As the ancient carol says "Fast away the old year passes," and 2012 will soon be history.

And what a history that has been: the national election; tumult and conflict in the Mid-East and elsewhere, arising in part from the "Arab Spring"; and the continuing economic struggle here and worldwide.

The "death of innocents" continues from the plague of senseless gun violence coast to coast, including the latest incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our prayers and condolences go out to all of the families and friends of the victims, as well as each of the communities involved.

All of these things have affected and traumatized us in a variety of ways, both good and bad. Re-discovering and grasping onto the true meaning of the Love story that is Christmas is a challenge we all must strive for each day. Without achieving that basic goal and making peace with our individual demons, it is hard to make sense of what is going on around us.

The election was certainly a major watershed event and signaled some basic changes in our national demographics. Greater voter participation by Latinos, Black Americans and young people, changing attitudes about and acceptance of gays and gay marriage, resurgence of women's issues, legalization of nonmedical pot, immigration and the National Health Care Act all played important roles in Obama's re-election and Senate and House contests. By and large, these issues came into the picture somewhat based on age and rural vs. urban locations. Many of these questions will disappear as younger citizens come on the scene recognizing a separation of civil and religious application.

Supreme Court approval of the National Health Care Act was certainly a major turning point for the president and those who have pushed for such legislation for 50 plus years! "Court watchers" now say that the questions of gay marriage on both the state and national levels might well be decided in this court term ending in May.

And resolution of the immigration issue seems destined to be decided this year simply because of its overwhelming societal and economic importance.

Of course, the "fiscal cliff' issue looms above all else because of its overwhelming effect on so many facets of our economic existence at so many levels. I continue to be puzzled at how and why the GOP continues to insist on being the "party of the rich" on both the national and state levels.

When Warren Buffet and others of extreme wealth say they should and are willing to pay higher taxes, I don't get this compulsion to stay hitched to such a silly position. When our average household income is less than $55,000, $250,000 per year seems a pretty handsome livelihood. Surely those over that amount won't end up in the "poorhouse" paying a bit more. And we really need the income to go with the many, many spending cuts that must be made. Kudos, by the way, to my lawyer friend, Gerry Schultz, who recently wrote an op/ed piece in The Telegram urging wealthy folks to pay more.

Many people say raising taxes on the wealthy, even a bit, will stymie economic growth. But that economic theory has been proven wrong. Our congressman recently said he won't vote for any tax increase, even on folks making more than $10 million per year! Is that bright or not? You be the judge. That approach got him kicked off committees while in the State Senate, same as the House Speaker did recently.

None of us wants to pay more taxes than necessary. But revenue is required to operate our government as it furnishes important goods and services to our nation. Those who want small or no government, and no taxes, should go to Somalia or other such beleaguered African countries. They have little of either! Our form of government is possible only as a result of compromise, something our congressman and others in Congress must come to understand. Without that, there can only be anarchy and an end to this noble experiment our founding fathers established over two centuries ago.

We all need to chill out, work and cooperate with one another as much as possible, including our president, so we can have a better year in 2013!

Duane West is a longtime resident and former mayor of Garden City.