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Thursday, December 31, 1998

1998 was the year of Mitch for some. The year of Monica for others. Natural disasters and unnatural disasters. Yet, to me it was the year of Mandela-type attitudes and actions, people who rose above the unfair hands dealt them.

1998 was the year of Mitch for some. The year of Monica for others. Natural disasters and unnatural disasters. Yet, to me it was the year of Mandela-type attitudes and actions, people who rose above the unfair hands dealt them, people and nations who are trying to draw a line under past abuses and exploitations.

Not always getting it right but nevertheless trying. Not forgetting but forgiving. Unfortunately, the good that happens in a year is often obscured or obliterated from consciousness by the immediate crisis. As a foreigner I am saddened by what is happening in Washington. Polarization threatens friendships. Yet, America of all countries has the capacity for change and for improvement. Personally, I feel that one of the results of these partisan events, partisan on both sides, may be a new bi-partisanship. One result of the unhealthy prying into people's private lives may be higher standards of behavior from those who ask for our support in public office.

However, to return to people and nations trying to draw a line under the past. I have made a list of initiatives that I have noticed this past year. You will think of others: Legislatures, churches, organizations in Australia apologizing to the Aborigine people for the way their children were taken from them and often abused, with half a million Australians signing sorry books. The United Church of Canada similarly apologizing to native Americans for their abuse at church-operated schools. The Prime Minister of Japan apologizing to British ex-prisoners of war for his country's treatment of them. The Italian president apologizing to the people of Ethiopia for the occupation of their country. The Pope apologizing to Jews for the shortcomings of the church in confronting Nazism in World War 11. The President of Argentina saying sorry to the British for the Falklands/Malvinas war. The resolution of conflicts between Japan and South Korea and Ecuador and Peru and the signing of an agreement in Northern Ireland and an interim peace accord in the Middle East The release of the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. The British prime minister apologizing to the Irish for Britain's role in the famine 150 years ago, reopening the enquiry into Bloody Sunday, and speaking to the Irish Parliament. President Clinton apologizing in Africa for the slave trade. It is an impressive list. Some were seen as not going far enough or too far. Some agreements may not hold. But the fact that the attempts were made should be honored. And perhaps even more impressive than these steps has been the willingness of those at the receiving end of abuse to forgive. 1998 could be termed the Year of Loving Dangerously. ( KBOO December 31)