Remember how, back in 1999, some people feared that the world would come crashing down when the new millennium dawned? When it didn’t, we turned our focus to a more trivial matter. How were we going to say the name of the new year? Two-thousand? Twenty-hundred? Twenty-aught-aught? There was really no good answer, though I favored aught-aught because it’s such a cool, old-timey phrase.
By the next year, we’d grown more comfortable with what to say, perhaps because of the classic 1968 movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.” A decade passed with most of us calling the years two-thousand-whatever. Then 2010 came along. Some folks kept to the old ways and called it two-thousand-ten. Others shortened it to the catchier twenty-ten.
And so it went for another decade.
Now that we’re five days into 2020, I’ll wager we’re all calling it the same thing. Twenty-twenty. I like it not just because it’s pleasantly sing-songy, but because it means more than just a date. Twenty-twenty is, of course, the ophthalmic term for “normal” vision. If you’re seated 20 feet from an eye chart and can see the same letters an average individual can see from the same distance, you have 20/20 vision. Which is not to say “perfect” vision, a term with a far more complex definition.
My ardent wish for myself and for the good ole USA in the coming year is the gift of 20/20 vision. I hope we can begin to see clearly again. Think rationally. And respond to differences of opinion with civility and grace that’s been missing for way too long. I hope Americans will start behaving as though we’re on the same team, because heaven knows we have enough real foes without treating each other like enemies.
I can’t help but believe that most folks in this country want the same things. Jobs that pay a living wage. Safe streets. Safe buildings. Good schools. Affordable health care. Decent roads and bridges. Clean air and water. Peaceful relations with other nations. And while these lofty goals are complicated and expensive, most of them are attainable if we’ll put our heads together and try to figure things out instead of screaming and pointing fingers at the other side. None of us is as smart as all of us.
I know people who, at the beginning of each new year, choose a single word and make it their mantra for the coming days, weeks and months. Words such as peace. Gentleness. Kindness. Compassion. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Generosity.
This seems like such a wonderful idea that, weeks ago, I decided to pick a word of my own. Since words are my business, you might think this was easy. It wasn’t. Some of the words I considered were silly. Others were too complicated. A few seemed a bad fit, given my interests and personality. Nothing seemed right until I slid a brand new desk blotter calendar under my computer keyboard.
There was my word, written entirely in gigantic numbers: 2020.
In the year ahead, I hope to see with clarity, to reason with clarity, to act with clarity. I’ll do my best to be informed about all sides of an issue before expressing an opinion. I’ll strive to measure my words before I speak, both in person and in writing. Who knows? I might even come to the conclusion that Mr. Trump is a decent man and a capable leader who ought to be re-elected President this coming November.
Nah. I’ve had a pair of 20/20 contact lenses in my eyes for some time now. And the more clearly I see, the more I know that Donald Trump has no more business in the Oval Office than my cat Watson does. But Watson is the subject for another column.
(January 5, 2020)