HALL: Don't look back

From a news perspective, this is the worst time of the week for me. From Dec. 26 until Jan. 1, we have to read article after article about recaps of the entire year. And according to which publication or columnist is writing the story, we have to hear about what they thought the most important event of the year was.I love how they think that they have the ability to decide what the most important event of the year was. But none the less, we get bombarded about stories that have already been beaten to death as they were occurring, and now we have to hear about them one more time.

And it's not just the news. Every radio station will tell us what the top 100 hits for the year were in their annual countdown. Let's be honest. The music industry just hasn't been the same since Elvis died. I'm not even sure that there were 100 songs written this year that could be considered hits. There might be 100 songs written that could be considered crap but I suppose that the top 100 crapiest hits would not be much of an incentive for the listeners.

And then of course, the E Network will tell us about the top 50 greatest dresses of the year. I could narrow that down to the top one dress and save us all some time. It was whatever J-Lo was wearing. That woman could make a potato sack look like Paris chic. But no, we have to listen to Joan Rivers babble through one outfit after another as if she is the one to decide what fashion is. Plastic ... maybe, but fashion ... I don't think so.

Everything in this world has to be categorized during this last week of the year just so we can be sure that we have not missed anything. I wish we could just have one year when the end of the year article simply stated the following; "Hey, it's the end of the year; you should know everything that happened. If you didn't, you must be living under a rock and if that is the case the last thing you need is a year-end countdown."

Instead of looking back each year at this time, I wish that we could just look forward. That is what is really important at this juncture. Not much that we can do about last year, but we are in a prime position to try and make next year better.

I remember Satchel Paige once said to "never look back over your shoulder ... someone might be chasing you." He was right. You don't have to worry about the monsters from the old year chasing you if you are out there looking straight ahead and fighting for a better new year.

Some will say that we cannot effectively plan for the future without evaluating our past. Believe me; we have evaluated our past plenty. Between Fox news, CNN, C-Span, the regular networks, 400 cable news shows and the rest, there is nothing that has happened this year that we have not evaluated. If one looked, one can even find out what color tie Sean Hannity wore on May 15, or on what day the President's dog was officially housebroken. As to last year's events, I think we have them down pretty good.

What we don't know is what next year will bring. This is where we should be putting all of our attention. We have a presidential election coming up. We have the recession that continues (yes ... we are still in a recession despite what you may hear in the recaps). We have unemployment, bickering politicians, the Middle East, decaying infrastructures and an American in the space station who had to catch a ride with the Russians because NASA is broke.

Don't talk to me anymore about 2011. I simply do not want to hear it anymore. No more lists and no more "best of" and "worst of;" tell me about 2012. That's where the news is. And this is news, news right now, that we can actually do something about.

My grandfather had an old mule that he used to plow his fields with. Her name was Suzie. Suzie was a good mule, but she tended to look left and look right and back at my grandfather who was steering the plow. It caused the plowing to be slow work. One day he put some blinders on her so that all that she could see was what was in front of her. Suzie went from a good mule to a great mule. All she concentrated on was what was ahead of her.

Maybe that is what we need in this country. We can't worry anymore about all of the crooked terraces that we have caused in the past. But if we look ahead, without distractions, we can be sure that the next field that we plow we have perfectly straight lines and furrows that will create a better harvest for next year. Next year at this same time, it would be great to pick up the paper and the yearly recap would read ... "It was a damned good year; let's do even better next year!"

Happy New Year everyone!

Stan Hall is the director of Gwinnett County's Victim Witness Program. Email him at stan.hall@gwinnettcounty.com.