Many years from now, historians will call 2023 a bad year. They will study the disturbing political career of Donald Trump. Historians will also document a year of wars in Gaza and Ukraine, both of which involve substantial American commitment and the possibility of expansion into regional and even global conflicts. The country is also suffering from a rising crime rate and an out-of-control border security system.
Had we known what was to transpire in 2023 last year and had the opportunity to skip the year, most of would have shouted, “Yes, please.”
But is the year really a complete bust? No. Even ignoring good things that happened to many of us in our personal lives, there are at least 10 things that can be considered pleasant surprises:
Inflation, especially the price of gasoline, has gone down. All of us are heaving a sigh of relief and crossing our fingers that there will not be a recession. As of today, the economy is looking better every day, and the stock market has reached an all-time high. Are many of us still shocked at the prices of groceries and other essentials? Yes, but the scourge of inflation is abating.
Workers were empowered in 2023 and successfully fought for higher wages. The UAW strike is the most prominent example, but workers in many other industries flexed their muscles and narrowed the income gap with high income earners. Improving income equality is in everyone’s interest.
Joe Biden has remained healthy. While many of us would prefer his party to nominate a younger candidate, Biden has proven to be more robust than most of us expected. Even those who disagree with Biden on policy and accuse him of corruption have to be surprised that he is as active as he has been. In my view, his administration has been a success to date, in major part because of Biden’s leadership.
Prosecutors finally indicted Donald Trump for a variety of crimes. Although many of us on the Eastern Shore disagree with the prosecution of Trump, I am a supporter of the rule of law. I welcome accountability for Trump. (I am aware of allegations against President Biden and his “crime family.” I have not seen evidence that Joe Biden committed any crimes, but the House of Representatives is now investigating. Biden son has been indicted. Would Donald Trump, Jr. or Jared Kushner have been indicted had Trump won the 2020 presidential race? I do not think so.)
How about a few things less political?
The popularity of Taylor Swift. She brought unexpected joy to millions, including many people over age 17. I have yet to sit down and listen to her music but enjoy watching her cheer on the Kansas City Chiefs.
Here is something you might not have expected on my list: The Oppenheimer movie. It was brilliantly written and acted. Who would have foreseen a movie about the pros and cons of the invention of the atomic bomb being mainstream entertainment? If you have not seen it, I recommend it.
The writers’ and actors’ strikes are over. This means that unexpectedly high-quality entertainment is coming back. This year a plethora of excellent entertainment was released. Among my favorites are Slow Horses, The Morning Show, Yellowstone, and Lessons in Chemistry.
Looking closer to home, we did not have a hurricane on the Eastern Shore this year. And efforts to improve the health of the bay and to fight climate change continue. Awareness of the consequences of inadequately considered development seems to be increasing. I hope I am right.
Culture on the Eastern Shore continues to grow richer. The Waterfowl Festival was great this year (again). World-class concerts are available at the Prager Family Center for the Arts, The Avalon, and elsewhere. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s Visitor Center is open. As 2023 ends, the Eastern Shore is a better place to live, culturally, than it was a year ago.
Number 10 is the Spy Newspapers. You really cannot call the continued success and growth of The Spy a “pleasant surprise,” because it was also strong in past years. The Eastern Shore is fortunate to have a non-profit newspaper that is “ultra-local focused.” I rely on The Spy to keep an eye on the Eastern Shore. I find something of value in every issue.
J.E. Dean is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, and other subjects.