2021 ~ a new year with old problems

To: The One Who’s Being Shown The Door In 19 Short Days

Hey, so I was right – I barely hesitated at all just now when I was writing out today’s date: January 1, 2021. Very cool. And very not all that meaningful, really. There’s so much hype about how we’re closing the door on 2020, as though we’ve put 2020 into a lead lined coffin and used major power tools to fasten the lid on so that it’s trapped in the past forever and can’t get us (or US), or haunt us (or US), or have any kind of hold on us (or US). At all. It’s an interesting, and widespread, bit of magical thinking – as though shifting from one day labeled 12/31/20 to another day labeled 1/1/21 in the context of the arbitrary calendar system we all agree to follow means we’ve shifted to another dimension, of sorts, where this new dimension is somehow brighter and far more hopeful than the old one.

We’re funny things, us humans – at least a lot of us are funny things – we so want to turn corners and find hope and promise and brighter futures and better times and we’re willing to suspend commonsense to allow ourselves the luxury of those beliefs. Maybe it’s what keeps us going and allows us to skirt the existential pit of despair. Probably.

This reminds me of the idea of depressive realism, which is the (quite well known) deal where people who’re moderately depressed are more accurate in their perceptions and inferences than people who aren’t depressed. It’s actually a somewhat controversial idea, in no small part because cognitive therapy relies on the idea that depression (and anxiety) is fueled by negative bias that can be corrected if people learn how to challenge their thinking properly. It’s also been mostly tested in artificial laboratory settings and so how well it stands up in real reality situations isn’t clear. But these pesky issues aside, I think it’s a useful construct for understanding that the people who keep their feet firmly planted in reality have got to know that just because we flip from the last day of 2020 to the first day of 2021 doesn’t mean much of anything in and of itself. Well, except maybe for someone like you who should be dealing with the reality that you are another day closer to being out of office (and that tomorrow is yet another day closer, and so on). Actually, this inexorable inching closer to 1/20/21 is meaningful for all of us, but the flip from 12/31/20 to 1/1/21 isn’t any more important than the flip was from 11/30/20 to 12/1/20.

Sorry. I know I’m bogged down on this basic time point. I guess part of it is that I see some not so great parallels between the “thank god 2020 is over” sentiments and the “thank you Jesus, Trump didn’t win the election and is on his way out” mindset as though shifting to 2021 and booting your ass out of office means our big problems are behind us. They so aren’t. They so, so aren’t.

And no, I’m not talking about your problems with reality or even your treasonous efforts to incite enough violence this coming week that you can invoke the Insurrection Act. That’s not going to happen. Just like your 90+ bullshit lawsuits about election fraud came to naught, you aren’t going to invoke the Insurrection Act and you aren’t going to stay in office past the 20th. All that is just a sideshow.

No, what we clearly have to worry about is complacency, exhaustion, and wishful thinking as we head into this New Year since our big problems predated you and will out last you and we’ve got to get handles on them before it’s really too late.

May we be safe from our own wishful thinking.
May we be willing to be realists, depressive or otherwise.
May we get strong and stay strong so we can face what needs to be faced.
May we accept that a new year isn’t an automatic fresh start.

Tracy Simpson

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