This is my last note of 2021. As the CAFE team well knows, these notes don’t come easy for me. I am better at conversation than soliloquy. I sometimes feel that my take may not be different enough from the many you may find out there — or that on any given Thursday I can’t summon the right combination of words to convey what is in my mind or heart. I have always had a suspicion about opinion writers generally, at least the ones who are obligated to produce pieces on a regular schedule. How can they be truly wise twice a week, like clockwork, because the editorial page requires it, rather than because they have something smart and new to say? Can you really train insight to obey the calendar? I won’t name names, but I think many a crappy column is born of this dynamic, though perhaps there are true pros whose minds are so ablaze with ideas that no column is a chore or whose synapses have long been trained to fire extra hot and fast when a deadline looms.
I am not such a person, so from time to time I try to weasel out of writing my note. Sometimes the team lets me, but usually not. On occasion the urge to play hooky arises when I’m not feeling so hopeful about the country and its immediate future, and I would rather write more cheerily. I am an optimist generally; I believe in the goodness of people; I believe the arc of the moral universe is long but bends towards justice, as King said and as Obama reiterated. I believe all that jazz, truly. But on certain days, like today, when one must write a year-end note that would typically look back on the imperfect year that was and anticipate the brighter annum ahead, it’s not so easy. To me, at least, the year ahead looks mighty tough.
My closing note was a much easier lift in 2020. This is what I wrote to you all 12 months ago: