All signs point to continued challenges as we enter the last quarter of a tumultuous 2020 that (hopefully) will end with America knowing who our Chief Executive will be for the next four years.
There’s a lot of uncertainty out there. Will there be a coronavirus vaccine? Will the virus just sputter out as more and more people are survivors? Will life ever be normal again? Will the election be decisive and if it’s not, what will the consequences be?
Will the transportation and storage systems stand up to what looks to be a bumper harvest? Will the winter and spring bring drought as a La Nina deepens in the Equatorial Pacific? Will the uptick in commodity prices hold on for long-term gains? Will China keep buying our grain? Will the gifts to food banks keep up with the need of a growing number of Americans?
As some of those questions get answered, we just might be heading into a new year that promises to truly be better than the one we’re leaving behind. I sure as heck don’t want to think about a 2021 that is actually worse than the nightmare of 2020.
Certainly, this year has been the most challenging of my lifetime, and I’ve been around long enough to have seen some tough ones. I’ve lived through the assassination of a president, the murder of a civil rights icon, the assassination of a presidential candidate, riots, protests and Charlie Manson. I can remember like it was yesterday the day National Guard troops opened fire and killed college students on the campus of Kent State. I vaguely remember the Korean War and vividly remember Vietnam. So, saying 2020 was a record year — even if it isn’t over yet — is quite a statement.
The thing that makes 2020 stand out from past challenges is the fact that in today’s climate, there are (as Kellyanne Conway so famously said in defense of a bald-faced lie about, of all the stupid things, the size of a crowd at an event) “facts” and “alternative facts.”
All in this together
Just in case you haven’t been paying attention: This is not normal. In the normal world, there is “political spin” that puts the best face on a fact, while still acknowledging that it is a fact, even if an unwelcome one. In the normal world, there is right and wrong, and that doesn’t change based on who is on our “side.”
Stopping the spread of coronavirus and recovering from the COVID-induced recession will be difficult enough if Americans are pulling together to get to the other side of a crisis. An America divided into opposing camps with different realities could prove impossible to rescue.
The Americans who live in New York and California are just as much Americans as the people who live in Kansas and Oklahoma. They are not our enemies. They are our fellow citizens. The Americans with brown skin are just as human as the Americans with white skin. The people we don’t meet and talk to every day are not less real than the neighbors who show up to help us when the windstorm tears the roof off the hay shed. It is reprehensible to suggest that we should deny disaster help — or worse yet, cut off routine federal funding — to our fellow Americans based on the political party of their governor.
We are far more alike than we are different. We all love our families and want our children to have an opportunity to be the best they can become. All of us cherish freedom. All of us want a job that provides enough income to provide a home and put food on the table. Those among us who work for wages are every bit as human as their bosses who own the land or the business. Those who bring our plates to the table are just as worthy as those of us who are receiving the service. Those who need boxes of food from foodbanks are just as “good” as the workers handing them out.
The mass protests that have erupted following videotaped instances of police officers killing unarmed Black people are far more peaceful than not, even as the protesters are there to express their anger and frustration over decades of injustice.
The violence is primarily the handiwork of agitators who run headlong toward any chance to cause chaos. Their goal is to destabilize the very fabric of our society. They have even gone public with stating their goal as bringing about the second American Civil War they see as inevitable. They are taking advantage of the protest scenes as cover for the mayhem they love to create.
A more just society for all of us cannot be created by denying that injustice exists or by blaming the victims of police violence for not being obedient enough or obsequious enough. It requires that all of us who know right from wrong to insist that right be done and wrong be punished. Our police officers are human beings. So are the citizens that officers take an oath to “serve and protect.” Our streets and parks are not battlegrounds and our police officers are not soldiers taking on enemy combatants. Those of us who know better need to say so out loud.
The America we live in today was built by the hard work and sacrifice of ourselves, our parents and grandparents. They found a way to make it through that list of crises that I mentioned earlier. We owe it to our children to be adults in this time of great strife. Well-functioning adults do not point fingers or AR-15s at each other. They join hands and combine strength to pull the heavy load down the road. That’s exactly what we need to do today and every day.