2020 has been frickin’ crazy! I’ve been hesitant to talk about all the craziness going on in the world this year because it feels like every time I get a clear picture of what’s going on, five minutes later it becomes shockingly clear that I have no blinkering clue what’s going on. But now, looking back at this year, I get the sense that most of us have had that very same experience both in and out of prison.
The year began with a wonderfully terrible pun, “2020 (20/20) the year of clear vision” and sometime around month 2 of COVID-19 lockdown that pun died along with any pretense of shaving one’s legs. But I think it was scarily accurate. We, as a society, had become so alienated that it would take a massive disruption to the status quo to bring us back to life, and for all the death and pain and suffering and horror COVID-19 has caused, it did that.
Being separated from each other has caused us to reevaluate what is truly important. Connection, compassion, community, love, care, concern, and toilet paper.
We have been forced to stop. To slow down. It’s almost as if everyone who had to sit through a quarantine or travel ban spent some time on house arrest and depending on what their home looks like, they may have spent that time with nothing to do but think. A mini stay-cation meets solitary confinement. With so many people spending so much time thinking many of us spent that time taking a really good look at this world we find ourselves in, a really good look at ourselves. And many of us have decided we don’t like what we see and have set about changing it, all of it.
It is no longer enough for people to passively claim they aren’t racist, now people (specifically white people) have to step up and take an actively anti-racist position to not be considered racist. This is an amazing change that I don’t believe would have happened if not for the #BLM protests and outrage at the brutal police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others.
In the past year it has become normal to discuss mental health struggles. It is now normal to encourage the people in one’s life to do self care and going out of one’s way to do a random kindness for someone else is becoming more and more common. People who have never admitted to having mental health issues in the past have come to lean on those of us who have struggled our entire lives, and we’ve leaned right back.
We, as a collective, have become acutely aware of the networks on interdependence we live in and are beginning to act on that truth to change the way our communities are organized and to take care of people’s basic needs. Delivering food, cleaning gear, and toiletries to the homes of people who are at risk for covid-19 or who have disabilities that prevent them from getting to the store, cheering for healthcare and other essential workers each night at 7 pm, and exercising the power of voting to fire that bastard, number 45.
I hope, sincerely hope, that we will continue to carry the insights and lessons we’ve learned this year. The pointlessness of consumerism, the importance of valuing the people in our lives, of being kind to everyone we come in contact with, including ourselves. Because if we are able to hold on to these truths once ‘the new normal’ becomes ‘the previous normal’ perhaps ‘the next normal’ will be a world we want to live in rather than the world we have been forced to put up with.