Donn K. Harris: Sitting here in limbo — review of 2021 and hope in 2022 |

Donn K. Harris: Sitting here in limbo — review of 2021 and hope in 2022

In 2022, there is much to think about. Positions on the big topics have been established between two camps, and while clarity creates internal unity, it can also foster an “us versus them” mentality.

This is my attempt at a fair description of current attitudes: opposing views on the issues; current hot topics; and what progress would look like in 2022.

#BlackLivesMatter: The deaths must stop, but weren’t the individuals involved in criminal activity? The view of the police and threats to defund police departments were causes of severe disagreement.

Gun control: Regulations meant to keep guns away from unstable individuals and limit assault weapons are seen as in conflict with 2nd Amendment protections and the concern that only criminals will be armed if we regulate. The NRA influence with politicians concerns one camp.

Immigration: America offers an opportunity that must be available to all persecuted people, but are we losing our identity with other cultures exerting influence? Limiting immigration, anti-Islam bias, and building border walls have been points of great contention.

Critical race theory: Children must be taught the truth about our racial history but CRT gives an anti-American socialist perspective on modern society, and has CRT crept into all subjects by design?

Rittenhouse acquittal: A 17 year old brought a rifle to a protest and killed two people, claimed he acted in self-defense. Should a 17 year old be allowed to carry a loaded rifle into a group event? How does this fit into the general gun control discourse?

COVID-19: The prevailing view is that government directives are scientific and should be followed, but many believe the government is too focused on certain solutions, ignores others and overstepped its authority. Can the government close businesses and mandate mask-wearing and vaccinations?

I have deep concerns about rigidity on all sides of this equation. Can an individual believe in Black Lives Matter while supporting the police? Can someone oppose gun control but hold open immigration views, or will they be cast out by both sides since they don’t follow a conventional slate?

How might progress look in 2022?

In #BlackLivesMatter, we need to see zero fatalities and examples of the kind of humane and compassionate acts police officers perform daily. Community policing, a concerted effort to rebuild community/police relationships and a training program that emphasizes de-escalation and the use of non-uniformed personnel in certain situations would go a long way toward meeting this goal, as would respect for the men and women performing America’s most noble and difficult job.

We need to study incidents of weapons violence to really understand in each case what could have prevented it. If regulation would have truly made a difference, then it’s worth advocating for. But that kind of analysis has been rare.

Good citizens protecting their right to own weapons are not the problem, but they view each attempt to regulate as a threat. That’s because we’re so polarized on all issues we don’t talk to each other, and there is no working relationship on which to base compromise.

The Rittenhouse verdict and the national reaction reflect the gun control divide. Progress would be that protests are legally permitted, peaceful and respected by those with other views, and no one feels the need to arm themselves to protect property or make a statement.

The role of new cultures in American society should not be taken for granted. Bringing groups together will allow American humanity and compassion to have a place to flourish. We should be welcoming new arrivals, and be enriched by their cultures as we introduce them to the greatness of America.

Critical race theory continues to be a source of confusion. The local districts are not teaching it, but any pointing out of American flaws is seen by some as unpatriotic and attributed to CRT.

Progress: an honest questioning of our national decisions in schools at the appropriate grade levels. CRT themes have legitimacy, and need to be balanced with other theories, emphasis on theory. Let the students make up their own minds and dialogue with grounded knowledge and calm reason. I think we want this, but right now students wouldn’t be learning that from us.

COVID-19 has had us in limbo long enough. This is a tough one. We need to reach herd immunity. I’ve had my vaccination and two boosters. I’m stumped. Didn’t we eradicate polio and smallpox through mass vaccination? Is this divide emblematic of the larger divide? Will we battle over everything?

The new year always seems to sit on the precipice of great promise and profound concern.

The year 2022 feels especially tenuous. It’s time we got out of limbo. Understanding other points-of-view is a good place to begin. We need to find the opportunities to work together wherever they lie, and build some common understanding. Issues with the potential for bridge-building: homelessness, economic recovery, support for the arts?

There are no absolutes here, but many things could fall into place behind a few joint successes.

Donn K. Harris is a U.S. Air Force veteran, retired school administrator, and a resident of Nevada County. He serves on the boards of Color Me Human and the Nevada County Arts Council.


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