2020 was hell. There is no other way to state it. A year that started with the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others now ends with over 340,000 Americans dead and 20 million more infected with the coronavirus. No one could have imagined the level of devastation that would befall the most powerful country in the world, yet here we are humbled and reminded of the fragility of life.
One day you are cheering for your favorite team in a packed sports arena or dining in a crowded restaurant wondering if you put in enough money in the parking meter, and the next minute you are seriously doubting your faith in the federal government to address an international pandemic. The people who had the power to slow down the coronavirus and mitigate its damage chose not to. Families have been forever changed because of the failure of one man to set his ego aside and protect the country. I say that not as a political pundit but as someone in mourning.
If I sound angry, it is because I am. Like many Americans, the ramifications of the failure of this president affected my family. I lost my best friend and my grandfather this year. While my grandfather did not die because of the coronavirus, it robbed my family of precious moments with him. I spent his last year on earth scared to touch him and barely able to visit with him because of the risk to his health. This was time with him that I will never get back and time with me that he will never get back.
As I sat down to think about 2020 and what it has meant to me, all I could envision is my grandfather. I thought I might write about the victory of Joe Biden over Donald Trump and what that has meant for the morality of our country. I thought I might write about the killing of George Floyd and the movement for racial justice that has been a light in a year of darkness. But all I could think about is how we let each other down.
The response to the coronavirus will keep me awake at night for months to come. We failed our greatest test. While some communities thrived better than others, the country failed to rise to the moment. We failed to do what was necessary in order to protect each other. We failed to fulfill our social contract. We chose parties over our collective safety. First responders, health workers, and teachers have been our heroes.
2020 did not have to be this bad. Now we must make amends. We must restore our social contract and rebuild faith in our institutions. We will not solve every problem in the new year, but we cannot continue down this road where politics is above principles. We owe it to all those who died to ensure that what we saw this year never happens again.
Someone recently gave me advice that has stuck with me. It was to live a life that my grandfather would be proud of. As we disembark from 2020, we should all consider whether we are living lives that those who came before us would be proud of. We must honor those who perished and those who risked their lives to deliver groceries, pick up the trash, or nurse people back to health. This is our call to action.
If my grandfather were still alive today, he would tell me to let go of my anger and find a way to heal. He was a better man than I am, but I know I will spend every day working hard to live up to his wishes and honor his legacy. 2020 may have been hell, but we must remember the angels watching over us as we put the pieces back together.
Michael Starr Hopkins is the founder of Northern Starr Strategies and the host of “The Starr Report” podcast. Follow his updates @TheOnlyHonest.