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Good Riddance to 2020 and Five Wishes for the New Year (#30)

Dec 31, 2020

2020 was a hard year. I am ready to put it behind me and move forward with what I hope 2021 will bring. Accordingly, I have narrowed my wish list for 2021 down to five.

First, though, let's say a gleeful goodbye to 2020. John Pavlovitz captured the essence of 2020 in a hilarious post called, "Dear 2020, Please GTFO."

Here is an excerpt:

Please forgive my inelegance… but I'm rightly exhausted by you and I think I speak for seven and a half billion people when I say that you have been an unrelenting planetary nightmare and we simply cannot abide you a single day longer.

Take your things and leave. 

Pack up your insidious virus,
your endless quarantines,
your beloved actor deaths,
your mad despot machinations,
your black men executions,
your swirling wildfires,
your pandemic deniers,
your angry Karen army,
your revered Supreme Court Justice passings,
your Q-cult nonsense,
your election fraud conspiracies,
your seditious politicians,
and whatever creative and novel hell you still have planned for the remainder of this calendar— and just go[1].

Amen to that! 

So goodbye 2020. Take your things and go. Leave behind the few positives you gave us.

Actually, good things did happen

What were the positives? To be completely truthful, 2020 was not an unrelenting disaster for me personally. Yes, I stayed on edge much of the time. Yes, I had recurrent bouts of anxiety. Yes, many things made me angry. (Pavlovitz captured quite a few of them.) Until right before the election, I had to consciously limit how much news I watched. 

Yet good things happened. Here are highlights of my top five, from the most personal to the most public:

  1. Zoom. I haven't missed Houston traffic at all. I love access to people in faraway places. One of my nieces formed a family zoom meeting, and now our extended family meets regularly. Two days before Christmas, 12 of us, ages 16 to 79, took an online personality test and discussed our results.
  2. This blog post. We started our weekly blogs six months ago, and what you are reading is now the 30th in the series. I say "we" because while I write or oversee what's in the posts, a strong team is making it happen. Eillen Cuartero has been my research associate for over 20 years and is now serving as webmaster. It's Eillen who does the beautiful layout you see and gets it up on the web. Carole Marmell has joined us as content editor. If you think this reads well, thank Carole.

The three of us and our other contributors are committed to helping make the world a better place. This blog is just one expression, yet a most meaningful expression to us.

  1. Pathfinders, our membership group, which is focused on racial and social justice. We launched Pathfinders last month for people who want deep learning about racial and social justice. Our members have joined because they want to go beyond the superficial and gain a deep understanding and skills in how to influence those around them.

I'm excited about those who have joined us so far and am eager to meet our future members. So far, everyone attracted to Pathfinders has a profound commitment to co-creating a world that works for everyone. They bring critical thinking and hearts full of caring and compassion.

  1. The worldwide awakening to the issues of racial and social justice. I wrote previously about the reemergence of a focus on activism and open dialogues about the devaluation of Black lives. As a former 1960s activist, I have been dismayed through the long decades in which mainstream America decided it had had enough of a focus on racial inequality and the problem was either solved or, to the extent it remained, was because we had not demonstrated our worthiness. We were cautioned to lift ourselves up by our bootstraps, told we were too focused on race, and compared with immigrants (e.g., early Europeans and Asians) who had emerged through initial prejudices and discrimination and settled into middle-class Americanhood.

I had felt stymied – how could I explain to my White friends and colleagues what they could not see? How could I explain, as Langston Hughes put it, that America was never America to me?

Then, at the beginning of 2020, technology came to the rescue, forcing into our awareness the vivid awfulness of the series of murders of young Black men and women, demonstrating convincingly that we had not crossed over into a post-racial America. And to my surprise (and my sorrow over George Floyd's murder), people of all races became once again concerned and engaged.

  1. The Biden-Harris election. This was a cliff-hanger. We didn't know what was going to happen. As of this writing, Biden has won 51.4% of the popular vote and 56% of the electoral college, a decisive victory[2]. In so many ways, this is a relief.

I'm one of the millions of people who had feared we were headed toward an autocratic government. Knowing that I am now comfortably in the majority on this issue is immensely comforting. President-Elect Biden's steps toward an administration that "looks like America" are giving me renewed hope. More about that later.

The black revolution is much more than a struggle for the rights of Negroes. It is forcing America to face all its interrelated flaws – racism, poverty, militarism, and materialism. It is exposing evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society…and suggests that radical reconstruction of society is the real issue to be faced.

– Martin Luther King Jr.

