Parting Reflections from 2020

This year was bad, but it wasn’t all bad.

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Image for post
Mohamed Hassan, Pixabay.

There is an understandable rush to move on from the year 2020. Natural disasters, a global pandemic, economic ruin, and a high stakes political election created an uncomfortable year, to say the least. Good riddance.

Sure, I welcome 2021 and the potential return to normality just as much as the next guy. Who would have thought that even trivial activities and mild social interaction would be so missed?

But is it possible that we are moving on from 2020 too quickly? As the saying goes, when you lose, don’t lose the lesson. What if, in the mad dash to rid ourselves of this year, we are losing the lesson? What if there were valuable lessons learned the hard way from this past year’s debacle that might be squandered by the haste?

My writing tends to be political, so why not start with politics? For the first time in his life, Donald Trump was held accountable. He had quite the hand as well, like a war chest of funds compared to the “Death Star,” the political advantage of incumbency, a pandemic that upended the way we vote, and a historically sticky base. Despite this, the American people rebuked the president on a historic scale. Biden captured the largest share of the vote for a challenger since FDR.

In 2020, democracy won.

There was also progress on certain policy fronts as well. Congress allocated direct payments to Americans. Sure, this only occurred because of a global pandemic and its associated economic hardship. But what if this is the first step in something more significant? Did the direct payments lay the groundwork for a future with universal basic income?

“We’re experiencing 10 years of change in 10 weeks,” Andrew Yang, a champion of UBI, said. A future universal basic income proposal has to start somewhere, and that somewhere was 2020.

I would be remiss to omit the brave men and women on the frontlines of the pandemic in my year end retrospective. They are all profiles in courage, sacrificing their own physical and mental health to serve fellow Americans.

In 2020, expertise still mattered. Facts still mattered. And science still mattered. How about it for science, eh? A novel virus spurred a global race for the cure. After less than a calendar year since isolating the virus, scientists and doctors were able to create and test a vaccine. The previous record for the quickest vaccine-to-market journey was four times that.

Lastly, there is a certain benefit to enduring hardship, as that which does not kill you can only make you stronger. For those of us who were able to withstand 2020, we are certainly stronger because of it.

No, this year was not a euphoric triumph. But, amid the wreckage and under the debris, there was hope…lessons, even.

Don’t forget them.

Written by

political science researcher. former valedictorian. reader/writer. host of “Politics Mostly” podcast.

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