It will be a long time before any of us forget 2021, a year that saw both the nation’s health and our Constitution suffer. Both spent time in the equivalent of an emergency room. And, with the grace of God, both have survived (so far). Over 340,000 Americans are dead as this is written and prompting great angst on the part of many of us, the White House has a tenant that is threatening not to leave despite his lease ending January 20. It’s a double crisis. (and a triple or quadruple one if you consider the economic crisis and climate change).
In the face of our current situation, it’s easy to become disheartened. While there may be a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, the tunnel is long. Six months from now many of us will still be waiting for our vaccine, a job to open up, or figuring out how to survive. Others of us will simply not be here. The coronavirus death count is far from over.
Fortunately, Americans are not ones to give in to despair. We are anxious to return things to normal, or, as the new President is likely to tell us on January 20, “Build back better.” We are impatient, however, and while that impatience is spurring many of us to redouble our efforts to help others through the mess, it is also risking prolonging the crisis. I shuddered every time I saw pictures of crowded airports full of people visiting loved ones this past week. I understood why they were doing what they were doing, but I also wondered if they understood the risks they were creating. (hint: super spreader).
Despite everything, the new year is a time for hope and resolutions. I have my own resolutions but this year my hopes may be more important. Here are mine:
- Successful distribution of the coronavirus vaccines. We are off to a good start, but the challenges may get greater as the process moves forward. I’m hopeful that those leading the effort on the vaccines will enjoy full success.
- That everyone—yes, everyone—will take the vaccine. Many of us remain fearful or skeptical about the vaccine. Will it kill you? Are there long-term side effects? I respect those asking questions, but, so far, the vaccines appear safe. If this remains the case, everyone should take the vaccine. My hope is that they do.
- Congress will pass all the economic stimulus necessary. People are hurting. Now is not the time to worry about a balanced budget. My hope is that the new Congress will do its part to provide more help to small businesses, individuals, schools, States and cities, hospitals, and others. If this happens, next year’s holiday season will be a lot merrier than this one.
- Action on climate change. The U.S. was relatively lucky this year in avoiding multiple devastating hurricanes. The record number of storms this year was a reminder that the threat of climate change is still with us. The coronavirus and the economic crisis it caused did not push a pause button on climate change. Quite the contrary—we are one year closer to some sort of era-defining event, caused by climate change that could kill millions of us. My hope is that President Biden signs back onto the Paris Climate Agreements and sends Congress an aggressive set of job-creating proposals focused on a solution.
- Civility. Many of us, this writer included, have been less than civil to the outgoing president. I don’t apologize for that (in my view, he has been the worst president in the nation’s history), but I also recognize that that name-calling creates obstacles to progress. My hope is that members of both parties will also step up their efforts to be civil and start working with each other. Is that too much to ask in the middle of this devastating pandemic?
One final hope: I hope all Spy readers, and, for that matter, everyone living on the Eastern Shore, will have a happy, healthy, safe, new year. Happy New Year.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant. For more than 30 years, he advised clients on federal education and social service policy