H. Rick Goff
In trying to put a bow on 2020, it's easy to remember the trials and tribulations the year presented. A record number of named hurricanes (last one was Greek letter Iota and it was a Cat 5!), wildfires that seemed to never go out (4.2 million acres burned--most ever), record breaking heat (hottest year on record), flood waters reaching levels rarely if ever seen, and that's just the weather! The Black Lives Matter movement was at the forefront addressing long unresolved issues of racial inequality and social injustice in our country. The marches and riots of 2020 rivaled the Civil Rights movement of the 60s and proved once again that the road to true racial and social harmony is full of hurdles and roadblocks that must be overcome. Our democracy was exposed to be a fragile experiment in governing. The constant challenges to established norms, protocols and even the Constitution itself, at times made the country look like a third world "banana republic". While never pretty or pleasant, the 2020 presidential election showed the ugliest side of politics with accusations of massive voter fraud and an unprecedented attempt to overturn the election. The sad part is half of the country still believe this is true and continue to fight windmills to prove their point! All this turmoil while we are dealing with a pandemic; a virus that has killed over 300,000 American citizens and still counting!!
While everyone is ready to put 2020 in the rear-view mirror, we need to acknowledge that it has given us valuable insights into how to move forward. I think the biggest lesson of 2020 is personal responsibility. We all must acknowledge our part in shaping the national narrative. "We the people" are the country and without US, what is there? Of course, we can't control the weather, but we can acknowledge climate change is real and do our small part to address this reality. The fight for social justice is ongoing and the collective "We" must stand for and with those of US who feel they can't fully reap all or even some of the benefits of "Living in America". For sure 2020 has taught us not to take what we considered as "givens" for granted when it comes to our democracy. Our democracy is fragile by its very nature and the fight "to achieve a more perfect union" is a worthy endeavor. We don't have to accept that politics must be ugly; that the hypocrisy of some politicians is the norm. We must believe we can get to a place where disagreement and debate are healthy and the greater good is served with solutions rather than destructive rhetoric. The pandemic has affected every aspect of our society and has probably changed "normal" forever. It's effects on the economy and more importantly our personal lives are immeasurable. We have lacked national leadership in dealing with the pandemic, we have and continue to debate the wearing of masks to control the spread of the virus, and now we fight over the distribution of the vaccine. But despite it all, our genuine human compassion and concern for our fellow citizens has emerged as the true story of the pandemic. The front-line medical workers, food banks, and other professions deemed essential have rose above the chaos and showed us that We the people still have the capacity to do what is right!
The challenges of 2020 will not go away on Jan 1, 2021. There will be more storms, more rightful calls for racial justice, more political turmoil, and the pandemic will still be around well into next year and maybe beyond! I view 2020 as a good friend who held the mirror to our face and would not allow US to look away. No matter how much we tried to avoid and deny what we were seeing, it forced US to see the worse side of bad and the most unattractive side of ugly. But as we reluctantly continued to stare at the reflection, we finally saw the inherent Good in US!
We must all learn from 2020 and take personal responsibility for our role in shaping the national narrative. Have a personal call to action to engage in constructive dialogue with those you may have differences and try to understand their point of view, study relevant issues and develop an informed opinion so you will not simply believe and repeat what you heard someone else articulate, support causes you believe in, but most importantly be kind and help others!
Happy New Year and I wish all a Blessed and Safe 2021