Five wishes for 2021

Building on those successes from last year, here are my five wishes for 2021. 

First, I wish that the concern for racial justice doesn't abate now that we have a new sheriff in town. I remember people relaxing when President Obama got elected, even though before his election, he pleaded with us to stay active. We didn't. And then we blamed Obama for what he did not do. 

Let's not go back into complacency again. Having such a close call with dictatorship has led many of us to take our civic responsibilities seriously. I wrote about playing the long game after this election. This means we should increase support for those structural changes that will help support democracy – eliminating gerrymandering, revitalizing the Voting Rights Act, term limits on the US Supreme Court, and so on[3].

Second, I wish for people to better understand the connection between racial and economic justice. Many who oppose racial oppression fail to see how current economic policies support both racial and economic oppression.

The current unhealthy level of income inequality began in the 1970s and has risen steadily to become even more appallingly unequal[4].

As income inequality has risen, so has racial and gender economic inequality. The chart below[5] disturbs me every time I look at it, as it represents the compound results of exploited labor and denied opportunities.

My wish, then, is that people who are highly committed to racial and social justice will also support economic justice.

Third, I wish for people to see the connections between their everyday actions and habits and the oppression and othering that they deplore. As Pogo said, we have met the enemy, and he is us. An example: a common mantra is to not talk politics and religion with family and friends. What it also means is we do not discuss policy and current events for fear the conversation will turn divisive. Yet if we don't share our information with those we care about, how are we all supposed to become responsible citizens acting on informed knowledge?

Now, one of the reasons people say they don't talk politics with family and friends is they don't know how to talk about divisive issues without becoming – shall we say – hostile.  Because we don't want to risk alienating others, we avoid conversations about critical topics that determine the direction of the country and world. This leaves those we care about to rely on media that reinforce their pre-existing beliefs, and we all stay stuck in our respective tribes without skills or means to bridge the divide and bring about the healing we claim to want.

So my fourth wish is that we learn how to talk to those with whom we disagree – fervently disagree. As they say, we learn to disagree without being disagreeable.

This wish is what Pathfinders is about, and beyond that, what my work is about. I am beyond grateful that many, many others share my vision – a world in which we can talk openly about differences, influence one another, love one another, and eradicate those habits of thought and behavior that support us in oppressing others.

A world that works for everyone and no one needs to prove themselves better by putting down someone else. A world where people see the abundance that exists everywhere and work to eliminate the economic and emotional insecurity that keeps so many people hostage.

Why would I dare hope for such a world? To do otherwise is to give in and tolerate the current level of inhumanity we impose on one another.

Focusing on the evils of the world can be dismaying. This year alone has held a decade's worth of emotional bombshells. 

Yet I choose optimism – not for an immediate turnaround, but for progress, however slowly it occurs. I begin the new year with hope: for a vaccine, for a new political climate, for the continued slow march toward social justice.

Hope is the fundamental basis for Pathfinders and Leading Consciously, the hope that we can make the world better – together.

If I am to have a fifth wish, it would be this: That you, too, retain hope – and go into action to bring your hope into reality.   

Hope is the bedrock of this nation; the belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us; by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is; who have courage to remake the world as it should be.  

 – Barack Obama  

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. What do you have to let go of to embrace 2021?
  2. What positive lessons can you take away from 2020?
  3. What are your plans for making 2021 better for everyone?

Leading Consciously concepts and skills covered in this blog post:

  • Commit to personal change
  • Persevere through the time lag of change; recognize small wins along the way
  • Emphasize changing systems, not just individuals
  • Recognize your power and use it responsibly
  • Accept responsibility for your own contribution
  • Maintain integrity

#aworldthatworksforeveryone #bridgingdifferences  #hope #JohnPavlovitz  #newyear2021


We just launched our new membership program, Pathfinders:  Leadership for Racial and Social Justice.  The third module bringing in the new year is Self-Enterprising Skills, starting on January 4.   Come join us and other Pathfinders in leading the way to racial and social justice.

I want in. Let me know more.

[1]   Pavlovitz, J. Dear 2020, Please GTFO.

[2]   Share of electoral college and popular votes from each winning candidate, in all United States presidential elections from 1789 to 2020.

[3]   Democracy & Justice, Collected Writings, 2019, Brennan Center for Justice.

[4]   Keeley, Brian (2015). “Why is income inequality rising?” in Income Inequality: The Gap between Rich and Poor, OECD Publishing, Paris.

[5]   Racial economic inequality. Inequality.org.

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