Well, here it is, the 2nd of February. Here in Berlin, there’s no chance any groundhog would see his shadow; the grayness just hangs in this city. But rather than contemplate prognosticating rodents, I’ve been remembering the film "Groundhog Day," in which Phil, played by the illustrious Bill Murray, relives the same day over and over.

Sometimes I feel like this happens to me. With only small variations, I relive the same news stories every day. When I sit at my kitchen table in the morning and try to wake up, the BBC makes noises in my general direction that I usually can’t make heads or tail of until I’ve had my first cup of coffee. I start working convinced that I haven’t absorbed any information from the news, that I have no idea what’s going on in the world because I was half asleep even as I tried to pay attention. Later in the day, as I read newspapers online or catch later editions of the news on the radio, I start to wonder why all the news stories sound so familiar, why there isn’t anything new, as the word promises. And then I realize: we allow so many events to repeat themselves, politicians so often repeat the same hollow phrases and we hear the same analyses from the pundits so frequently that  after only a year or two, anyone who follows the news closely starts to think she’s heard it all.

I’m exagerrating, I know, but I’m just a little dismayed at what I’ve been hearing recently. Every once in a while, an event receives the kind of attention that goes far beyond mere words. Case and point: the Asian tsunami. In other areas, though, we’ve been all too eager to hear ourselves talk and all to reluctant to make difficult decisions. I keep wondering why we’re so good at making the same sweeping statements about never forgetting the Holocaust, and yet we keep dropping the ball on stopping more recent incidences of genocide and ethnic cleansing. I’m not saying that it isn’t important to continue making these statements; it most certainly is. But I sometimes think it serves to mask the fact that we (and by "we" I mean human beings the world-over) have yet to stop talking shop and start talking strategy. What are the common challenges we face? the common opportunities we could be seizing?

On a day like this, in anticipation of Bush’s State of the Union Address, I find myself hoping that I’ll hear a different tone, that something in his speech will indicate that we’re moving beyond rhetoric and toward real cooperation. Is it too much to ask? I don’t think so, though it is a tall order. Granted, I’m as guilty of this as anyone; after all, I’m sitting here writing. But I like to think that I also do things. And when in doubt, I just like to remind myself of what Abraham Lincoln once said: "I hold the value of life is to improve one’s condition."

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