WASHINGTON — It's "Auld Lang Syne" time again. Robert Burns is credited with "collecting" the lyrics for the old Scottish drinking and dancing ballad that's become a traditional part of New Year's festivities. The most memorable verses — "should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind" and the chorus, "for auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we'll take a cup o' kindness yet for auld lang syne" — are often described as reminders of "the good old times" amid new beginnings. That's a tough task this year. Saying goodbye to 2012 won't be hard. But looking forward with hope for a better year in 2013 is a real challenge.
Peering into a chasm from the edge of the "fiscal cliff" isn't the way most of us wanted to end the first dozen years of the 21st century. We all know it's the nature of government to grow in size, power and expense. But how many of us really expected that the fools in Washington would drown our progeny in a sea of deficits, debt and ever-higher taxes? Nobody I know expected the Internal Revenue Service to become the dominant fixture in our lives.
As 2012 began, did anyone anticipate it would become "The Year of the Cover-up"? Who believed the year would end with more emphasis on banning personally owned firearms than deterring our adversaries from acquiring nuclear weapons? Did anyone anticipate that our constitutionally protected freedoms would fall under the purview of the United Nations? A year ago, who among us expected we still would face the prospect of prolonged global recession, radical Islamic chaos in the Middle East, and endless genocide in Syria?
But as we ring out 2012 and welcome 2013, that's where we are. So as we "take a cup o' kindness yet for auld lang syne," what should we expect in the new year ahead — apprehension or anticipation? Frequent readers of this column know I suffer from a severe case of chronic optimism. Clip and save this column until next year so you can rate my powers of prognostication:
—Fiscal cliff. The potentates of pork on the Potomac will kick the can down the road without breaking their toes. Taxes will go up for all of us, and Warren Buffett will pronounce it to be a good thing. The incredibly selfish baby boomers will demand that their "entitlements" and "benefits" not be cut — but they will be anyway. Small businesses, the engine of our economy, will sputter — and find new ways to survive but not prosper. Washington's political class will be glad 2013 is not an election year. Many will regret not following Sen. Jim DeMint into more productive endeavors.
—The cover-ups. Hillary Clinton will recover from her concussion, but she won't recall what she did or didn't know about abysmal security at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. John Kerry, the most anti-U.S. military secretary of state in history will try to sweep the mess under the rug while promising reforms — and dreaming up new ways to punish Israel. Attorney General Eric Holder will continue to cover up White House complicity in his "Fast and Furious" gunrunning operation.
—U.S. military. Personnel reductions, cuts in benefits and delays in replacing worn-out weapons and equipment will degrade the finest fighting force in the history of the world. Many combat-experienced troops who defended us and offered others the hope of freedom will join private companies to "backfill" current commitments in Afghanistan and Africa. Thanks to organizations such as Freedom Alliance, the American people will be reminded to keep our commitments to the men and women of our armed forces and their families and honor their service and sacrifice.
—The ayatollahs. A failing Iranian economy and the collapse of Bashar Assad's sanguinary regime in Syria will put increasing pressure on the hagiocracy ruling in Tehran. Though the Obama administration lacks the will to support a second "Green Revolution" in Iran, others will do so. It will be the last chance to prevent the ayatollahs from acquiring — and using — nuclear weapons.
—The Second Amendment. Vice President Joe Biden's "task force" will ignore the National Rifle Association's advice to protect our children with armed security guards in our schools. Instead, the B-Team will recommend banning certain firearms based on cosmetics. America's parents will respond with a dramatic increase in families opting to home-school.
As we sing "Auld Lang Syne" this year, I will recall 2012 as the year the good Lord blessed Betsy and me with our 13th and 14th grandchildren. I'll remember being welcomed home from difficult and dangerous places by loving family members who prayed for my safe return. I will be reminded of friends from Vietnam to Somalia to Iraq and Afghanistan — some departed, others still here — and be grateful for knowing them.
For me, "Auld Lang Syne" isn't about the "good old times"; it's about good people. The lyrics are a reminiscence about not past events but relationships. It's people who help us weather the tough times of life — and enjoy pleasant events. As we face an uncertain tomorrow, "Auld Lang Syne" is a reminder to stay close to those we love and who love us in return.
Oliver North is the host of "War Stories" on Fox News Channel and the author of the New York Times best-seller "Heroes Proved." To find out more about Oliver North and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.