We are barely into the 2020s and can’t help but note the irony of the numerology of the decade: “20/20” is used to describe clear vision, but the decade so far has provided us anything but clarity.
You would probably have to go back to the tumultuous 1960s to find a decade more clouded with uncertainty, confusion and chaos.
In today’s edition, we published the last installment of a three-part series on school safety in the wake of the slaughter of 19 elementary students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, that has raised new questions about how we respond to school shooting incidents. It’s an issue our nation has long been grappling with, which has suddenly become even more confused, uncertain.
School officials, law enforcement and parents are trying to find ways to make our school children safer, but the truth is, we not only don’t have all the answers, we don’t even have all the questions. Every school shooting, it seems, introduces a new element not previously considered.
As it was the 1960s, the uncertainty of the decade is not confined to one issue.
The decade began with a bitterly-contested presidential election which culminated in something never seen or imagined – a sitting President refusing to concede defeat and ultimately threatening an honored precedent established by George Washington — the peaceful transfer of power. When a mob overran the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, it marked the first time the symbol of our Democracy had been invaded since the War of 1812. A House investigation to determine who was culpable for the siege of the Capitol continues.
We now have a war in easten Europe that has threatened global peace and disrupted economies all of the nation, including here in the U.S. Then, of course, there is the pandemic, which reached our shores as the decade began, killing more than a million Americans and causing major disruptions in our daily lives that persist until this day.
Shutdowns related to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have skewed both economic demand and supply, affecting commodities, products and services. That, coupled with seemingly endless stimulus across two presidential administrations has led to staggering inflation.
The confusion of the decade has impacted us in other, more personal ways. One example is what’s happening in the job market, where we again confront a conundrum – a labor shortage at a time when unemployment is at a near record low.
Anyone who has dined out recently will tell you that service is slower than it used to be as restaurants operate under severe staff shortages. Products that were also in plentiful supply are often hard to find. Everything, it seems, costs more, if you can find it at all.
Need an appliance? You may have to wait up to a year to receive it, depending on what model you choose.
We don’t really have the answers to any of these challenges, but it’s important to remember that the problems we grapple with now are not intentional.
Whether it’s a school district trying to figure out the best way to keep our children safe, law enforcement trying to get a handle on crime, businesses and restaurants trying to serve their customers as best they can, we must remember they are making good faith efforts to address problems not easily understood or remedied.
As someone recently noted, the greater the uncertainty, the more grace is needed.
If that means you’re slow in getting a refill on your ice tea at your favorite restaurant, the best response is not to give into frustration but to extend an extra measure of grace.
None of us can solve the big issues the decade has wrought. But all of us can be kind, extend grace, exercise patience, be guided by empathy.
After all, we are all out here doing the best we can.
Let’s keep that in mind.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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