It’s almost midnight on the last eve of one of the worst years any of us have ever been through – 2020. That’s how we designate perfect eyesight, right? 20/20. And it actually seems appropriate that over this year, so many people were able to see certain things with a clarity they’d lacked before:
How critical certain jobs are to our well-being: farmworkers, delivery men, postal service employees, bus drivers, restaurant workers, domestic workers, teachers, and nurses.
We didn’t really pay much attention to them before. Not really. But this year, we called them “essential workers” and we also saw with new clarity – and horror – how their employers viewed those majority people of color as dispensable, not providing them PPE or paid sick leave or a livable wage, cramming them tightly in meat packing plants and Amazon warehouses.
We’ve also seen how precarious their paycheck-to-paycheck lives are. How they have to go to work in spite all of this, sometimes multiple jobs, because it’s a matter of survival.
We saw a policeman’s knee on a Black man’s neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds. We saw the Black man die. Our eyes were opened wider and we were reminded of all the other Black deaths at the hands of the police and by the thousands – tens of thousands- we poured into the streets, Black, White, Brown, young, old . . . for months we marched – many for the first time – and the protests spread to over 2,000 cities and towns in all 50 states and in over 60 other countries, seeking justice for George Floyd, for the wider Black Lives Matter movement, and speaking out against police violence. Our eyes had never witnessed anything like the vastness of what happened.
And many White people saw up close with new insight what Black people have endured for centuries and some of those White people were also subjected to police brutality. And our understanding deepened.
In 2020, our eyes were opened to many things about how our government works that we hadn’t fully understood, like the Electoral College.
We saw how fragile our democracy is, so many loopholes and vaguenesses in our Constitution.
How easy it seems to be for a greedy, but clever grifter to rob us of our hard-fought rights and decency when he has enough enablers willing to do his bidding. It has to be fixed.
But we’ve also seen the emergence of empathy and compassion, haven’t we? All those banging pots in open windows and porches; all the protesters who poured out despite the pandemic to march and chant and sing in solidarity; All the women across the country making meals for those in need; the homes in San Francisco whose doors opened to those who had to evacuate the fires; the volunteer poll workers.
2020 has been an eye-opening, vision-improving year and we must do all we can to not forget what we’ve seen and learned and turn our empathy and new understanding into action, not to return to normal because we know now that ‘normal’ was the problem.
We need sweeping change and that’s what plagues and pandemics can do. They thrust us into emergency mode and we start to do things in whole new ways that we never could have imagined. They usher in sweeping change.
Do you know that it was the bubonic plague in Europe in the Middle Ages killing one-third of the continent's population that gave rise to the Peasant’s Revolt and led to the end of feudalism?
But in 2020, it’s the COVID plague that has forced us to experience sweeping change . . . and we’ve seen how capable we are when we’re in an emergency.
We’re in multiple intersecting and compounding emergencies of democracy, racism, the economy, health and looming over them all is the climate emergency, that’s the big one. The existential one. And if we don’t tackle that, all the others will be worsened beyond solution.
There is not one aspect of our lives that will not be altered because of what’s coming if we do not tackle climate.
And here’s the thing: we can start to address all those other related emergencies at the same time as we tackle climate. That’s what the Green New Deal and the THRIVE Act are all about. And we need to get those sweeping changes passed by the Biden/Harris administration this year.
Which means, one of your New Years resolutions needs to be a commitment to take action, in whatever way you can.
The future is not predestined, it depends on us. Right now. This new year. It is in our hands. Historians and our children and grandchildren will look back and know that we were the generation who made the difference . . . or failed to. This is the heavy, awesome challenge that rests on our shoulders.
We have little time. We cannot fail.
There’s enough of us who care, so let’s join together by putting our concerns, our new vision and, yes, our anger and grief into actions. You can do it in your home by what you buy and how you use and discard it.
But better yet, way better because this isn’t an individual thing, this is a collective crisis. So join climate organizations and write letters to editors, call your elected officials. . . . See, being part of an organization helps you do all those things strategically. And it provides you with a supportive community. Saying goodbye to individualism and embracing community is important now.
And when it’s safe again, join protests, engage in non-violent civil disobedience. That’s where I’ll be. Back in D.C. with Fire Drill Fridays. History is always made by those who are angry enough to take action in numbers large enough to match the size of the crisis. This is what climate scientists and progressive politicians are calling on us to do. It’s called outside pressure.
COVID will pass. The climate crisis will not and so we must remain in emergency mode around climate and take action. Have a happy, healthy and very active New Year.
– Jane Fonda
December 31, 2020
December 31, 2020
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
• A Blessing for the New Year (2020)
• Out and About – Winter 2019-2020
• Out and About – Spring 2020
• Saying Farewell to 2019 in a Spirit of Gratitude
• A Blessing for the New Year (2019)
• Let Us Be “Energized by the Beauty That Is All Around Us”: Jane Goodall’s New Year Message (2018)
• A New Year (2017)
• Andrew Harvey on Radical, Divine Passion in Action
• For 2015, Three “Generous Promises”
• Threshold Musings