At the start of the new year, many breathed a sigh of relief and felt a peace of mind that 2020 was over, with high hopes that 2021 would be significantly better.
After a decidedly chaotic year, welcoming in 2021 brought both a sense of optimism and exhaustion to many.
Amid the lasting impact of the ongoing pandemic, police brutality of the summer revealing deep-rooted racial injustice in our country and a stressful election season with political dissension, most Americans would agree that 2020 has been a brutal year and one that no one would want to repeat. However, with each hard hit to our country last year, nothing has been revealed more clearly than the fact that these are issues that have always existed and 2020 merely brought to light.
The handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has cost our country the lives of hundreds of thousands of citizens and also had a damaging effect on the economy, revealed our unpreparedness in the face of a worldwide emergency.
The shocking video of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police officers was unfortunately only one instance of such a tragic event and stems from years of systemic injustice and racism that permeate our country’s history.
The election process, from the uncivilized debates to the claims of election fraud only shows the divisive and divided nature of the current American political process and the mistrust many have for our government as well as the many flaws that lie in a two-party system.
The issues of last year in no way disappear with the turning of a new calendar page, and assuming this mentality is harmful and can lead to repetition of the same issues in the upcoming years and months.
Although it may be tempting to see 2021 and the start of a new year as a time for a complete reset, it is important to keep in mind that a new year is nothing more than a new calendar.
This is not to say that hope is bad and that optimism should cease. Nothing fuels positive change and progress like a sense of ambition and motivation toward a brighter future.
One of our goals as a society should be to leave the world a better place than how we find it currently. However, this cannot be accomplished without acknowledging the fact that most current events stem from ongoing brokenness and failures that are not unique to any one year or time period.
An essential aspect of paving the way for future generations to have a better world to live in is recognizing and addressing the problems of today. Instead of sweeping them aside with the title that they are “last year’s problems” or that 2020 was the worst it could get, it is important to look for the root of these stumbling blocks and find ways to ensure they don’t become bigger barriers for generations to come.
While it may be refreshing to start a new year and press reset, it is not an excuse to check out from politics and current events of last year and treat them as one-time occurrences. 2020 may be over but the lasting impact of the year is not going to fade away as peacefully as some may hope.
It is still our duty to make a positive impact on the world around us and those in it. One of the main ways to do this is to remain informed and engaged, and not become passive or complacent to the brokenness in our country and its systems.
Ultimately, the issues seen in 2020 were not new. They are simply the bubbling over of problems that have been simmering slowly below the surface of America.
Claiming that 2020 was a terrible year may very well be true. The problems of the last year were problems of the years before it and will likely remain problems for years to come if not addressed and responded to properly.