OK, I know we don’t agree on much. But that was the worst year of our lives, no?
We might disagree on why, so it’s tempting to stop there and take joy from the idea that we actually have a consensus on something. Alas, not this time.
Let’s just take a quick look back. For me, the president’s reckless disregard for the rule of law, undermining every institution, thumbing his nose at the Constitution and its Bill of Rights to satiate his desperate need to be affirmed and idolized was the low point. Just about everything else about this miserable year stems from that, including a substantial portion of the 300,000 of our fellow Americans now gone forever; I have never once heard him express any remorse, regret or sympathy.
But let’s move on. Unfortunately, the virus won’t let us, not any time soon. Too many of us appear unwilling to do what has to be done to save ourselves and so many others from its mercilessness. That would be Mr. Trump’s legacy.
This disaster, much of which is of our own making, will leave behind problems that will take sacrifice, money, and progressive forethought to tackle. Here, in no particular order, are some of the more challenging issues we can’t continue to allow to fester:
Our public health infrastructure needs work. Duh. Lots of us worked hard to try to get the counties to create a regional health department in the early years of the new millennium. Time to get it right.
Our behavioral health problems and the weak system designed to make it better aren’t. And isolation so important to fighting Covid, makes all matters worse. And we are still the only Western democracy on the planet that doesn’t guarantee every citizen access to care. Time for Medicare for All.
We can’t allow a digital divide to continue to create such obscene disparity between the haves and the have-nots. Our public education system reeks of apartheid; it is the most effective way we have of locking inequity into our society. Time to make radical changes. We have to break up the concentration of poverty in our urban school districts and give our kids some hope for a better future.
It’s time for those who were marching in the streets this year to march right on into city council chambers, the county government centers, the state legislature and Congress. Bitching and swearing at the police, as if they are all Klansmen, doesn’t advance our cause. Neither do silly chants to “defund the police.” If you don’t vote and you don’t attend the meetings and you don’t connect the dots, there will be no progress. There is a great criminal reform effort in the Lehigh Valley that needs your support. It’s called the Color of Justice and it’s supported by a new entity called the Lehigh Valley Justice Institute. We need your help.
While we are at it, if we want anything resembling an equitable world, where fairness is the central goal, a group Community Action helped establish called Color Outside the Lines has a strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion that will need good people to promote. It will be released in January; watch for it.
Climate change is real, people. Facts are facts. Those who say there is no reason to fear them are lying to you. The species is in danger and too many of us are whistling past the graveyard.
Now that this latest of my calls to action has been published, I wait for the hate mail. It will be sent anonymously, no return address. It will be barely literate. It will be ugly, and it will be threatening.
This stuff is crazy; and it’s real: some of these wackos were busted planning to kidnap and execute the governor of Michigan, others threatened the lives of even Republicans who wouldn’t join the president in making a mockery of our election system. Then there is the 17-year-old kid who murdered two people in Kenosha who has been turned into a hero by those extremists. Shouldn’t this give us pause to think about whether it was a good idea to let every gun nut load up on semi-automatic weapons? These guys have those weapons not because they shoot furry little critters but because they expect a civil war with people who don’t look like them, worship like they do or ignore public health threats like them. They’ve got all the weapons. Us mild-mannered, reasonable people don’t. Enough said.
Friends, this isn’t funny. This is not the United States of America I learned to revere.
We are all in this together; let’s act like it. A complex society can’t work for any of us any other way.