Lois Collins: The politics I hope to see in 2021

If 2020 were a movie, I think — hope, actually — that it would flop. Too much chaos and high drama, but not a whole lot gets resolved and it’s had far too few satisfying moments. This much shouting and fighting, sickness and death creates craving for balance in the form of more celebratory or at least insightful counterpoints.

Instead, 2020 was the year we had to avoid each other.

Deseret News opinion editor Boyd Matheson laughed when he told me about a social media meme that speaks to the upcoming year: Will it be 2021 or “2020 Won?”

My conversations with friends and extended family, as well as readers and others — by digital means, of course (sad sigh) — makes me think we’re all hoping that 2020 just slithers away and we can start fresh Jan. 1. And full disclosure, those conversations were not with the makers of hand sanitizer or face masks, among others who probably found 2020 pretty great. When finding enough toilet paper is one of a year’s high points, well ….

I’ve never been big on resolutions or predictions about the future. But I think this moment in time merits considering what we hope for, individually and collectively. I’d love to hear what others hope.

My own list is pretty simple — and more political than is usually my wont:

  • First, I hope the vaccines work and COVID-19 goes away. The disease has chipped away at people I love and the toll on my husband’s family has been devastating. Too many people have suffered a variety of terrible consequences in this pandemic.
  • I wish everyone would go back to being civil, even if it means a small share of the population has to stifle sincerely held but mean-spirited, ignorant beliefs. Who knows? Maybe behaving more nicely will make people nicer. I think it’s possible responding to a call to be our “genuine selves” has been overdone.

Better still, I wish people would focus on being genuinely nice. But I’d settle for fake nice, because the spike in hateful talk has been like a siren call, tempting even normally decent folks to behave badly. I’ve seen personally how seductive it is — and how disappointed I am in myself when I give in.

  • I wish Congress would stop stuffing bills as if they were turkeys. Major, important legislation is not where senators and representatives should hide items they don’t think would pass if they were considered in transparent, public hearings with individual votes. A bill that’s hundreds of pages long with scads of sections and subheads and dozens of unrelated items is probably in reality more like one of the little nested Matryoshka dolls than like sound public policy.

A chunk of Washington’s gridlock occurs because overstuffed bills give two very divided parties more to wrangle over. Who knows? Maybe they’d agree on more (and do it more civilly — see above wish) if items got straightforward consideration.

  • I wish we’d get serious about making mental health treatment more widely available to those who need it. A serious lack of access is rooted in both not enough practitioners and a decision somewhere in the past to consider what happens in the brain somehow disconnected from the rest of the body. Mental illness is not a moral failing or a lack of willpower, nor is it a question of who is worthy of help. It is egalitarian, affecting rich and poor, conservative and liberal, all races, all incomes, all categories. Not helping keeps people from thriving and society from reaching its potential. Plus, we pay elsewhere for the stupidity of deciding not to invest enough in mental health.
  • Turns out, I hope more than a column can hold.

Mostly, I hope in 2021 we can all go back to meeting friends for lunch and I can feast with my brothers and sister and their kids and talk to my coworkers in person. That I can worry less about a stranger’s breath and more about a stranger’s well-being.

That would be a happy new year indeed.