Almost everything we have done in 2020 has been focused on the Covid-19 pandemic. Everybody has been affected by this virus and the ensuing struggle against it.
In “Hope the High Road,” Jason Isbell, one of the artists who played at Sweetland in the pre-Covid days, sings: “Last year was a son of a bitch/For nearly everyone we know.” His song predates Covid-19, but I think the lyric is as appropriate for the past year as any I’ve heard.
For much of 2020, we have talked about returning to “normal” and by definition that goal has been backward looking. We have reminisced about the past. My goal in the coming year is to think more about what is possible for our future.
Rather than looking backward to the past or dwelling on the problems of the present, it’s time to direct our energies, our passions, and our resources to a better future. We have a chance to reboot the system and to emerge into 2021 with new goals and new hopes for our community and the world.
Locally, I think that means we need to focus our community efforts on addressing very basic human needs. If Covid-19 taught us anything, it taught us that we are all connected in innumerable ways and that we live in a community where the suffering of one can affect the suffering of all.
If we envision our future and try to address places where community members are suffering, our efforts must shift to housing—because many are inadequately housed; to education—because many are not achieving their potential; to healthcare—because many are not taking care of themselves and many are not being cared for by the system; and to crime—because too many are caught in that trap and causing harm to themselves and others.
These issues are as old as time, but in 2021 we must stop making excuses for the problems we observe and to stop looking back with nostalgic (and inaccurate) eyes to a past that wasn’t nearly as great as is often claimed. The questions we need to start asking are very simple. How can we address these issues and improve conditions going forward for all people?
There are programs underway in LaGrange that will help start that process. (That will be the subject of future articles.) Much of the work that will be needed has to involve our federal and state governments, our business community, and our nonprofit organizations. All of these issues are far too big for any one community or any one institution to solve.
If we all commit for our 2021 resolution to focus on the future, and to work tirelessly to improve these areas and others that harm our friends and neighbors and hold our community back, then we can all enjoy a happy new year.
Isbell concludes his song with the line, “But wherever you are/I hope the high road leads you home again/To a world you want to live in.”
It’s our common prayer, shared goal, and a very noble resolution. Let’s focus on our home, take the “high road,” and imagine a more just, a more kind, and a more peaceful world for all.
I am committed to this for 2021, and I know many in our community who are equally committed. I hope that everyone will get on board.