Morris: AD 2020 — the Long View
Time magazine, demonstrating the legacy media’s continued decline into irrelevance, has deemed 2020 “the worst year ever.”
No, not hardly, and that claim is easily dismissed with an expansion of Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am.” If you are reading this, you are not dead yet. Ergo, not the worst year ever.
There are plenty of candidates for the worst year ever.
In 536, for example, volcanic eruptions blanketed much of the world in fog, plunging temperatures, breeding crop failures and widespread starvation – it was the beginning of an era so bleak it just had to be called the Dark Ages.
In 1349, the Black Death plague killed half the population of Europe and wrought changes so profound they affected the rest of human history.
In 1520, smallpox raced through the Americas, killing between 60 and 90 percent of the original inhabitants.
And of course, there was 1919. Still trying to cope with tens of millions of deaths from World War I and the Spanish flu pandemic, Americans had to endure riots, bombs mailed to government officials by anarchists, a peace treaty that would set the stage for World War II, and the prospect of a sober 1920 as Prohibition kicked in.
So, no matter how bad you think 2020 was, just imagine how much worse it would have been for you in one of those earlier years. In addition to which, you’d be, you know, dead now.
All we need to put this admittedly bad but not completely awful year behind us are a few words of inspiration looking to the future.
Unfortunately, there is no one in the public sphere today eloquent enough to give us such a vision.
Gov. Holcomb says there is “unprecedented opportunity” today for “those who keep their wits about them” to “keep calm and carry on.” And our future is ahead of us.
President-elect Biden says that we “must make the promise of the country real for everybody — no matter their race, their ethnicity, their faith, their identity, or their disability.” And we’re all in this together.
We must reach back to look forward.
To John Kennedy in 1962, when he said we chose to go to the moon not because it was easy but because it was hard, “because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
To Ronald Reagan, on the occasion of the Challenger explosion in 1986, who told us that the pain of losing those astronauts was part of part of the process of exploration and discovery and that the future “doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.”
And to William Faulkner, whose 1950 Nobel Prize acceptance speech deserves the most extensive citation because it seemed to look ahead to all our aspirations like the moon landing and all our setbacks like the Challenger explosion and put it all into perspective:
“I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this.
“I believe that man will not merely endure; he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.”
We move through history, history moves through us, and through good years and bad, we will endure
Leo Morris, columnist for The Indiana Policy Review, is winner of the Hoosier Press Association’s award for Best Editorial Writer. Morris, as opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.