I had another happy birthday Dec. 31, and did not share the sense so many people expressed that 2021 was a horrible year. I thought it was an amazing and wonderful year, if you were paying attention. My law school dean used to say, “All years are good years, some are just better than others,” and I feel the same way about years.
In 2021, human character prevailed over adversity, and most people and cultures around the world managed to practice more good than evil. It is not the absence of trial and ordeal that ennobles people. It is in acquitting ourselves with decency and honor that we redeem human potential for good.
We spent time with grandkids living in all parts of the nation, and saw some of the economic and political strife America and the world is enduring up close and personal. I even managed to stay healthy and safe serving on a U.S. Dept. of State-led negotiating team in Washington, D.C., working to renew strategic treaties preserving peace in a vast region of the Pacific since World War II.
In our travels, we saw people in small towns and big cities managing the challenges of the year, some better but also some worse than we have managed local affairs in our hometown. But we saw dignity, courage, unselfishness and wisdom in the words and deeds of people in all walks of life. I saw less influential people and even weaker nations show more strength of character and understanding of moral choice than more influential people and more powerful nations.
But I haven’t seen as much equity, tolerance and simple, old-fashioned small town fairness here in Laguna Beach as I saw in other small towns where we spent months at a time and got to know people in 2021. So, I want to thank people in our hometown who consistently support pluralism in our civic discourse, even when we disagree.
Let’s make 2022 the year we take back our lives from fear and anger. Locally and nationally, we need to restore families and communities to reason and civility. Instead of more “winning at any cost,” we need to see the cost of indulging polemics is too high.
Simply put, to end extremism dividing us we all need to be better neighbors and citizens than we have ever been. We’re all part of the problem, now let’s be part of the solution.
Howard Hills, Laguna Beach