A Trimates Reflection on the Past Year
What happened to the optimism that permeated most of America when 2021 dawned? New energy filled our hearts and minds as we confronted a murderous pandemic and began to reinvigorate our economy. Progress was made and national spirits raised. Then a slow drip of opposition became a flood of negativity and the country split into warring camps.
Why? What lies ahead in 2022? We are a diverse group of three (a soldier, a priest, and an advocate). Each has a blog, but we are joining together here as “trimates” to reflect on the past and imagine the year to come.
What follows are our thoughts on three questions: What pleased/inspired me over the past year? What discouraged/worried me the most this year? What advice do I offer going forward?
1) Q: What pleased/inspired you over the past year?
A: Jeanne Finan– I am perpetually inspired by young people who come at problems and obstacles with new insights, fresh energy, and abundant courage. But I have also been inspired this past year by my peers, the senior citizen group. Some of these inspiring seniors are my neighbors and friends; others are more widely known–the Anthony Fauci’s and Jane Goodall’s and Bill McKibben’s. We seniors should have given up long ago, yet we seem to keep plodding along, fast dancing around the negativity stew that can act as quicksand for our age group and refusing to be smothered by despair. Go, old folks!
A: Bill Jamieson- I am pleased by our extraordinary (but unheralded) progress toward improving the plight of Americans living in the social/economic shadows of our culture. Millions of children are being lifted from poverty by child tax credits in President Biden’s economic stimulus bill; G.D.P growth is increasing and unemployment declining; and more than 60% of Americans say their family finances are good. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill will further stimulate the economy while repairing crumbling roads, bridges, and buildings, and stretching the reach of broad band into underserved rural areas. The best is yet to come through the Build Back Better Act (BBB).
A: Bill Clontz- A: Many things, of course, but perhaps first on my list is the number of local officials, especially election officials and school board members, who resisted terrible political pressures (often from their own party) and physical threats to do the right thing by their communities. This is not an inexhaustible supply of heroes, and some are buckling now to the abuse, but I find hope and inspiration that there are people all around who stand ready to do the right things.
2) Q: What Discouraged/Worried You the Most This Year?
A: Bill Jamieson– I am discouraged by divisions in America’s social and political cultures; the violent nature of many of these divisions; and the rejection by Republicans of facts, truth, and integrity in national discourse. The heart of a democracy is the willingness to find common-good consensus while reconciling competing positions. House and Senate Democrats are struggling through that process as they work to finalize the BBB. It is hard and messy, but they are succeeding. Republicans, on the other hand, are going to war, replacing facts and truth with lies and conspiracies. Instead of negotiating they threaten retribution against anyone who disagrees.
A: Bill Clontz– Once again, a LONG list is possible, but three things top my list. One is the death of the Republican party as a principled organization with a base of ideas. It truly has become a cult of personality. This was more than possible to avoid, but they chose otherwise. Two, how quickly voters at large seem inclined to forget the events of January 6, 2021, perhaps giving those who fomented doubt and violence a pass. This is dangerous in the extreme. Third, the truly pervasive negative influence of social media.
A: Jeanne Finan– The thing that frightened me the most this past year is how easily and glibly people lie. Elected officials lie, athletes lie, people on the witness stand lie, political pundits lie, nightly television commercials abound with lies.
Why? For money, for power, for ego…sadly the list is long. Bearing false witness doesn’t seem etched on the conscience, much less the heart.
A line from one of my favorite films, Elf, sadly comes to mind as I reflect on 2021: You sit on a throne of lies. It worries me that our world appears not to care, because, unlike a comedic film, these lies are no laughing matter.
3) Q: What Advice Do I Offer Going Forward?
A: Bill Clontz– I will keep it simple. (1) Keep paying attention. The last year or so taught us that all democracies have fragilities. We cannot take democracy for granted. (2) Don’t be just sad or worried – be angry. The things that are damaging our world are not inevitable. People who would take us in wrong directions count on good people giving up or being too afraid to speak up and call out. (3) Recognize that we all live here and are not going away. Keep looking for ways to engage each other and hear each other.
A: Jeanne Finan– Do not give up. Do not lose heart. Even when the world seems unwilling to change, stay the course. The story is bigger than any of us can imagine.
A: Bill Jamieson– Pay attention, listen more, talk less, do homework, and get involved. Understand that too many Americans live in poverty, climate change threatens our grandchildren’s future, education systems are becoming political battlefields, and racism is a pervasive reality in our culture. There are many ways to tackle these and other threats to our common life. But we must work together to find solutions rather than competing to win political points, to seek common good rather than partisan good. The Biden agenda would have been stronger if Republicans engaged in negotiations rather than adopting a policy of defeating anything the President proposed.
That’s How It Looks to Us
This joint blog came about because the three of us think a lot about the same issues, dangers, and possibilities. We expect that you think about these things, too. It was interesting to us, as we prepared this posting, how many common threads we share and yet how many different perspectives we brought to this discussion.
In a sense, these common threads yet different observations bode well for us all, we think. If we get lucky, the future of our country may share these patterns: enough shared priorities to do what needs to be done, but enough creativity and diversity to find different paths to bring us home, well and safe.
So may it be. Best wishes for the New Year and beyond to all. The three of us will individually see you in print and share our common journey in the days ahead.
Bill Clontz –Agents of Reason
Jeanne Finan-Cold Coffee Writer
Bill Jamieson-Hope and Stone
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