20/20 Vision

It’s over. We made it. Well, most of us made it. Here’s to those who didn’t: Hail and farewell fine friends, it was good to know you. Sorry you’re no longer with us. The year that just passed into history was replete with loss. Future archivists will note the surge of headstones chiseled with the now ominous numeration.

But 20/20 was full of unprecedented opportunity as well. It would be a disservice to those to whom we bid adieu not to discern whatever lessons 20/20 offered. Like turning from 9/11 in disinterest, or ignoring the dead at Pearl Harbor. This discernment is a must.

The analogy is too easy to make, but I’ll make it anyway. Year 20/20 sharpened our sights, our foresight, our hindsight, and our insight, if we allowed it to. If 20/20 didn’t demand your focus and discernment and attention and introspection, then you were either oblivious to the world as it truly, awfully, gloriously is, or you were happily ensconced on Planet Clueless. If 20/20 delivered you to the eye chart of our collective existence, and sat you down, and forced responses from you, then here’s what I believe you may have seen as the sequential image enhancing lenses flickered past.

I’ll not mention the plagues that bedeviled us overtly in 2020. There’s no use in pricking that achy scab. It will heal; we know that. Indeed, that understanding, that lens, is perhaps the central vision we’ll take from the eye chart we’re presently viewing: We do endure; crises come…and crises go. We go on. Always. This lens is important.

Another lens clicks over, and it shows clearly that, however much we speak of ‘normal,’ and however much we wish to return there, we now see that normal wasn’t working. And it will not, ever again. With that lens in focus, let’s be unafraid to look more closely at what a new normal could—must—look like:

Bravo to those scientists and epidemiologists and vaccinologists who’ve given us at least the promise of emerging from this miasma. And to those on the front lines in health care, bravissimo! This new normal, in deference to, and in payment to them, would be our collective transition to their old normal, the vision they’ve seen for a very long time. We may take dubious comfort in ‘the virus came out of nowhere,’ or ‘no one saw it coming.’ But that’s a fallacy. It’s a convenient lie among ourselves. Those people noted above saw it coming. They sang, and danced, and posted, and wrote, and paraded about exactly what it would be, and do, and look like…and we ignored them. So here must be our new normal: We must focus on what experts and scientists put in front of us, whether their view is comforting or harsh; whether soothing or disturbing. It cannot matter. We must see their view, and assimilate it. Because here’s the thing. They’re still warning us. They’re telling us it will happen again. It will. We’ve not seen the last of it.

Thus another lens clicks into place. How much time, and energy, and resources, and money, and attention did the world exhaust in 20/20? It defies calculation. Yet for all the distancing, and masking, and hand sanitizing, and new protocols to defeat the scourge, with all the resources spent on its eradication, where is the intense, laser-focused time and energy toward preventing the next virus? Are we preoccupied with it? No. Are we prepared for it? No. Do most of us even acknowledge that SARS-Cov-3 could well be waiting in the wings as this is written? No. It could arrive tomorrow, a mutation, or an entirely new virus and we’d be exposed yet again. Thus the new normal I propose: No need to identify the source of the current virus; we already know whence it came: It came through our frantic and reckless intrusion into a world where we don’t belong, our transgression of a natural boundary between territories. The virus is simply proof that such crowding is not without consequence. In a sense, comforting or not, the system worked.

To whit: Human trespassing in animal habitats, and the ingestion of the flesh of those animals by humans has shown itself to be the awful, devastating, world-changing risk we’ve been repeatedly warned about. Once again, ‘the virus came out of nowhere,’ or ‘no one saw it coming’ do not work. Despite our collective, powerful, food industry-driven wish to continue ingesting animal protein, it is beyond harmful, into irrational. Until humans make the conscious decision to shift to a plant based diet, viruses will haunt us, and punish us, and kill us, and disrupt our lives. Again. We can look away, complain that this particular lens is faulty, or clouded, or angled poorly. But here’s the fundamental truth: Those scientists and epidemiologists noted above are well aware of the source of these viruses, but confronted with our voracious carnal appetites, and the monumental lobbying power of special food interests, they’re powerless to prevent their spread.

So another lens clicks into place: Unless and until we look without flinching at the source of our information, and the powerful and monied manipulators of it, our view will be purposely clouded, craftily skewed by the vast riches associated with and empowered by that manipulation. We’ve seen the recent deselection of one virus, and its human manifestation. He will be gone January 20th. But the hidden viruses in our political system, those duly elected people beholden to corporate interests instead of constituents must be identified and removed as well. The year past has allowed a rare kind of clear vision of that plague to emerge. It’s been too easy to see the open scandal, the venal self-enrichment, and the shameful nepotism that has perhaps existed forever. Has there ever been a better, more propitious time in our history to expose the rot and rubble in our system of governance and refresh that system so it serves us all? I don’t believe so. We have a vaccine for that despicable plague. The Vote. Let’s inject it, and begin to heal.

It would be easy to view 20/20 through a judgmental, a sour, a harshly disparaging lens. It robbed us of much wealth—financial and otherwise. It took away those we loved, and that which we can never replace. It pushed us toward mistrust, and fear, and an unstable dizzying existence we don’t like very much.

But 20/20 opened our eyes as well. Here’s hoping 2021 does not deliver normal. Here’s hoping a new vision can emerge, and that the lens it provides fills our new glasses with hope and joy and a better world.

Happy New Year to all. And stop eating animals.