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A New Year of Hope?

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

By Rich Alvarez

December 27, 2020

It’s hard to believe another year has passed, but this one could not have passed fast enough. 2020 was a difficult year for most Americans, myself included. Our family endured several members who contracted the dreaded COVID-19 disease, and one of them, my 90 year old uncle Bill, passed away only recently. I had two surgeries, and my wife had her knee replaced. I left my job, and I’ve struggled to make it on my own with a new venture. Financially, we are hurting. I know my story is similar to millions of Americans, many of whom are far worse off. At least we have a roof over our heads and food on the table. My wife has a good job, and I get my meager pension, so we can survive. We also have a close relationship with God, even though church attendance is only online for now. I am grateful for all of these things.

Unfortunately, 2020 brought out an ugly face of America for all the world to see. Scars that were healing have been torn open again, and existing wounds are being torn even further apart. We’ve had a man murdered on camera by police for everyone to see. Unfortunately, it has turned into an indictment of all police as racist and abusive, which statistics and facts simply don’t support. Riots ensued that mostly hurt minority business and homeowners in their own communities. Based on newsreels, it seems most of those bent on destruction were young white people, thinking they were just supporting a call for justice, when in fact, they were committing their own injustices. Calls for the defunding of police departments have been taking hold in some major cities to the detriment of minority communities, where much of the crime occurs. Minneapolis is experiencing a surge in violent crime, as is New York, Los Angeles and other cities who are defunding their departments. New York cut over a billion dollars from their police budget, and other cities have also followed suit, resulting in lay-offs, or in the case of Minneapolis, the desire to disband their entire police department and replace it with some nondescript community-oriented department of social workers that will magically solve violent crime before it starts. Other departments are turning over essential law enforcement tasks to existing civilian departments, such as Berkley’s move to transfer traffic enforcement to it’s public works department, while others are electing to hire social workers to handle certain calls of public disturbance instead. These ideas are fraught with danger to civilians who are not trained to deal with the possible violent repercussions. The chief complaint has been a lack of training and expertise in handling calls involving the mentally ill, minorities, and the homeless, but cutting funding only means that it will likely limit such training. A backlash against the defund the police movement and the riots at Black Lives Matter protests has completely undermined their intended purpose, so now politicians are saying defund the police doesn’t really mean that at all. It means re-allocating resources to handle these types of issues in a different way. This is just another political spin.

All of this took place around one of our most controversial elections in US history. There were complaints of election fraud, riots in the streets, protests, and even talk of revolution and fears that the current President would refuse to step down and turn our nation into a dictatorship. Much of this was fueled by the media who talked incessantly about the pandemic, sewing huge amounts of fear, racism, and images of hatred that also brought out white supremacists and their destructive influence, blowing police brutality out of proportion, and taking every opportunity possible to denigrate the President. That’s not to say he didn’t deserve much of the criticism leveled at him, but it became an obsession by the media. In a way, this created a type of civil war, not a shooting one, but one carried out on social media and at protests. Family members and friends turned on each other and fought over who they supported in the election, whether masks and quarantines were justified, and whether the police were good or bad, sometimes permanently damaging their relationships. Both sides dug in their heels and became so resistant to the idea that the other side could have anything of value to say, they chose to only communicate with those that had similar ideas and attacked anyone who dared speak out against the party line, and neither side could see they were both guilty of it, pointing fingers at each other. Many even viewed their friends and family as evil for having differing views, and all of it was fueled by fear with one side calling the other fascists, while they called the other side Marxists. Compromise was out the window.

Amongst all this division though, some good emerged, as well. A vaccine was created in record time in response to the pandemic. Normalization of relations between Arab countries and Israel were accomplished. A new trade agreement favorable to America replaced NAFTA. We also saw new innovations. People were creating solutions to overcome the obstacles presented by COVID. Remote meetings and school became the norm. People were able to work from home, which saved gas and pollution. Perhaps it also showed many businesses that their workers could still be productive at home, which would save them from having to have large office spaces, save the air from unnecessary pollution, and help with a better work/life balance, something Millennials have been clamoring about since they entered the workforce. People figured out ways to manufacture their own PPE, like masks, using home 3-D printers. New inventions abounded and people found creative ways to pass the time while locked down. Streaming services saw a surge in business, as did delivery services like Uber Eats and Shipt. It gave us a glimpse of what our economy and society could look like. The downside though was a surge in depression, as humans lacked necessary human contact and interaction. We are, after all, created to be social creatures. It is built into our DNA.

If you ask me what I thought the most dangerous thing that happened in 2020 was, it wouldn’t be COVID-19, even though it took and is taking an enormous human toll. The most dangerous thing, at least in America, is toxic all or nothing thinking and false news on social media that people blindly accept as truth, where you must choose one side over the other or you are evil. The extremists of both parties are increasing their influence, and compromise has become looked down upon. If you’re not with us, you’re against us. This is destroying the very fabric of our society. It’s destroying families and friendships and has even sparked talk of a new Civil War and secession. As this divide continues to widen, that prospect becomes more real by the day. This type of thinking is dangerous and spreads like a disease over social media. While I believe most Americans are truly moderate in their thinking and aren’t really that far apart in their beliefs, they are feeling the pressure to make a choice of one extreme over the other. It’s just an enormous game of peer pressure. I don’t believe our republic has been in greater danger of fracture since 1861. This has to stop. We can’t allow over 240 years of hard work, bloodshed, and tears to come to an end over petty differences. We need to humanize others rather than demonize them. We need to realize they just have a difference of opinion, and that’s ok. Diversity of thought is what drives innovation and better solutions to problems, and it shouldn’t be what divides us.

If there’s one thing I learned as a cop, who had to sort through all kinds of disputes, is that there are two sides to every story, and the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle. There are very few true victims in this world. Usually, both sides contribute something to the problem, and the same holds true in our politics. No one side is totally right or totally wrong. There needs to be a balance. Compromise is a good thing. We place too much faith in political parties, politicians, and political ideas. Those things are created by man. God is the only infallible person, and we would do right to remember that. I believe much of the downfall of our society is coming from our marginalizing and complete removal of God from our lives and our political system. If we don’t change that quickly, I’m afraid we won’t be around much longer as a nation, or the divisions will only get worse and war will be the result.

It is my hope that 2021 will be a year of healing; healing from a pandemic and healing from division and hatred. A vaccine has arrived on the scene to help heal us from the pandemic, but what will help us heal from division and hate?

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