The temperature outside for the past couple of nights has been in the vicinity of -19 degrees Fahrenheit. The sidewalks are a mix of ice, bits of snow and sidewalk salt. The temperates in your house, thermostat kept low to ward off through the roof natural gas bills in a tight economy, isn't really that much colder than any other night. But, when it is really cold outside, the cold seems to penetrate more deeply.
The end of the year whirl of a rush of end of year legal work, trips and parties to prepare for, purchases to make, and end of school term tests and projects to complete keep the brisk forced march of December hustling along.
This year, the shopping is muted. Every day brings new word that the economy is slipping further. Two of the big three automobile companies and one of our daily newspapers have announced their imminent collapses. The name I wrote on my credit card bill yesterday was that of a bank that hasn't existed for months; the billing department will catch up sooner or later. The Fed will probably reduce its main interest rate from 1.0% to 0.5% or 0.25% today, driving the prime rate to 3.25% to 3.5%.
The appointment announcements trickling out of the Obama administration provide hope. Not audacious hope yet, but the quiet, tentative hope still afraid to speak its name for fear of being crushed with disappointment. As in many Decembers past, I am counting days, not to December 25, or to its Orthodox counterpart January 6, but to January 20, the day the nightmare ends. Well, I'm sure that the nightmare will not vanish in a flash. Our problems are deep, intractable and not easily banished. But, if the nightmare does not end, at least we will begin walking again in the right direction, towards change, towards hope, towards the possibility of a nation not wholly in decline and corrupt decay.
The change seems as distant as the prospect of spring blossoms now. But, until then, we will endure.