and a glut of cheap cocaine flooding into the United States through Mexico. Certainly a setback in America’s elusive (and fatuous) “war on drugs.”

The list went on: upheaval amid the Saudi royal family leading to uncertainty in relations with the U.S.; the drop in commodity prices creating turmoil in Latin American politics; the rise of right-wing populism in Europe threatening to disintegrate the European Union; a recession in Russia squeezing Putin to perhaps resort to unforeseen desperate measures with wide severe consequences. All right, I said to myself. Enough. I folded the paper and headed out for the post office to mail some bills.

Waiting in line to purchase stamps, I struck up a conversation with the elderly lady ahead of me. She was getting impatient with some youngsters at the counter holding things up repacking some mailers and boxes. “These kids today have no common sense or consideration,” she ventured. “The whole country is going down the drain. When I was young, we didn’t know how good we had it!” I decided it best not to mention what I’d just read in the paper and simply nodded my head.

I stopped by the local fast-food establishment where I now and then grab a cup of coffee and ran into two old friends, a couple deeply into spiritual matters. I did relate to them a little of what I’d been reading in the paper and the gentleman quickly chimed in his assent. “I was looking through the Sedona Journal of Emergence the other day,” he said, “and one article described how we’re shifting up from the third to the fourth chakra. That causes great transitional instability. On a number scale, positivity vibrations would rate about a five, the negativity about a twelve or thirteen.” Well, I thought, there’s one explanation.

I was about to resume my trek home when another gentleman who works at Lowe’s popped in for lunch and motioned me over. “What’s your take on the market in 2016?” he asked me, knowing my buddy Stan and I actively trade it. “Looks shaky,” I replied. “Especially after that blasted Fed decided to raise rates.” He slammed his fist on the table and almost shouted, “I couldn’t agree more! Damn the Fed! I think we’re headed for another recession midway through and probably even deflation!”

Upon arriving back home and before pitching The Star into the recycling sack, I took a glance at the back page. Big mistake. The title to the last article read “Former Defense Chief Fears Nuclear Attack,” the text relating how 88-year-old former defense secretary William J. Perry sees the global threat of a nuclear attack, or even full-scale war, as high now as it’s ever been. He lays it all out in a newly published memoir, My Journey at the Nuclear Brink, a precise telling of credible scenarios for massive destruction. I would have exclaimed, “Well, what’s next?” Except, after what he describes, there is no “next.”

Reflecting again on the stock market and trading, I called to mind the contrarian strategy of buying when everyone else is selling. The idea that when everyone has turned bearish, the market is bottoming and readying for the next leg up. You know, kind of like that old saw that it’s always darkest before the dawn. And since it’s always about “following the money,” maybe as the market goes, so goes the world? Perhaps I’ll give Stan a ring, I mused, and see what he thinks?

Anyway, speaking from my own tiny personal perspective, I’m grateful my new book, The Pebble: Life, Love, Politics and Geezer Wisdom, is selling well and getting great reviews, recent tests reveal my PSA level is low and my Kansas Jayhawks, barring any unexpected loss Saturday, will on Monday likely be ranked number one in the nation. So, on a microcosmic level, life is good. What the heck! Tomorrow isn’t promised to anybody anyhow. And going into 2016, the microcosmic is how I’m choosing to play it.

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Mark Scheel
Mark Scheel grew up in east-Kansas farm country. He attended both Kansas State University and The University of Kansas, majoring in psychology and English. Prior to writing full time he served overseas with the American Red Cross in Vietnam, Thailand, West Germany and England, taught at Emporia State University and was an information specialist with the Johnson County Library in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. His stories, articles and poems have appeared in numerous magazines including The Little Balkans Review, Kansas Quarterly, The Cincinnati Poetry Review, The Kansas City Star, Heritage of Kansas, Samisdat, and Poet as well as many sites online such as Common Ground News. His literary activities have also involved membership in The Kansas Authors Club, a seat on the board of directors for Potpourri Publications Company and an editorial position with Kansas City Voices magazine. He co-authored the book Of Youth and the River: the Mississippi Adventure of Raymond Kurtz, Sr., and his collection of stories and poems, A Backward View, was awarded the 1998 J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award. His most recent book is titled The Pebble: Life, Love, Politics and Geezer Wisdom.

5 comments to 2016: The Beginning of the End, or a Bright, New Start?

  • Note to all,

    This post originally appeared at the beginning of 2016. I’m posting it again here to preserve it; however, with our current perspective from late September, it’s interesting to compare and contrast how accurate the “media prognosticators” were.

    Mark

  • Don Frankel

    It seems the Mayan calendar didn’t predict the end. The guys carving it just figured that 2010 or whatever year they stopped at was enough. Maybe they correctly predicted that there would be an easier way of making calendars by then. So far we’ve dodged the Ebola, the Zika, S.M.O.D. and the Zombies. But how long can we keep this up? Tune in at 6 or whenever your local news comes on. Read the paper. Log on to the internet. And most of all. “Keep watching the skies! Keep watching the skies!

  • Don,

    After seeing 60 Minutes the last two Sundays, I’m indeed watching the skies–for Russian missiles raining down! Ah me.

    Mark

  • Don Frankel

    Mark I was making reference to the old movie The Thing From Another World. The original black and white. Here it is.

  • Don,

    Excellent! LOL I’d never seen that movie, but it fits. Hey, do you listen to the radio program Coast to Coast with George Noory? He’s got a “UFO-watch recorder” he checks in with for an update about every night! “They’re everywhere! They’re everywhere!” (a variation on the old Chicken Man character on radio–remember that?).

    Yeah, we got to get Grant’s site active and dynamic again–I’ve nudged muse and Ricardo, but they’re so far holding back.

    Mark

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