The MoonPie will drop. The Champagne will pop. “Auld Lang Syne” will be sung. And black-eyed peas and greens will be gobbled up as we say goodbye to 2021.
The end of the year is always a time for reflection, and I will give 2021 some credit — it was better than its predecessor — but overall, it just pretty much seemed like 2020, volume II.
While things definitely started getting better this year — with vaccines becoming readily available for all and the need for lockdowns subsiding — the two years together seem like one big blur we would all rather forget. And now with Omicron rearing its ugly head, which it is certain to continue to do in 2022, we may be facing another year of fighting the rest of the Greek alphabet soup of variants. And you have to wonder, are we just heading into 2020, volume III?
Please say it’s not so.
And if the pandemic hasn’t made things bad enough globally, here locally, Mobile saw the highest number of homicides on record this year. And at press time, that number was still growing … with several days left to further cement its place in a history book no city ever wants to be in. And that number doesn’t even include assaults or other acts of gun violence, where the victims survived. Unfortunately, despite our police department’s recent efforts, it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Just this week, after 8 p.m. on Monday, four people were shot at a popular gas station on Moffett and I-65. One person has died from their injuries so far. They were all 17- and 18-year-old kids.
Police have been open about the problem. They say, in general, these are not random shootings but personal “beefs” between subjects who are known to each other. And Public Safety Director Lawrence Battiste told Lagniappe it’s usually over something completely trivial.
“It’s usually over stuff like, ‘You said something about my girlfriend or something bad about my neighborhood’ or ‘You bumped into somebody,’” Battiste said. “You can ask these kids why they’re reacting to something so stupid, most of the time they’ll tell you they don’t know. It might have just been what one of them put in a text message.”
And the department says this has just created a vicious cycle of retribution. One week’s victims will be the following week’s perpetrators, as they seek justice out for themselves.
So many lives were ended or ruined over “something so stupid.”
And problems beget more problems.
This will only continue to jam up our already overwhelmed judicial system. The DA’s office has just started on 2017 murder trials. There are over 130 accused murderers who have been able to bond out and are walking the streets today.
One vicious cycle after another. And it’s hard to see where or how it ends.
2021 also brought about loss of a different kind, as we had to say goodbye to two of Mobile’s biggest hometown heroes, whose greatness was known not just here but throughout the country and world, with the passing of Hammerin’ Hank Aaron and “modern-day Darwin” E.O. Wilson. Though their fields could not have been more different, they were both considered rock stars. One made magic with a bat and a ball, the other with ants and a magnifying glass.
As Alabamians, we are used to outsiders smugly pointing out just how dumb, pathetic, ignorant and/or awful we are in a myriad of ways, while at the same time not recognizing the flaws of their own “superior” lands.
But it always makes me proud to remind those folks who are pointing their fingers about some of the great minds and talents this “ignorant, backwoods, flyover” state has produced, and these two greats have always been at the top of that list. And will continue to be. What amazing lives they lived. May they rest in peace.
I hate to end the year on such a negative note. A new year always brings the opportunity for a fresh start and perspective, and I hope we can finally turn the corner on the problems that have plagued our city, state, nation and world over the last couple of years, literally and figuratively speaking.
It’s easy to get mired down in your own generation’s problems and think, “Has it ever been this bad?” or “Could it get much worse?”
The answer, of course, is yes and yes.
Across history, we’ve seen plague, death, destruction, senseless violence, deep political divisions and wars — and arguably, it has been far worse than what we are dealing with right now.
And though things are never perfect, after these “periods of darkness,” things do seem to get better, at least for some period of time.
And I am hopeful 2022 is not 2020, volume III, but will be the beginning of a period of light that is at least a bit “better” for us all.
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