Throughout the past year, there have been very few reasons to be optimistic regarding the state of affairs - whether locally or nationally or from a worldwide lens. 2020 was, after all, a year of prolonged suffering for millions of people, and the hope
Throughout the past year, there have been very few reasons to be optimistic regarding the state of affairs – whether locally or nationally or from a worldwide lens. 2020 was, after all, a year of prolonged suffering for millions of people, and the hope and promise brought on by 2021 has not yet mitigated the harsh realities that started close to one year ago from this moment (though we’re getting closer to it).
Therefore, there is no real way to put a “happy spin” on a global pandemic that has killed over 500,000 Americans and millions more throughout the rest of the world – the objective reality is one of pain and loss and emotional distress that continues to challenge us in difficult ways every day.
Through overcoming these challenges, however, we hope that there will emerge some lingering effects that positively impact our society – locally and abroad – indefinitely going forward, whether those effects are felt in governance, education or simply the way we function as a community.
Responding to the threat of a communicable disease has made us get creative in figuring out ways to perform basic, day-to-day functions such as go to work, go to school and conduct public governmental meetings. Crowds at the office are no longer safe or allowable, so we have been forced to re-think what business needs to be done in-person. Schools can’t host 30 children and adults in the same room, so we must refocus efforts on creating a quality remote learning program and expanding access to technology. City Hall is closed, but anyone with an internet connection can join a virtual meeting, et cetera, et cetera.
The positive effects of these efforts – such as more flexibility for work to be done remotely, more technological resources being made available to students and more accessibility for residents to keep an eye on what’s happening at their local town and city halls – can hopefully contribute to the creation of a society that is less obsessed with the physical act of attendance and more concerned with the expansion of access to as many people as possible.
In terms of governance itself, the pandemic should dispel the notion that a strong federal government is not important. In fact, the lack of a unified and compassionate federal government during the most crucial moments of this crisis clearly exacerbated its effects and extended the timeline of our recovery greatly. Although it is hard to be optimistic about the harsh polarization of this nation’s political environment getting any better with the simple passage of time, hopefully seeing the very real damage caused by governmental inefficiency when responding to a real crisis will stick in peoples’ minds and cause them to demand more from those who represent their interests.
More abstractly, but just as importantly, we hope that the pandemic will serve as an ongoing reminder that we cannot simply wish to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. This virus started thousands of miles away in one spot, and within a few short weeks it had crept into every corner of the globe. It started small in our communities and rapidly became a force that crippled our health care system and national economy.
Understanding the inherent connectivity of the world is only a part of this, however. The pandemic must serve as a reminder to all that we are responsible for one another’s safety, health and well being – just as we are responsible for our own. We cannot function without the contributions of our neighbors, and vice versa.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to adapt the ways in which we had become quite comfortable living, we can also hope that the lessons it has taught us will meaningfully and positively shape the way in which we will live going forward.