Constable: With 2021 a repeat of 2020, we put our hope in 2022

  • The year started with supporters of President Donald Trump climbing the walls and storming the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6 to try to stop Congress from affirming President-elect Joe Biden's election victory.

    The year started with supporters of President Donald Trump climbing the walls and storming the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6 to try to stop Congress from affirming President-elect Joe Biden's election victory. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 12/26/2021 9:14 AM

Last year at this time, Americans were about to celebrate the arrival of something great.

OK, that was a bit optimistic. What we really had was a fervent hope that 2021 would deliver us from the dumpster fire that was 2020. We couldn't wait to move forward and get some hindsight into a 2020 that gave us ugly political squabbles, wildfires and weather extremes, the death of George Floyd, devastating unemployment, an economy in ruins, and a pandemic known as COVID-19.

 

So, even if the Times Square event dropped the ball in a ceremony closed to the general public, we were ready to welcome 2021.

The vaccine rollout had begun. The peaceful transition of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden was on the schedule. As part of that, Kamala Harris would make history as the first woman and woman of color to be vice president. Hope was in the air. Our world was returning to normal. And the stock market hit a record high on Jan. 5.

As rough as 2020 was, Baby New Year 2021 just said, "Hold my beer," and then reignited the dumpster fire.

On Jan. 6, then-still-President Trump, in defiance of any legal proof, led a rally insisting the election was stolen from him.

"We're going to walk down -- and I'll be there with you," Trump vowed as he encouraged his followers to march to the Capitol, where Congress was starting the generally routine certification of the November election results. "You'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong."

The mob showed strength in breaking through police barriers, overwhelming and beating police officers, gaining access to the building and gathering outside the Senate chamber in an insurgence that left five people connected to the riot dead. Two police officers died of suicide later, nearly 140 officers suffered injuries in the attack, and more than 600 insurgents were arrested.

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Trump, accused of inciting the crowd that stormed the Capitol, became the first president to be impeached twice. Someone erected a gallows outside the Capitol, attached a noose and got the crowd chanting, "Hang Mike Pence!" That offensive notion, while an affront to common decency and our democracy, might have united extremists on the far right with those on the far left in a world where unity is a rare commodity.

Congress, it seems, can't agree on anything. Except that it isn't working.

"I've been here for 25 years and I've seen the decline of this institution to the point where we no longer function as we once did," our U.S. Sen. Richard J. Durbin said of the Senate earlier this month.

"It has been a horrible year, hasn't it?" echoed his Republican colleague Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

In the House, Reps. Majorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona, both Republicans, were stripped of their committee assignments for posting threats of violence against Democratic colleagues on social media.

One of three billionaires to launch crafts toward space in 2021, Jeff Bezo, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, blasts off his New Shepard rocket.
One of three billionaires to launch crafts toward space in 2021, Jeff Bezo, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, blasts off his New Shepard rocket. - Associated Press
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

While we hoped to wash away the problems of 2020, we basically did a rinse and repeat in 2021. Congress didn't get as much done as people hoped, but three billionaires did manage ego trips to space.

Meanwhile, those of us stuck on Earth had a few high-profile court cases on our radar. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for kneeling on the neck of George Floyd until the man died.

The right hailed November's "not guilty" verdicts for Kyle Rittenhouse, who, as a 17-year-old from Antioch, headed to protests over the police shooting of a Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and shot three protesters, killing two, with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle. The left applauded the verdict in the case of Ahmaud Arbery, when three white men were convicted of murder for shooting the Black, unarmed jogger in Georgia.

For the first time in two decades, America was not at war. But as soon as our troops ended our longest war by leaving Afghanistan, the Taliban took control.

More than 100 homes were damaged in a Naperville subdivision from a tornado in June -- one of the events in the suburbs that made 2021 not so much better than 2020 after all.
  More than 100 homes were damaged in a Naperville subdivision from a tornado in June -- one of the events in the suburbs that made 2021 not so much better than 2020 after all. - Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

The extreme weather was not limited to the coasts, as a tornado in June ravaged Naperville and Woodridge. A pregnant woman lost her baby, at least another 11 people were injured and 200 homes were damaged along the tornado's 17.6-mile path.

Perhaps the biggest dark cloud hanging over our nation was the 345,000 COVID-19 deaths in 2021. With the first coronavirus vaccine in Illinois delivered to health care workers on Dec. 15, 2020, we had hopes that vaccines would soon become available for everybody, we could get rid of masks, schools would meet in person, businesses, theater and sports would thrive, and we'd get back to normal.

Politics, misinformation and fear are thriving, but we limp toward the end of 2021 with millions still unvaccinated, the new omicron variant replacing the old delta variant, and a death toll almost certain to top 1 million dead Americans early in 2022. The pandemic still is playing havoc with the lineups and schedules of the Bulls, the Blackhawks, the Bears, local theater and our own holiday plans.

Chicago and Cook County say the unvaccinated won't be welcome in restaurants, bars and gyms, so they must seek out eateries in other counties or get the vaccine and carry around a card to prove it. Who knows what the guidelines will be by spring?

The Sky won their first WNBA championship with hometown hero Candace Parker, the fun-to-watch White Sox made the playoffs under geriatric manager Tony LaRussa, and the Cubs got rid of many of the 2016 World Series champs. But the biggest sports story of the year was the possibility of the Bears moving into Arlington Park, the glitzy horse racing track that has been an Arlington Heights landmark for more than 80 years. Fans bemoan the loss of Arlington Park and boo the miserable Bears, even as most cheer the idea of a new Bears stadium coming to the suburbs.

That would be a bittersweet story in a year heavy on the bitter and light on the sweet.

But, just as we said last year when we bid good riddance to 2020, we go into 2022 with political deadlocks and anger, fears of extreme weather, an iffy economy, racial injustice, the anxiety of living in a pandemic that promises to kill a million Americans, and a fear of what lies ahead. The only things we can be certain of in 2022 is uncertainty and a renewed hope that our new year will be better than our old one.

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