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Like 1917, 2017 Has Not Been One Of The Better Years

Monday 01 January 2018 at 11:10 pm.

This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for December 28, 2017, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

            Folks are saying that in many ways 2017 has not been a good year, and they are glad to see it go, concluding with the hope 2018 will be a better one. Some years, overall, are notable and some are not, some notably bad and some notably good. The year I was born was totally un-noteworthy. I guess that’s better than notably “bad.”

            Do bad years repeat themselves every hundred years? 1917, one hundred years ago, when my father was 12 years old, like 2017, was not a good year, -- perhaps better than 2017, but not particularly good. First of all, the United States declared war on Germany, as World War I was about to begin in full gear. As a consequence, the Selective Service Act was passed, and conscription began. In 2017, politicians say we are at war with ISIS, and some fear the possibility of war with North Korea.

            Natural disasters have made headlines throughout 2017, with severe hurricanes and forest fires causing the most devastation. Natural disasters made headlines in 1917 also, such as over 300 acres destroyed in the Great Atlanta Fire, and 101 people killed by a tornado in Illinois. The 2017 wildfires in California were far more destructive, with a total of 1,258,448 acres burned, one person killed, and 110 injured. The record cost of these destructive 2017 fires was 13 billion dollars. The Thomas Fire was the largest in California history and alone burned up 273,400 acres.

            Hurricane Harvey caused almost as many deaths in the U.S. in 2017 as did the 1917 tornado in Illinois. Harvey caused 90 deaths and 198.6 billion dollars in damage, making it the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States. Of course we felt some of the ravages of that here in East Bernard when a tornado spawned by the dirty side of the hurricane touched down, and the River spilled over and flooded homes.

            One of the good things that happened for Puerto Rico in 1917 was that its inhabitants were granted U. S. Citizenship. But things were not so good for Puerto Rico in 2017, as the United States and the Caribbean were struck by Hurricane Irma, taking 134 lives, followed by Hurricane Maria, which literally devastated Puerto Rica. To this very day, Puerto Ricans have no electricity and many buildings are still in shambles.

            In 1917, there was nothing remotely similar to a lone gunman killing 58 and wounding 546 in Las Vegas as happened this year. Although 168 mine workers were killed in a mine disaster in Montana in 1917, the deaths were not premeditated murder. But whether by murder or by an accident, the deaths of innocent people are equally tragic.

            In 1917, Woodrow Wilson was re-elected President of the United States; in 2017 most of us saw via television the inauguration of Donald Trump, followed by a year in the White House. Whether those are good or bad aspects of their respective years is certainly open to debate. There were those folks who were very critical of President Wilson, just as there are those who are very critical of President Trump. And, of course, both have their supporters and defenders. I don’t think Wilson signed any kind of tax reform bill, and I’m sure conscription was not popular with some, nor was the declaration of war. I’ll leave the evaluation of our Presidents to the American people and to the historians.

            But, now before we leave 2017 in a few days, I take one last look at it from a personal point of view, and I view it as mostly bad. It will always be the year my health caused me to retire from the public ministry and to limit my activities; however, at the same time I will always remember it as the year I was able to devote full time to writing feature articles, stories, and poems and launch a career into free lance writing. I will also remember it as the year I finished writing my book, IT MUST BE THE NOODLES: GROWING UP WENDISH IN RURAL TEXAS, and the wonderful experience of working with my daughter, Rae Ann, to design the book. And here’s hoping that 2018 will bring no hurricanes or floods, and that people will buy many copies of my book when it comes out. Have a Happy New Year!


Ray Spitzenberger is a free-lance writer and artist who lives in East Bernard with his beautiful wife Peggy and spoiled cat Gatsby.

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