Looking Back and Looking Ahead: Musings on 2021 and 2022

Betty White did not make it to 2022. That seems almost a crime. I remind myself that, given where she started, she got considerably further than most of us will. Still, Betty White not making it to 2022 and to her approaching 100th birthday, when she was in apparent good health, does make one sad. The thing about people like Betty White, however, is that she will live on in memory and in the good things she gave us by just being the kind of person that she was. If this were not true, the news of her passing would not have hit us so hard.

So, here we are now in 2022 and time moves on despite how we might feel about it. I have some grave concerns about the coming year. While I have hope and will do my part to make it a better year than the last two, it would be naïve to think that potential dangers cannot come into actuality.

The first anniversary of a seditious insurrection is five days away.

(A side note about that: it was not a “protest” over the belief that an election was fraudulent and they had to save the country. This is America. There are laws and there are courts in which to make such challenges. Make no mistake, this was an attempted overthrow of democracy done intentionally on a day enshrined in our Constitution to peacefully transfer power. This was not by any stretch of a sane imagination a protest protected by the Constitution, it was a direct attack on the Constitution. Those involved, especially those who planned, orchestrated, and incited it, should be tried, convicted, and imprisoned. Those in positions of government power who were involved, should not only be removed from office, they should, likewise, be imprisoned).

As January 6 approaches, I can’t help but thinking it was not the last attempt to overthrow democracy. These kinds of human beings do not go away, and they do not give up. They do not stop unless they are stopped.

We still have a deadly virus in our midst and the amount of ignorance over things such as vaccines, the effectiveness of mitigation strategies such as masks and distancing, is mind-boggling. It is like everything that has always been the case with vaccines has somehow been forgotten. I wrote about the faulty premises of vaccine refusal here.

The division, fragmentation, and hostility in our country still grows. Threats to education and the teaching of history in our schools (under the guise of being against Critical Race Theory, which they know nothing about) is pervasive. Banning books from schools and libraries under similar false premises is also pervasive. The rights of LGBTQ persons are constantly under threat, not even to speak of their safety. Roe vs. Wade is in danger of being overturned.

Point being, we live in a dangerous world. What I have listed is just a few of many things that one could list.

As we head out to 2022 and leave 2021, we live in challenging times. Like my friend, Donna Halper, wrote on her blog yesterday, we are “Saying Goodbye (and Good Riddance) to 2021” and hope that 2022 will be brighter. 2021 was a tough year for many. I consider myself very fortunate, individually. I did something in 2021 that I never thought I would do again. I got married. Those who have met my wife wonder, quite rightly, what a woman of her caliber sees in me. She is, in my estimation, way out of my league. I am in good health. I am surrounded by good people I am proud to call friends. Yet, for many reasons and like many people, I am happy to say goodbye to 2021.

As I reflect on the idea of being happy to say “see ya later 2021,” it is much more than just looking back on a trying year. It is also a looking forward with hope that 2022 might be better. There would be little point to a “good riddance” to 2021 if we didn’t think 2022 couldn’t be different. Of course, we don’t know yet what 2022 holds for us. It could be just the same or, Zeus forbid, even worse. But it can also be better.

To make it better, we can all do only those things we individually can do. That being the case, we should do what we can.

What am I going to do?

I will continue to teach. My students inspire me and give me hope for our world. So many of them are extraordinary. But they deserve to get a bit of hope from us. One way I can do that is to teach. Teaching is much more than just transmitting knowledge like so much data, teaching is to exemplify character and virtue. Teaching is about helping your students become the best persons they can be. Teaching is to inspire to reach for the possible and not give up.

I am also just going to endeavor to be a better person. To bring a smile to those I encounter. I want to be the kind of person that, when others encounter me, they leave a little better for having met me. I have certainly been made a better person by knowing the goodness of others. Knowing what others have meant to my character, I feel the obligation to be to others what my exemplars have been to me.

My wife and I have been discussing what we want our 2022 to be and what we can do to realize those aspirations. One thing we have discussed is to volunteer more and find more ways to get involved in our community.

We also cannot be negligent to stand up for the vulnerable and oppressed. I want to find ways within my means to continue to stand against what I see as the continued rise and threat of a kind of authoritarian fascism.

Let us look back on 2021 and assess it and learn from it. Then let us turn to 2022 in the hopes that when December 31, 2022 comes around, we can say, “That was a good year.”

When in doubt what to do or how to be? Just be like Betty White—laugh, make others laugh, love, and don’t take yourself too seriously. WWBD. What Would Betty Do? Not a bad place to start.

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