“Get thee behind me, 2020.”
To say that 2020 was an “unprecedented” year is to state the obvious. It has been tough to deal with.
Politically, the way that governments across the world reacted and responded to this pandemic is both shockingly inept but also, not surprising. This year more than ever, the gap between the rich and the poor was made plain to see. Local businesses faltered, closed up shop, and languished while Amazon made billions in profit. Big businesses were able to give out millions to their investors because of government aid while the mom-and-pop shops had to close forever. Stimulus checks are withheld from ordinary people who are unable to pay rent because they lost their jobs while money for missiles were cleared to go. COVID-19 disproportionately affected black and brown communities. The virus is not racist, but our society definitely is. The level of care given to racialized patients (or lack thereof) is yet another reminder that this belief that we live in a post-racialized society is not only false, but extremely dangerous. It allows for us to ignore the glaringly obvious: systemic racism is real, and it is not going away anytime soon.
Socially, our world was sadly reminded that black lives do not matter. George Floyd’s death sparked an outrage that the entire world felt. His death galvanized people to go out and protest. Peaceful protests turned deadly when the state forcibly removed, detained, tear gassed, and used rubber bullets on peaceful protesters just so the president of the United States can have his photo-op. Looters were condemned for destroying private property while the police were not condemned for destroying private lives. Breonna Taylor’s death, and the lack of justice that happened in the aftermath of her death, is another reminder that white supremacy is alive and well in the land.
Religiously, the way that churches have been incredibly divided in their response to this pandemic has also been rather glaring. Many churches advocated for the use of masks as a way to show their love for their neighbour. Meanwhile, there were also many churches who saw that masks were a way for them to be “controlled” by the government, and therefore must be avoided at all costs. Restrictions concerning the number of people who can gather in the church or during a lockdown, prevented others from gathering, was also met with this same divisiveness. There were some who listened and obeyed the governing authorities while there were some who were adamant in not obeying these governing authorities.
Personally, the way that this pandemic has affected the collective mental health of the population cannot be underestimated. In China, after the initial lockdown, the rate of filed divorces skyrocketed. The number of domestic abuse cases, suicides, and depression cases have risen exponentially during this time. People are suffering from being unable to see and touch their friends and loved ones.
There is so much divisiveness and polarization between people. Peace seems to elude us. However, I wonder if the peace we want is real. There seems to be this notion that “peaceful” means “the absence of conflict.” This is not true peace. True peace is expansive enough to allow for conflicting thoughts and ideas while maintaining unity and harmony. Unity is not uniformity. Peace cannot simply be “no fighting.”
This year, there will be no resolutions… only a resolve that we must do better. That I need to do better. I need to resolve to love the very people that I find completely despicable and unlovable. I need to listen more. I need to seek to understand others rather than making myself understood. However, I also need to be a better communicator and a more sensitive interlocutor. I need to remind myself that “a gentle answer turns away wrath.” This will be a constant challenge to me, especially when it is easier to use words to cut down others, rather than be patient with them. It also means confronting my own attitudes and figuring out ways to navigate the murky waters of insecurities and hurts I have experienced over the years. The hope is that by engaging in such work, I can also find peace within myself.
Here’s hoping and praying that 2021 is a year that is kinder and gentler than 2020 ever was. My hope is that in turn, we would also be kinder and gentler to ourselves and to others.