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Here is the good news of 2020

Here is the good news of 2020
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First the bad news. This is the coronavirus Christmas. The disease surge and infections rise as the new mutation spreads in Britain. In the United States and the rest of the world, families remain apart and lonely. Retail sales for November, usually robust before the holidays, were a letdown. The president continues to yell about a stolen election and my beloved New York Mets have yet to make the blockbuster deal fans yearn for. If Rudolph has a red nose, it was because of the coronavirus nasal swabs. The best thing we can say about 2020 is it is almost over.

Here is the good news. If you watched the night sky this week, you saw planets Saturn and Jupiter nearly aligned and visible together. It has not occurred in almost 800 years. This was as close to the Christmas star as many of us will witness in our lifetimes, as the next time will not be until 2080. Out of black and infinite space comes a transcendent reminder of the miracle of our lives on earth in this blinking moment.

It sets in humbling perspective the latest tweet from Donald Trump, the election, heated politics, the lockdowns, canceled vacations, having to order takeout rather than dine inside our favorite restaurants, and even the New York Jets record this season, making them so cursed that their single victory could cost them the first round draft pick.

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Look around and observe how Americans faced the deadly pandemic by adapting and innovating. Restaurants in cities and villages moved dining tables outside, erected tents, strung lights, placed traffic barricades, and returned to business. Many abandoned downtowns all across the country became vibrant alternatives to traditional concrete malls.

Consider how teachers converted their classrooms into virtual learning for their students. Distilleries shifted their resources to make urgently needed hand sanitizer. Scientists, researchers, and government officials produced a coronavirus vaccine for billions of people in less than a year, despite the projections of the experts that it would take much longer.

An entire economy managed to pivot to remote work, a radical shift that might reinvent the future labor market and establish family as the critical element in productivity. Our divided Congress passed and the president signed the Cares Act within weeks of the start of the pandemic, injecting $2 trillion into an economy on the brink of total meltdown.

Human flaws and foibles connected in good humor in a new virtual world. There was the North Korea analyst whose interview was interrupted by his curious child wandering into the room. We saw the cats of television news reporters traipsing across our screens. Indeed, there was a sudden virtual invitation into the kitchens and dens of our fellow citizens.

There were driveby birthday parties. Principals set pictures of graduates on posters planted in front yards. People adopted foster pets. There was an 18 percent rise in medical school applications, “driven by the example of medical workers and public figures” like Anthony Fauci.

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There were countless acts of kindness. In Florida, a business owner paid the utility bills for more than 100 families at the risk of disconnection. In Pennsylvania, two bored dads with a competitive spirit started a bake off that delivered 15,000 cookies to essential workers. There were donations of meals and snacks to hospital workers. The pots and pans banged from balconies as a tribute to those workers as our new heroes.

Several Boston College students devised a way to connect online for an uplifting video after their hearts were broken by a canceled graduation. The world witnessed a normalization of relations in the Middle East in an otherwise completely abnormal year. A pandemic and a political climate that appeared to drive us apart in many ways brought us closer together in common cause. So we have reasons for happy holidays.

Steve Israel represented New York in the House over eight terms and was chairman with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is now the director of the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University. You can follow his updates @RepSteveIsrael.