A year of hardships, but we always overcome

By Stephan Drew

Staff Writer


It is traditional, each January, to look back on the previous year and reflect upon what happened, what we did, how we survived and what we learned. This year is no different. If anything, we should take even more time to ponder such a momentous 12 months.

As 2020 began, it seemed to hold such promise of a brighter future. Stock markets were high and climbing by leaps and bounds. All categories of unemployment were the lowest they had been in over 60 years. Factories were reopening or new ones being built across the nation. Businesses were coming back to this country and manufacturing jobs were returning by the tens of thousands.

Wages were increasing and taxes were lower than they had been in decades. 401(k)s, pensions and retirement plans were growing at a pace we hadn’t seen in over a decade and it seemed, at least financially, that America’s economic power had returned in full force. For the first time in over 100 years, our nation was completely energy-independent.

Our federal prison system became somewhat more compassionate by freeing or paroling thousands of nonviolent offenders. Our defense system was being fully updated and an entirely new branch – the Space Force – was being added to our military.

Treaties and trade deals had been, or were being, renegotiated more in our favor and other countries were paying their share of the bill we had been carrying all alone since the 1940s.

America seemed to be riding high with a bright future that wouldn’t end. And, then, it happened.

Just weeks into the new year, we were told that a virus had broken out in China but the government there was containing it. As the weeks passed and the virus spread, fear grew worldwide.

We experienced the deep, profound terror of the “unseen” enemy. Rarely-spoken words like “non-essential,” “lockdown” and “quarantine” frequented our daily conversations. We were on “heightened alert” and buying sprees of basic household items emptied stores across the country overnight.

In just a few weeks, America went from seemingly invincible to completely terrified. Since last spring, hundreds of thousands of businesses have been shut down or closed completely. Millions are unemployed, millions have been infected and 400,000 are now dead from COVID-19.

A profound sense of angst settled over the country as frustrations grew due to loss of jobs, freedoms and future prospects. We witnessed “mostly peaceful” protests result in city blocks and neighborhoods being destroyed or burned all over the country. Daily, we saw suicides, drug addiction, alcoholism, crime and murder rates increase dramatically.

We felt our hopes diminish, saw our bank accounts dwindle or dry up and feared for our future and our families in ways many of us never imagined.

But, during all this horror, we also saw true courage and innovation across the nation. Americans are nothing if not resilient. We’ve seen the heroic first responders and other medical personnel sacrifice their time, health and families to serve the public beyond what we thought was possible.

Thousands of public servants and private citizens rose to the challenge, providing food, shelter, clothing, financial help and other assistance to those in need. Our federal government sent funds to millions of taxpayers and businesses to help with the financial strain.

We have seen several vaccines created in record time to help stem the tide of infection. Ventilators and necessary medical supplies were mass-produced on a colossal scale to help overburdened hospitals across the country. We have seen the heroism and innovation which sets America apart from others.

In spite of all this, we had the strongest voter turnout and the largest mail-in ballot count in the history of our country. The man who presided over this great economic boom and the beginning of this pandemic is no longer in office. We have a new leader and he says he has a plan to fix everything. I hope and pray that is true. Only time will tell.

But, if I know one thing about our nation, it is this. America is nothing if not resilient. We have a long history of overcoming hardships. We were founded on principles of freedom, independence and ingenuity – something unheard of 200 years ago.

We came into being by defeating the greatest military force on Earth at the time. We were split apart by a horrible and bloody Civil War and united to become even stronger and more powerful than before.

We endured and preserved the world for democracy through two world wars and we have sacrificed millions of our youth in numerous other conflicts. A hundred years ago, we experienced a similar world plague and we’re dealing with another virus today. I have no doubt our nation will survive again.

I truly have the greatest hope for the future of my country.

Some 200 years ago, we were the “new kid on the block” and not expected to last. Now, we foster democracy, freedom and innovation around the globe. World nations look to us for help when they are in crisis. If something is too difficult for others, America will always find a way.

We have always dreamed big and reached for the stars. At times, we may seem brash or boastful but we always make sure we can back up what we say.

We give much and we expect much. We feel content in our knowledge that the future will be even brighter than the past. We truly believe we are exceptional. And, why shouldn’t we? We are Americans.

Author: Stephan Drew

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