2021 is limping toward its last days. Many will remember it for not fulfilling the promise of putting Covid-19 to rest. Others bear personal injuries from the recent tornadoes and hurricanes Ida and Nicholas, as well as the record numbers of deaths from homicides, auto accidents, and drug overdoses.
Not that 2021 didn’t have its good side.
The first anti-malaria vaccine is available. This mosquito-carried disease–which plagued builders of the Panama Canal–causes 600,000 deaths annually. According to Bill Gates, the vaccine approved this fall was in “late stage clinical development” from 2001 to 2015.
That makes it all the more amazing that people around the world reaped benefits from research that made it possible to develop 10 anti-Covid vaccines in a little over a year. The half million U.S deaths this year from this pandemic could have been much worse.
Our economy recovered from the 2020 shutdowns faster than believed possible. The growth rate here in the U.S. has been three times that in the Euro-nations. Wages for the lowest quartile rose enough for real wages to increase in spite of inflation plaguing the recovering nations. If the prices of fuel and lumber continue to decline, more of us will benefit from wage gains.
And our ability to work, attend meetings, order groceries, and get health consultations online has grown exponentially during the past two years.
Unfortunately, the negative effects of social media are growing also. The insults and negativity attacking preteens’ self-image are bad enough. But who would have dreamt of a nationwide call to destroy school bathrooms?
Yet, hanging over the good and the bad events of 2021, is the sense that American democracy is failing, that history reveals only spurts of progress toward liberty and opportunity between centuries of repression.
January 6 continues to haunt the nation. Armed citizens felt they could save our country by stopping the processing of electoral college votes. Biden couldn’t have won, one lady said, because no one voted for him. It was easier for her–and others–to believe that thousands of election officials across the nation joined in a conspiracy than that their media’s reporting was distorted day by day.
And 19 Republican-led states used claims of voter fraud to enact laws that made it harder for Americans to vote. Two states sought to forbid the provision of food and water to people in line–making sure the long hours in line would discourage even more people from voting. It took 10 years of organizing for Georgia to get enough voters out to threaten the entrenched powers. The legislature may have erased those gains overnight.
Gerrymandering in many states is guaranteeing one-sided elections regardless of the popular vote. According to the Pew Research Organization, legislatures control the process in 35 states–23 controlled by Republicans and 11 by Democrats.
Many Republican leaders who once spoke out against Donald Trump’s actions January 6 are backing down or resigning. The GOP recently cemented their backing of Trump in 2024 by contracting to pay $1.6 million in legal fees to fight New York state’s investigations into fraud in his private business dealings.
These challenges to our democracy are serious and a reminder that the 600-year-old Roman Republic evolved into an empire of domination and warfare.
But we also need to remember that our nation has survived major challenges before and is better and stronger because of them.
Meet 2022 resolved to be good citizens–to care about your families, your neighbors and our nation. Resolve to seek truth, to respect one another, and to become the person you were meant to be.