It is incumbent on me as a columnist to do one of those year-end things — the 10 best of this, the 10 worst of that or, as you will see, who had the worst year in politics.
Columnists of the world, you have nothing to lose but the chains of the annual Top 10 list. No, you don't have to come up with the year's best or worst. You don't have to write a Things I'm Thankful For at Thanksgiving. You don't even have to provide a list of Banned Words every year. (I still fail to see the point in banning new words when so many familiar ones -- "police are investigating," for example -- are still waiting for a space on the unheated cattle train to Siberia.) Your obligation as a columnist is to be interesting. OK, "true" and "nonstupid," which are stumbling blocks for many columnists, are highly recommended too, but they often go along with interesting.
All that considered, when someone actually writes a year-end summary called "The World in Crisis," it's incumbent on you to draw a more different S and read along in your best voice:
We close 2013 in a world that seems to be swiftly tilting toward ever-larger crises of government legitimacy, oncoming clashes of foreign powers, and an abiding sense of concern on the part of the American people that the economic realities of long-term unemployment, wage stagnation, and the working class squeeze of higher prices for health care, higher education, and basic goods and services are not a brief trend, but enduring problems for which Washington has no solutions.
Or you could just get a few sheets of paper and start diagramming.
You'll be missing a lot if you just skip to the end, but -- no, not really.
... Of course, there is still hope. The nation has survived incredible crises before, on the global scale and within our society. The path toward liberty is still a viable one. And perhaps we will find that even when things break down, when government fails and grand strategies fade, the American people can count on each other more than they thought. These are strange times for the country and the world. But we may find that, even as institutions fail us, the American people exceed expectations. They have done it so many times before. In the coming year, they will be called on to do so again.