As the year 2020 drew to a dramatic conclusion, the country finds itself amid political turmoil and a pandemic at its peak. However, like everyone else, I cling to that often fleeting but persisting, Hope: Hope, the overpowering and obstinate lure to stay alive, engaged, and moving forward.
The year 2020, as the three previous years under the presidency of Donald Trump and his administration of incompetence, lies, and idiocy, has tested our tolerance for chaos and our limits for catastrophes. And as if to further stretch our resiliency, the fires that devastated California, the COVID-19 pandemic novel, and the presidential elections managed to make 2020 the year we would prefer to forget. It was predictable the country would fail to meet these hardships. After all, we had a preview of the Trump administration’s response when Hurricane Maria, the deadly Category 5 hurricane, devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017. The government’s inadequate and short-sighted response to the island’s damage and its inhabitants’ basic necessities further cemented the notion that Trump and his “yes, men” were not up to the challenge. The president was incapable or unwilling to grasp that Puerto Ricans are American citizens, thus shirking responsibility. Trump’s idea of a response was a quick trip to the island and the infamous press conference with its accompanying photo-op showing him throwing rolls of paper towels at a crowd of members of the press and island authorities.
In 2017, Trump lost the presidential election by three million popular votes but managed to win the electoral college. He appeared on the national stage wearing orange tone makeup, spewing racism, long-standing resentments, and making empty promises—thus duping fanatics eager to follow this emperor with no substance. Plentiful warnings about the need to include those who felt snubbed by the so-called “the coastal elites” resulted in electing a charlatan who was selling the elixir of a quick fix and a promise we could all live in luxury apartments with gold-plated toilets. He alone would return the U.S. to the former glory of the 1950s when everyone knew “his” place. He alone could move the country forward by employing greed and fraud. While asserting government institutions were superfluous, lying and cheating became measures of success. Leaving behind all notions of racial, gender, and economic equality, our job was to thank, acknowledge and congratulate the president for “doing a great job for the American people, like we’ve never seen before,” and deserving of the Nobel prize, as he claimed on several occasions.
I believe we are at a crossroads, despite or perhaps because of the devastation caused by the pandemic, which has uncovered a broken healthcare system, inadequate educational institutions, and lack of affordable housing, not to mention the precarious nature of our democracy. The pandemic has also shined/shone a light on the pervasive racial divide resulting in communities of color shouldering the burden of racial hate, the unjust Criminal Justice System, and the ravages caused by the pandemic.
With Georgia on my mind, I believe we are at a juncture where meaningful changes to our broken health system are achievable. Millions of workers losing their jobs due to the pandemic have been left to fend for themselves since health insurance is no longer available through their place of employment. Isn’t this then the perfect time to implement universal healthcare? Or, at a minimum, an affordable public option?
I also believe significant changes are possible in our education system. I think a good start includes:
- Free public colleges and universities.
- Canceling student debt.
- Hiring additional educators.
- Adequate funding of schools.
- Modernizing rural and urban school facilities, including tech updating and free internet access for the education community.
Housing in the U.S. is unaffordable for the under-employed and a financial burden for all. The pandemic has resulted in thousands of people left homeless, further adding to the already devastating tragedy of homelessness in the U.S. Current income inequality has become unsustainable; thus, a revamping of the tax structure is essential.
We bid farewell to the year 2020, grieving the devastation caused by the California fires due to climate change and mourning the deaths of over 365,000 Americans from the novel pandemic. We bid adieu to 2020 with a president who refused to concede an election he lost by a wide margin. Days before the inauguration of a new democratically elected president, 70 plus million Americans who voted for Trump, including members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, who drank the Trump Kool-Aid, continue to insist the election “was rigged,” and who rioted and stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.
However, looking towards 2021, I feel hopeful. The vaccine for the pandemic is a reality. On Jan. 20, we’ll have a new administration, headed by a president who has a heart and a vice president who represents not just half of the population in terms of her gender but also has lived the immigrant experience as most Americans. The Biden-Harris administration’s appointments to the cabinet promise to reflect America’s ethnic and racial diversity. A Native American woman’s appointment to head the Department of the Interior should be celebrated, even though it is long past its time.
I am also hopeful because Love promises to make a comeback, and by popular demand, no less. We must restore Love to our daily interactions, not just with those in our family and social circle, but Love for humanity, our planet earth, the creatures that populate this home of ours, and Love for our fellow humans, even those we don’t know. We should adhere to the notion that none of us is well if we are not all well.