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It has been a rough year but the best is yet to come; keep the faith in 2022!

By Vernon A. Williams

Just when we thought there couldn’t possibly be another year like 2020, we experienced 2021.

In many ways, the first year of the pandemic was paralyzing because there was this surreal isolation with a total shutdown of every aspect of society. What dramatized the moment even more was the fact that it was global, a stunning and horrifying view of a world shut down in 2020.

Last year, there were the shocking and numbing confrontations with grave illness and death among family, close friends, colleagues, neighbors, and even those we knew only vicariously in the celebrity world. No one was immune from this monstrous plague, the worst human experience in a century.

Then there was such great hope entering 2021 as we began to see incidences of the coronavirus wane while awareness came to be far more prevalent among the general public. The greatest hope came in the form of what also would be the greatest divider on this complex dilemma, the introduction of COVID vaccines.

On the surface, it seemed like the cavalry was coming to the rescue (just like in the old Western movies). But what so many thought was the solution only intensified the problem. The vaccines immediately became as politicized as the nation, and that stressful state of conflict set the tone for a year replete with missed opportunities.

There were those who were skeptical at the outset, fearful that vaccines were developed far too soon, too quickly, without proper safeguards. Those on the other side applauded the pharmaceutical industry for dedicating the sense of urgency required to come up with vaccines expeditiously and to be able to verify scientifically the safety of these injections.

 The lines, however, were drawn. In mostly Republican states, the numbers willing to become vaccinated were down considerably. Conversely, in predominantly Democratic states, a far larger percentage of Americans stepped up to receive the vaccine. Predictably, what was thought to be a season of healing turned into another wave of pandemic primarily among the unvaccinated.

There was another complex sector of individuals who would not allow themselves  to be a part of those vaccinated against COVID. This was a large Black and minority population that thought hard, but there was far too much skepticism against the vaccine, with many referencing how those in the Black community had been abused as guinea pigs for science in the past. Young people of the African Diaspora remain particularly distrustful.

The number of individuals being infected with COVID continued to soar in 2021, with the Omicron variant spreading among those who refused the vaccine. And while there were alarming numbers of breakthrough cases among those who had received shots, the statistics bore out the fact that those Americans were less likely to wind up in the hospital, less likely to require a breathing apparatus, less likely to die.

Just over 60 percent of Americans have been vaccinated as we approach the end of 2021. That means four out of every 10 people on the elevator, standing in line, on the bus or plane, or working in your office or in a factory, probably don’t have any of the COVID vaccine protection and most likely have no plans of getting it. Many of them have even been infected, or seen people in their lives die, but remain unpersuaded.

Problems were pervasive. Compounding the complexity of the year is the fact that the nation witnessed an unprecedented rate of homicide in cities from San Francisco to Boston, from Minneapolis to Biloxi. Some suggest that pandemic stress is a contributor to the incredible levels of hostilities people are facing in public and in private across this nation on a daily basis. People are stressed out.

This year was complicated. We saw a job market in which businesses complained that they couldn’t find enough workers. Those in the workforce complained that they needed a more livable wage and benefits to make ends meet. Female victims of rape and incest were denied options on how to deal with such pregnancies. Environmental crises wrought natural disasters and nature’s devastation was horrendous. 

What nature wasn’t contributing toward destruction this year, man was busy doing. Rather than move toward harmony and social justice, educators intensified their fighting to erase the nation’s legacy of race. Contrary to tenets of democracy, almost every state implemented more restrictive voting laws. Gerrymandering and establishment of election boards that can reverse the will of the people pose an ominous threat. 

This is the year that was 2021. Sometimes it can make people doubt the possibilities and wonder if we are on some apocalyptic downward spiral plunging into hopelessness. With all the challenges that we face, I would submit to you that we are far more likely to rise from the ashes next year than to simply wallow in the mire. As the saying goes, anything that doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.

Those of us who live by faith will never acquiesce to the circumstances of the here and now. We face them realistically but with the knowledge that in God, all things are possible. We have seen our families and our cities and our nation rebound in too many instances in the past, to even contemplate giving up on the future. All that we’ve gone through has strengthened us for what lies ahead.

When I say Happy New Year to you, it is not some perfunctory cliche to accompany the mere changing of the calendar. It is with the fervent belief that our best days are ahead of us and that if we are willing to continue relentlessly toward those things good and worthy, God will provide. Never lose your faith. Never stop believing in possibilities. I have never seen the righteous forsaken. Keep the faith! 

CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].

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