Animal Tracks: Fingers crossed for a New Year

Christmas at our house this year was just about everything we could have hoped for. I certainly hope everyone else enjoyed it as much as we did.

The next big item on the agenda is New Year's Eve.

When the ball drops on New Year's Eve and we see 2021 slink off into history, few of us will be terribly sorry to see it go. 2021 might not have been as bad as 2020 was but really, neither year was particular great and I suspect most of us have our fingers crossed for the coming year.

I think most of us were pretty optimistic when 2021 dawned. There were new vaccines becoming available for Covid and most of us were pretty hopeful that they would be effective and we could put the pandemic behind us. It didn't happen overnight but gradually the vaccines became widely available, they were made available to everyone who wanted one for free and best of all, they were amazingly effective against the virus.

The fact that so many Americans would look at getting vaccinated as a political issue and refuse to get the shot never dawned on many of us. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened.

Most people were anxious to get the shot and by summer, it looked like we might hit that point where we have “heard immunity” - the point where enough people are vaccinated that the virus no longer has enough people to infect and so simply dies out. Transmission numbers and death total were dropping and things stared to open up again. Then, enough people refused to get vaccinated that we never hit that magic number so, the virus continues to spread. What makes it worse is that over time, the virus changes. Since the original virus started two years ago we've seen several variants that have been more deadly and harder to fight. According to the experts, it's very possible and even likely that we could see the virus evolve into something which gets past our vaccines and there were are, all of us back to square one.

Because the biggest problem facing us right now isn't actually the Covid virus, it's us.

Here as we leave behind 2021 and head into a new year, our country is more divided that it has probably ever been. We spend more time fighting each other than we do fighting the real problems that we face.

Our country has an amazing history. Now, we haven't been perfect and no one claims we have been. But, we have managed to survive every challenge, big or small, that ever presented itself. We've fought and helped win two world wars, survived the economic collapse of our country during the Great Depression and done things no other country was ever able to do. We did all those things by pulling together and putting the country ahead of ourselves. But now, things are different. We've never fought ourselves as we've seen over the last few years.

Within the first week of this year, we saw a crowd of violent protesters attack the capital because they didn't like the outcome of the election and wanted to keep their candidate in office.

That has never happened before in the history of our country.

For those who point to the Civil War and say it happened then, I'd point out that the Southern States did not try to overturn the election of Lincoln nor did they try to take over the country. I won't debate the wisdom (or lack of it) that led to their decision but I will say thy voted to leave the Union and start their own country. There is a vast difference between that and storming the capital, trying to retain power by force and threatening to hang anyone who didn't agree with them.

No, as bad as the pandemic has been, as bad as the resulting economic problems have been, these problems are symptoms of a bigger problem and it's a problem that no vaccine will solve.

The solution is obvious. Leaders, both red and blue, have to both come to the table and remember that they are elected to serve the people...all of the people...not just their particular interest groups.

A survey conducted by the VCU Survey Research Lab a few months ago turned up another possibility. The survey showed that more than 50 percent of Trump supporters were in favor of splitting up the country into two countries, one red and one blue. More than 40 percent of Trump supporters felt the same way and so there seem to be a significant number of citizens who are open to the idea. Unfortunately, there seems to be a sizable segment of the population who want to opt for open warfare between the two sides. That can not be allowed to happen.

I don't pretend for a second that I think a breakup is our best solution because I don't. It would be amazingly complicated, incredibly expensive and generally a pain. However, If the choice comes down to a “Brexit” sort of solution and a second Civil War with Americans trying to kill other Americans, I'd vote for the “Brexit” type of solution every time.

Here's to hope that leaders on both side will take this coming year to see that our best solution is to learn again how to stand and work together for the country instead of for the narrow interests of one politician or one party. That would certainly make it a happy new year, and a bright new beginning.