It seemed like virtually everyone in America was eagerly anticipating bringing in the New Year last night. The bulk of the year was taken up with the worst plague in modern history, More than 1.8 million people died worldwide from it and nearly 350,000 in the U.S. alone.
But it wasn’t just coronavirus that made 2020 such a bad year. There were the killings of George Floyd, Jacob Blake, Breonna Taylor, and others that set off protests and counter-protests across the country. There was the continued rise of fascism and overt racism. There was a dysfunctional government led by a narcissistic man whose only interest has ever been himself. There were the continued false accusations of election fraud that worked to undermine our faith in our own institutions. There was a crashed economy that left thousands upon thousands of people unemployed, more homeless and hungry or on the edge of it, and the poor even poorer in the long march of economic disparity. And there was the inability of any individual or the government to do anything about any of it.
So because we tend to believe in hope, we set our sights on the turning of a new year (and in a couple of weeks the turning over of power). Friends and neighbors eagerly longed to say goodbye to the dumpster fire that was 2020, hanging our hopes on the idea that 2021 would turn it all around.
The problem is today is no different than yesterday. While we have a vaccine now, nothing changed overnight. Nothing will change after the inauguration. The virus will still keep killing people worldwide and there are now new strains to worry about. Bad cops will still kill innocent people. The legacy of the Donald Trump presidency will wreak havoc for years to come. There is no magic potion to stop the spread of coronavirus, fascists, conspiracy theorists, greed, and hate.
But we have to start somewhere, and today is as good a day as any. We can hope. We can pray that we have learned some lessons. Perhaps once we are safe from the virus we can avoid returning to a normal that really wasn’t normal. Maybe we can avoid rushing headlong back into our harried and overly busy lives and enjoy the time with our closest loved ones that we were forced to spend time with during quarantine. Perhaps we can continue to stay close with nature with hikes and quiet reflection, and that will help us understand the need to fix our planet. We can take in the reality that Black Lives Matter and work together to make that a meaningful reality. We can begin to fix the brokenness of our lives, our government, and our culture because 2020 gave us the gift of understanding what was broken.
This is a fervent wish and a prayer–that we come out from the horrors of the last year to a new understanding of what is wrong in this world and a new commitment to being better world citizens and neighbors, that we will work toward economic and racial equity simply because it is the right thing to do, and that we will do our best to ensure that we are all front-line heroes in the constant struggle for a better and more just world.