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Looking up

In this current, seemingly overwhelming wave of the pandemic, as we approach the anniversary of the January 6 attack and attempted insurrection at the US Capitol, it’s easy to feel pessimistic about our future and decidedly negative about the previous year.

Prior to the rise of the delta and omicron variants, it was looking like we might put this pandemic behind us in 2021.

Also, encroaching authoritarianism, rising inflation, threats to free and fair elections, and political avarice all cast long shadows in our future.

But I think it’s critical to remember all that has been accomplished in the past year as well, because as human beings, we conveniently forget the good and often focus on the bad.

As a reminder, in 2021:

  • Congress passed a $1.9 trillion bipartisan pandemic relief plan that  the President signed it into law.
  • Congress passed a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill after many attempts by the previous administration. The President also signed this bill into law.
  • The stock market hit 68 record highs in 2021. This was the second most record highs in the history of the market (1995 set the record for the most), and the market ended the year at a near-record high.
  • The unemployment rate stood at 4.2% and jobless claims were at a 50 year low as the year ended. Wages also rose dramatically in 2021. A total of 26 states either increased their minimum wage at the end of 2021 or are scheduled to raise their minimum wage in 2022.
  • The dire warnings of empty shelves for the holiday season did not come to pass. Supply chains are still grappling with pandemic pressures, but enormous strides have been made, and despite omicron sending large segments of the workforce on sick leave (myself included), the supply chain improves every day.

If your political leaning is left, you’ll also be happy to know that President Biden confirmed more judges to the federal bench than any first-year president since Reagan, and experts say a growing list of judicial vacancies could allow him to appoint even more in 2022.

These newly appointed judges also represent the most diverse group of appointees ever, which should please Americans of every political party (except for the racists and bigots, of course).

In pandemic news:

  • 72% of Americans have received two shots of the COVID-19 vaccine (or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine).
  • Even more important (and overlooked, I think), MORE THAN 85% OF ADULTS OVER 18 have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and statistics indicate that most will go on to complete series.

In the words of Scott Gottlieb, former FDA Commissioner ((2017-2019):

“This is a phenomenal public health achievement, and as much as many bemoan fact that more haven’t chosen to get vaccinated, this has outpaced any early expectation.”

I think this is important to remember because the anti-vaxxers are loud, obnoxious, and therefore seemingly everywhere, when in truth, they account for less than 15% of the American adult population.

For every Joe Rogan, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Aaron Rogers in the world, there are many, many more Americans already vaccinated and getting vaccinated and boosted. We just don’t shout about it, lie about it, or raise political capital on it.

The truth is this:

The vast majority of Americans got vaccinated and moved on with our lives. We may get sick (as I did), but we aren’t crowding our hospitals, straining our healthcare system, and infecting our healthcare workers. We are, for the vast majority, remaining home until our symptoms subside so we can protect our fellow citizen from becoming ill.

It’s only a small, stupid percentage of Americans not only refuse to do what’s best for their community, but they won’t shut up about it, making them seem larger in size than they really are.

Unfortunately, there are also enough of them to fill ICU beds with illness, selfishness, and stupidity, making life hard on our heroic healthcare workers.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t serious challenges ahead. Long shadows hanging over our democracy. Critical Supreme Court cases loom in the near future. Our economy still faces enormous challenges.

It simply means that progress is happening, too. Good things have come to pass. The decent outnumber the indecent by a wide margin.

With so many struggling to see the light of day, reminders like this are important to me, and perhaps they are important to you, too.  They help me stay positive and hopeful about our country and our future.