January 1, 2021

A Very Happy New Year

Today is the first day of a new year—2021. The greeting “Happy New Year” carries more meaning now than in most years. We leave behind what was decidedly an unhappy old year. We anticipate not simply a new beginning—realizing, of course, that the transition from one year to the next is arbitrary—but also a justifiable hope for a better quality of life in 2021.

We can expect a new, more competent, and more humane administration in Washington. Its advent is less than three weeks away. Equally significant, we await widespread vaccination to protect against COVID-19, and the eventual, though not immediate, return to community life at least somewhat as we once knew it.

There are clouds on the horizon. If the Senate continues to be controlled by Republicans, the Biden administration will find it difficult to achieve many of its objectives. But much of the work of undoing the depredations of Donald Trump and his minions can be effected through executive action, so the righting of the ship of state can proceed even with Mitch McConnell continuing in the role of Senate majority leader.

One can even hope that, with Trump out of the White House, his malign influence on many of our citizens will be diminished. An administration with very different policies, inclinations, and normal procedures may cause some of Trump’s followers to reconsider their wants, loyalties, and misconceptions. Racism, resentment, and hostility are not easily overcome, however, especially in the face of social media that facilitate their intensity. But it is not a vain hope that benign administration will have at least some positive effect.

Another cloud over 2021 is the irrational fear, even hostility, toward vaccination. To the degree that vaccination protects individuals, the refusal to accept it is an act of self-abuse. Unfortunately, it also harms the community, as protection against the continuing spread of the  SARS-CoV-2 virus requires widespread immunity conferred by the various vaccines available or becoming so. As vaccination becomes more universal, perhaps the aversion to it will decrease sufficiently to allow so-called herd immunity to develop.

As we slowly emerge from the twin distractions of the pandemic and the Trump maladministration, we will, I think, be changed. One can hope that that change will largely be for the better. We should recognize that our civilization has vulnerabilities and that we have an opportunity to ameliorate them. More people will continue to work from home, thereby reducing energy consumption and air pollution. Other changes, some disruptive though necessary, will also be required. We should have learned what government can accomplish and what happens when we refuse to employ it. Finally, it is to be hoped that we, at long last, will change our bizarre and dangerous method of electing our president and vice president.

Two thousand twenty-one will surely be happier than its predecessor. May it truly be a happy new year for you and yours and for the United States of America!

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