For Donald Trump, the New Year began with a confrontational tweet vilifying Pakistan and threatening to cut off aid to that country.
Then the easily distracted Trump turned his attention from Pakistan to a New Year’s statement by Kim Jong Un where the North Korean leader warned that a “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.”
Trump predictably took the bait retaliating to Kim Jong Un’s brinksmanship with a positively juvenile statement on twitter.
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!, Trump tweeted.
Once again, Trump’s tweet could be seen as funny and entertaining if it weren’t so dangerous.
Other political and spiritual leaders delivered urgent and alarming messages but in stark contrast to Trump they called for constructive action, individual, collective efforts to defuse dangerous situations for which both Kim Jong Un and Trump seemed to have a decided penchant.
In his homily at the New Year’s Eve prayer service at St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis, referencing wars, injustices, social and environmental degradation among other forms of strife, asked us to take responsibility for inflicting manmade injury on the environment, on society and admonished us for not just wasting the year 2017 but spending it in destructive and negative pursuits.
The Pope reproached us because we were granted by God a “whole and sound year and we humans in so many ways ruined and hurt it with works of death, with lies and injustices.”
“The wars are the flagrant sign of this repeated and absurd pride,” he said and added, “so are all the little and big offences against life, truth, brotherhood, that cause multiple forms of human, social and environmental degradation.”
In case anyone is still looking for a worthy New Year’s resolution, the Pope provided useful direction.
“We want to and must assume, before God, our brothers and creation our responsibility” for our harmful behaviour.
While critical, the Pope’s message, is also constructive and hopeful. It is hopeful because it is adult, it offers solutions by asking people to take responsibility for the “little and big offences.”
The Pope was not the only figure to speak about the urgency of taking responsibility, realigning our behaviour and correcting the destructive course of war and hatred, a path promoted by leaders such as Trump, Kim Jong Un and others.
In his New Year message, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a united front internationally, saying it is the only means of prevailing over global challenges.
Saying that the world appeared to have “gone in reverse,” Guterres painted a dark scenario and issued a stark warning.
“On New Year’s Day 2018 I am not issuing an appeal, I am issuing an alert — a red alert for our world,” and calling for unity he said that we can resolve conflicts, defend shared values and defeat hatred only if humanity works together.
To refuse to acknowledge our transgressions and our faults is to be condemned to engage endlessly in the same futile behaviour.
Taking responsibility for our actions or our indifference in the face of war, injustice and cruelty is definitely a worthy aspiration and a good way of ensuring that compared to 2017, 2018 will be in every aspect a New Year.