We are, at long last, on the cusp of a new year, and while no one expects the changing of a single digit and the swapping of one page on the calendar for another to resolve all the problems wrought by 2020, the new beginning offered by Jan. 1 will be much appreciated all the same.
It is perhaps the greatest of understatements to note that the past 12 months have been difficult for us all, as individuals, as communities, as a nation, and even as an international society.
It is the year that will forever be known for a deadly worldwide disease that has claimed lives, destroyed families and wrecked economies across the globe.
It is the year that saw us forced to use electronic devices to say goodbye forever to loved ones in hospital rooms and nursing homes, trying FaceTime hugs, kisses and final farewells; a year in which we could not gather to share grief as we buried our dead.
It is the year that has had us all highly attuned to a lexicon of daunting words and phrases: superspreader event, PPE, “flatten the curve,” lockdown, comorbidity, death rate, quarantine, sequestered. International pandemic.
It is the year where things we had long taken for granted were suddenly problematic: air travel, live events, public gatherings, dining out, theaters, shopping malls, public transportation, grocery stores, family reunions. Toilet paper.
It is the year in which public education was turned upside down, remote learning forced to replace classroom instruction. And workplaces changed, perhaps forever, as cubicles were abandoned for home offices.
It is the year that saw us stop shaking hands, and forced us not to hug one another.
But there was so much more to 2020 than just the monthslong crisis of COVID-19.
It is also the year in which the streets were filled with peaceful acts of civil protests, and senseless acts of looting, burning, violence and death.
It is a year in which law enforcement again came under scrutiny for its treatment of minorities; and as a nation we argued over which lives mattered.
It is a year in which a president of the United States was impeached for only the third time in the nation’s history.
It is a year in which the politics of “us vs. them” became interwoven into every thread of everyday life so that it was impossible to escape the fury of political debate that resulted in chaos, division and hatred.
It is a year in which facts no longer seemed to matter, with opinion, speculation and misinformation spread freely by engines of social media creating a “gospel of truth” that often bore no resemblance at all to reality. A year in which science was sometimes overwhelmed by conspiracy.
It is a year that challenged the bedrock foundations of our republic, undermining public faith in our systems of government and a loss of credibility by those elected to lead us.
But the legacy of the past year is not totally bleak and dismal. We have learned valuable lessons from the tough task master that was 2020.
We have learned a new appreciation for those charged with providing health care, for those who serve as first responders, for those who maintain law and order in turbulent times. For all of those in “essential jobs.”
We have learned that professional educators will do whatever it takes to provide a path to academic achievement for those with whom they are entrusted.
We have been reminded that there are, indeed, earthly angels among us who have shown us in thousands of different ways the importance of caring one for another.
We have learned that we are resilient, determined, committed and capable of surviving in tough times.
And we have learned that with each new day comes renewed hope. Hope for a vaccine. Hope for social justice. Hope for a better world. Hope for humanity.
The dawning of 2021 will not eliminate the ravages of the coronavirus. The changing of the calendar will not solve the nation’s social problems. The welcoming of a new year will not eliminate the political anger that divides us. January will not bring with it pink unicorns and magical fairy dust to solve the ills of the world.
But come Friday, we will have a new slate upon which to write the legacy of another year, and we can optimistically hope a year from now to be looking back on a better span of 12 months than that seen in the rearview mirror of 2020.
Times editorial board
Norman Baggs, general manager
Shannon Casas, editor in chief