To borrow a turn of phrase from the movie Casablanca, the year 2012 was like every other year – only more so.
And as we avoided one ancient curse – the supposed Mayan end of days – we fulfilled another: Yup, we live in interesting times.
What happened in Augusta? Nothing much. Only the consolidation of Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University. And Richmond County’s first elected black sheriff in a couple centuries of sheriffing. And the national story of Aimee Copeland, the young woman who lost limbs but retained a courageous heart while defeating a flesh-destroying bacterial infection with the world-class help of heroes at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital. Hers was one of the most inspirational stories of 2012.
The biggest local story of the year, though, is indisputable: The naming of the university that ASU and GHSU would become.
Despite broad and vocal support locally, and even in national polls, for including “Augusta” in the new name, the state Board of Regents chose “Georgia Regents University.” (In fairness to the Regents, they hadn’t been told about the national survey results by GHSU President Ricardo Azziz.)
The name went over like the Hindenburg. This editorial page has never seen a longer, wider or more uniform sentiment for or against anything. Readers absolutely abhor the name GRU – which, sadly, will stick, unless the lawsuit by Regent University in Virginia says otherwise.
The year was also marked by fiscal problems at Paine College that threatened its accreditation, and physical problems at Augusta Youth Development Campus that included an inmate’s beating death, the belatedly announced escape of several others and wholesale staff changes amid serious policy violations. Changes and recriminations went all the way to Atlanta.
Bickering on the Augusta Commission also was a top story, notably the commissioners’ nearly year-long difficulty in settling on contracts for operating the new Augusta Convention Center and parking garage. By the end of the year, the commission was even arguing over who sits where at meetings.
Nationally, it was a year of grace and disgrace, triumphs and tragedies. It just seemed like the ups and downs were more pronounced this year, for some reason.
A lot of that may have to do with the bitter election year – in which conservatives felt the country’s very future was at stake – but it also had to do with “Superstorm” Sandy that struck the Northeast, and the massacre in Newtown that struck our hearts through.
The Newtown shooting of 20 children and six adults overtook the Aurora, Colo., theater shooting in the horror category.
Even in the sports world, the Associated Press’ top four stories of 2012 were all about scandal or injury, not athletic achievements: Penn State’s continued sex abuse shame, Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace, the New Orleans Saints’ bounty system aimed at injuring opposing players, and the National Football League’s wrestling with player concussions.
Another top story, approval of Obamacare by a sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court, also was noteworthy for its contentiousness, but meant that the health care reform act is now the law of the land going forward.
The November election not only made President Obama president-elect and Time magazine’s Person of the Year, it also reversed conservatism’s forward progress and put conservatives in a soul-searching funk.
The so-called fiscal cliff – a series of across-the-board tax increases and blunt spending cuts scheduled for the start of 2013 – became the leading political story of the past two months of the year, as Republicans and Democrats fought to a standstill through Christmas and beyond.
Voters sent maddeningly mixed messages about what they wanted, too – seeming to approve of Mr. Obama’s plan to primarily raise taxes on the wealthy, but also telling pollsters that spending was the real problem. At the same time, they told pollsters that frugal Republicans would be at fault if no agreement was reached.
Overseas, Syrian strongman Bashar Assad continued a years-long assault on his own people while somehow also retaining membership in good status at the United Nations. And a terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including our ambassador, prompted the Obama administration to lie about the attack’s origins – with apparent impunity.
Which leads us to our rock-solid, take-it-to-the-bank prediction for 2013:
More interesting times ahead.