I think that most of you will agree that 2020 was a particularly difficult year. Our complacent 21st century smugness was shattered when a virulent little microbe by the name of COVID-19 invaded every corner of our planet and brought untold chaos and misery to our lives. It brought our economies to a standstill and affected our day to day lives to a level few of us could have ever imagined. Even as I write this, it still holds the world and our civilization in its deadly grip, and it is likely that it will be at least another year before it is brought under control and our lives returned to what we would consider normal.
Yet it was not only the practical aspect of combating the spread and the effects of the virus that was problematic during the course of the year, but also the irrational reaction of a substantial segment of the world’s population who chose to either deny its existence, downplay its risks and dangers, or to ignore the various governments’ attempts at restricting its spread. It uncovered the disturbing fact that many people are quite capable of ignoring science and fact if it interferes with their preconceived entitlements and quality of life. It revealed the depressing reality that many people would be more than willing to let millions of the vulnerable die, rather than temporarily sacrifice their normal routines and lifestyle. Ironically, many of these same people profess to be evangelical Christians.
But this virus was not the only challenge to our “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” A number of other crises reached a tipping point in 2020, developments that will continue to have significant repercussions for years if not decades to come. In the U.S., the farce known as the Trump presidency reached ludicrous proportions, as Biden’s win in the U.S. Presidential elections evoked a petulant tirade of denials, lies, conspiracy theories and refusal to concede that, despite their delusional and irrational absurdity, bordered on the seditious and criminal. The corollary to this Shakespearean tragedy is that the Republican party, once a respectable and rational political force, gave up its integrity and its soul, becoming a feckless and credulous mouthpiece for a delusional would-be tyrant.
In Ukraine, it became obvious during 2020 that President Zelensky’s regime and Ukraine’s hopes for reform were disappearing faster than a plate of varenyky at Christmas dinner. Despite having won commanding victories in both the Presidential as well as Parliamentary elections, Zelensky has managed through impatience, incompetence and poor judgment, to squander his golden opportunity to put Ukraine on the right track, and Ukraine continues to be as corrupt and as poorly governed as ever. The oligarchs are once more in control, and it is back to virtually square one in Ukraine’s perpetual attempt to attain freedom, democracy and good government.
The other societally earth-shaking story to come out of North America, was the Black Lives Matter movement. The treatment of blacks by police has long been a major problem not only in the U.S., but Canada and most of the so-called “western” world. A number of blatant police shootings of innocent black victims spurred the rage of not only the black population, but also shook up the complacency of our supposedly “liberal” societies. It exposed the systemic racism that continues to plague our political, economic and societal structures. It made it abundantly clear that this is not just a law-and-order issue, but one that challenges the essential ethos of our society and civilization.
Canada too has a problem with systemic racism, not only in its dealings with the black population, but especially with its native, aboriginal peoples. A number of incidents and events during 2020 once again demonstrated the harsh truth that our society and governments of all political stripes have failed miserably in living up to our commitments and responsibilities to treat our first nations with fairness, justice and compassion. We can’t even supply basic necessities like safe drinking water to our native communities despite decades of promises.
One would like to think that 2020 will prove to be a turning point of sorts, that the pain and sacrifices that we have been forced to endure will inspire some serious reflection on our parts, and hopefully a desire to remedy the deficiencies and problems that it has brought to light. Trying times bring out the best and the worst in people, and, being essentially an optimist, I am hopeful that we have learned some lessons that we can use as a springboard to bring about the kinds of changes that will prevent us from making the same mistakes in the years to come. Let us take the time over the holidays to consider how we can truly bring about “peace on earth and mercy mild!”