Perhaps, as the final credits roll for the year 2007, it might be appropriate to include the message: "To be continued ..."
Much of what occurred during the past year was preamble, a lead-up to the big event or a twist of fate that left us dangling. The end of the story will have to be written in 2008 or the more distant future.
One good example is the tumultuous presidential race. The campaigns for contenders in both parties started earlier than ever, nearly a year ago. By mid-January, both Rep. Duncan Hunter, of California, and Sen. Sam Brownback, of Kansas, had declared as Republican candidates. Both, along with Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, have since dropped out.
But after the long months of campaigning, the first official contest, Thursday's Iowa caucuses, loom. Both the Democratic and Republican races remain fluid, with Iowa up for grabs and no clear front-runner for the nomination in either party.
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Internationally, the assassination a week ago of Benazir Bhutto, the former Pakistani prime minister who had returned from exile to challenge President Pervez Musharraf, has destabilized the nation and threatened U.S. efforts in neighboring Afghanistan in the process. Will the United States now have to deal with a hotbed of Islamic extremism in a nation already boasting a nuclear arsenal?
In Iraq, additional U.S. troops deployed in the early fall seem to have helped bring order to many former trouble spots around Baghdad. In addition, a number of Sunni insurgents who had been fighting against U.S. troops decided to join forces to drive Al Qaida in Iraq factions from their villages, dealing the jihadist agitators a stinging defeat.
But even the commanders who are buoyed by the recent military successes are uncertain whether it will translate into lasting progress in forming a coalition government and an enduring peace. We'll know more in the months ahead.
Back home, findings by a special commission appointed to investigate the use of steroids and other illegal performance enhancers by Major League Baseball players found that many of baseball's most vaunted names had "juiced" themselves. The scandal threatens not only the reputations of the players but also the future of the sport itself.
In football, the New England Patriots ended the year with a perfect 16-0 record. But we won't know for awhile whether the Pats will follow up with a Super Bowl win and coronation as the best NFL team in history.
Locally, The Herald's online readers voted the drought as the top story of 2007. But that is another story that will continue into 2008, despite some recent heavy rains. We won't know for months whether rains will replenish the water table throughout much of the parched Southeast or when the worst drought in 70 years will finally end.
Calendars are artificial things, man-made devices to impose order on the disorderly march of time. There is no particular reason that the beginning of the new year should come on Jan. 1 rather than, say, the first day of autumn or spring. At least those days mark a change of seasons, too.
But we seem to need beginnings and endings in our lives, even if they are artificial and the only difference is a new calendar hanging on the wall. Things did not end neatly on Dec. 31 nor begin anew today, on the first day of 2008.
But perhaps this occasion gives us the opportunity to gather our thoughts, reflect on what has passed and what lies in store. Maybe it gives us a chance to gather strength, take heart, laugh a little and gird ourselves for another year.
Let's hope so. Happy New Year to all.
We aren't likely to know the conclusions of big events of 2007 until well into 2008.
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