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Back to the future, again

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By Meaghan Downs

This feels familiar. Eerily familiar.
Every end of the year list, every end of the year column seems as though I’m in the same exact place I was 365 days earlier.
Sitting at my desk early in the morning, thinking about clichés regarding how the year flew by, then writing them down.
You try to look back on the year. Gather some notable events, conversations and discussion in your head, spit them out onto paper with the endgame being intelligent insights on the direction of the days ahead.
I’m not a psychic, but I think I know what the future will look like.
“The West Wing” foretold it.
When insomnia visited me a few nights ago, I decided to watch several episodes of the “The West Wing” to persuade me to sleep.
For those of you who have never seen this Emmy award-winning series, “The West Wing” reveals the inner mechanisms, bickering and spin doctoring of a White House communications department working for a late ‘90s era Democratic Party president.
What surprised me most were not the anachronistic plotlines, such as accidentally losing your beeper, or the pre-9/11 lack of security for the Oval Office.
What surprised me was my sense of déjà vu.
Here are a few of the central conflicts from “The West Wing” first season episodes circa 1999:
l After the Syrian government shoots down a plane and kills Americans on their way to a hospital mission in Africa, the president must decide on the appropriate proportional response: America as a benevolent and merciful superpower or America the merciless punisher.
l The president is attempting to pass a gun control bill through Congress but loses five votes from within his own party. One Congressman voting against the bill says the administration did not push hard enough to ban dangerous weapons; another says he wants the freedom to be able to arm his family and constituents.
Sound familiar?
About 13 years later, we’re still talking on and on and on about the same crises.
Foreign relations. Gun control. Budget deficits.
More than a decade has passed, and it feels like we haven’t solved anything.
It sometimes feels like the country is in the same exact place it was, not 365 days ago, but 4,745 days ago.
But it’s not. We know that.
“The West Wing” is a fictional representation of the world before the World Trade towers fell, at least, in its first few seasons.
It may be unfair, and a flawed argument to hold up a television show as a crystal ball of how 2013 will be shaped.
Nevertheless, I can be sure of one thing happening in 2013.
We will repeat history. We will repeat our mistakes from the past.
And if you’re feeling a sense of déjà vu at the end of 2012, you’re not crazy.
You’re just living history. All over again.