By Jamie Rosler
When I signed up for this blog slot, it was a choice made entirely absent of the realization that this is the last Undiscovered Works blog post of 2020. One might expect the writer of an essay published on December 27 to wax poetic about the year past and the possibilities that lie ahead, to reflect sagely on where they’ve been and where they hope to go, or at the very least to recognize the responsibility inherent in an end-of-year reflection.
I have no waxing and no sage reflections, with just the weight of an unmet deadline on my shoulders. There are people whose job it is to recap past events, report on present circumstances, or predict future possibilities (though that last group rarely does us any favors with their forecasts), and I am not one of those people. Sometimes I turn those events into trivia questions but my editorial expectations regarding the public good are confined to the small spaces and networks of people that make up my individual world. My dog tends to agree unconditionally which is good for the ego but bad for perspective.
It’s hard to write about the last year (or the outgoing presidential administration) without using the word unprecedented. Can we all agree to shelve that word for the next four years? In fact, let us just scrap the entire concept of unprecedented actions, instead leaning into choices that have been tried by other societies and proven positive for years. Things like universal healthcare regardless of individual wealth, financial reparations to those that our government has directly harmed through generational enslavement, taxing the absurdly rich and seating more women in places of power.
Appearances and content aside, this essay wants to be light and funny. It wants to bring you a moment of delight to help counter the weight and the worry that you’ve carried with yourself since March, or since you came out, or were born Black in America. Does that make me David against Goliath, but my slingshot is broken and the sun’s in my eyes?
I don’t have the skills, or perhaps just the distance from our present moment, to offer viewpoint-changing revelations that provide answers to all (or probably any) of your questions. What I do have is sympathy for your worries, a shared sense of confusion about humanity’s expression of both its best and worst traits, and a wish that any harm this year caused you can and will be reversed in the months to come.
The problems of our world can feel insurmountable in even our most plentiful of times, let alone in our current state of widespread half-truths, authoritarian power grabs, and white supremacy teeming all around the nation. Yet, in this same year that saw the ultimate politicization of public health, we saw innumerable protests across the country and the world decrying the ongoing violence against our Black brethren at the hands of the state. We saw record numbers of queer people and people of color running for public office and winning. We saw neighbors helping neighbors eat, vote, and stay healthy. Teachers, healthcare workers, and stay-at-home parents may soon finally receive the credit, respect, and pay that they deserve for raising our children, caring for the unwell, and educating the next generation. If your eyes were previously closed to these inequities, it is not too late to stand up for a better future.
One thing I believe we can all take away from this past year is that nothing, literally nothing, is guaranteed. We can view that through a lens of nihilism, or we can see the beauty and promise of a world that has yet to be created, but for which the seeds already exist in all our hands. When enough of us understand that we truly are Stronger Together, we will then be ready to Make America Great.