The year 2020 showered us with an array of apocalyptic delights. Murder hornets, fire tornadoes, impeachment trials, and Tiger Kings. Misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories, and quarantine memes.
We started the year, and the decade for that matter, with gooey idealism in our eyes. After all, what better theme for 2020 than vision, clarity, and focus. But the year had different plans for us. 2020 was more of a fog, a smear, an endless marathon where days were blurred and pants were optional.
But it’s worth looking back at this annus horribilis to unpack some of the things that happened, so we’re not doomed to repeat them. Because most of the disasters we saw this year were decades, even centuries, in the making.
The pandemic illustrated the systemic deficiencies of a healthcare system that continues to prioritize profit over people. The economic paradox shined a light on the ever-growing income inequalities, as billionaires gained a trillion dollars in wealth during the pandemic, while millions form breadlines and face evictions across the richest country in the world. The wildfires gave us a sample platter of the cataclysmic effects of global warming, if we choose to ignore science. Aubrey, George, and Breonna are just a few of the modern day martyrs in the ongoing fight for social justice. And partisan politics illustrates just how fragile democracy can be.
So it is possible 2020 was about vision. But only if we look at Rosabeth Kanter’s explanation that “vision is not just a picture of what could be. It’s an appeal to our better selves; a call to be something more.” Because 2020 was certainly a call to be better.
This last year tested the absolute limits of our patience and objectivity, and significantly challenged our faith in who we are as a country. It’s exposed and exploited the deepest cracks of our national character. And it will take real time, growth, humility, and self-reflection to begin to mend those cracks.
Many people are counting down to when things are back to normal. But we can’t go back to where we were. Because where we were is exactly what brought us to where we are. So the only option we have is to be better. And in order to be better, we need to look back.
Because sometimes, only hindsight is 20/20.