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We have entered the last half of the current year, and Iím glad. Iíve always liked the second six months of a year more than the first. Iím not sure why, but I can guess.
For one thing, the first half has too many holidays to keep track of. You begin with New Yearís Day and all that resolutions baloney, followed by Martin Luther King Jr., Valentineís Day, St. Patrickís Day, Good Friday, Easter, Presidents Day, Motherís and Fatherís Day, Memorial Day and a few others not worth mentioning.
Legal holidays are a valuable part of life. They force hard-working Americans to take a break from the rat race. But they also can be a pain. You need to make a bank deposit, but the bank is closed.
Same way with the post office and the public library. And letís not forget the schools. When you shop on a holiday, the stores are filled with second-graders begging their parents for ice cream.
Some holidays are automatic guilt trips. Should I send a Motherís Day card? On Good Friday, shall I attend my annual Mass or skip it? Even though Iím not Irish, on St. Pattyís Day I feel I should wear something green. Trouble is, I donít own anything green. One year I wore an orange shirt, and a guy named OíMalley threatened to replace my nose with my shoulder blades.
But in the second half of a year, holidays are less plentiful. The calendar is not so cluttered. Now that weíve celebrated July 4th, we have clear sailing until Labor Day. After that thereís Columbus Day, Halloween, Veteranís Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Several major Jewish holidays also occur in the yearís final months. But generally life seems more relaxed than January-June does.
As the year winds down, so does major league baseball. In early September we can start pretending to care who might be in the World Series. That can be exciting. After weeks of divisional playoffs, two teams remain. They decide the final question, i.e., will the Series end before autumnís first snowstorm shuts things down?
The last four months of each year are filled with college and professional football. I never played football, but I like much of what goes with it Ė the impressive skill and courage of the players, the mostly legal violence, the marching bands, the semi-nude cheerleaders being flipped skyward and usually caught by their colleagues on the ground. For some of us, the most suspenseful part of the game comes at the singing of our national anthem, when we wonder if it will be rendered with old-fashioned dignity, or (more likely) transformed into a rock, rap, soul, gospel or country western version.
This year another large thrill will be the November election of 435 U.S. representatives and 33 U.S. senators. Here in Florida thereís also a governorís race, with GOP incumbent Rick Scott probably facing former governor Charlie Crist. Recent polls indicate that this contest, if held today, would be a tossup.
One of the fascinations of following politics is the attempt by voters to identify the candidates who seem to be telling the truth, as opposed to those who are peddling the most preposterous bald-faced lies about their aims, beliefs and opponents. The sad fact about politics, in America and elsewhere, is that candidates simply have to lie if they hope to survive. Voters may say we want the truth, but usually we donít. Often, the truth is this: Things are a confused mess, and no one really knows how to make them better. Faced with this bleak reality, candidates must deliver sugar-coated promises along with dire warnings about what will happen if their opponents are elected.
Honorable, truth-telling candidates do exist, but theyíre rare. Another rarity this election year will be Democratic candidates who remain loyal to Barack Obama. Now that he is faced with an array of huge problems, foreign and domestic, many of Obamaís erstwhile political allies are already beginning to jump overboard. As November approaches, political junkies can entertain themselves by playing a very tricky game: identifying Democratic candidates brave or foolhardy enough to say, ďThe president is far from perfect but, dadgummit, Iím going to stick with him!Ē The second half of 2014 should be at least as interesting as the first.