Pinch of Salt Graphic (English)

Take down the old calendar — get that new one up there early Friday morning.

It's a new year, so everything starts all over, right? If only.

I've written right at 40 New Year's Day columns over the years. A fair number of them talked about Tabula Rasa — the blank slate. I'd talk about how it always feels like we can put all the bad stuff behind us and start over.

I have to call BS on myself.

No, I haven't given up the concept of second chances, or of starting over, or even putting bad things behind us. I even think it's important to look forward with optimism, not fear.

But as much as I want it to be, a new page on the calendar does not mean what was going on Dec. 31 has magically gone away on Jan. 1. And this transition from 2020 to 2021 is pounding that reality home.

I am of course talking about the COVID-19 surge that seems determined to bring us to our collective knees. More positive cases, more people in hospital beds, more people dying. Far too many people on their economic last legs, fighting to open businesses despite the clear and present danger of doing so.

It's fair to ask, who am I to talk? Especially while I continue to earn a paycheck safely ensconced in a back room of my own home.

I know that if you get desperate enough, you're willing to take chances. The more desperate, the bigger the chance to take.

And if it were just you being put into danger, I'd have to reason — or right — to complain. But when you put me — and more importantly, those relying on me —in danger, I think I have the obligation to intervene.

I think that's likely what's going through the minds of the officials making these drastic decisions for society. Livelihoods are trumped by lives.

Which brings me back to the whole attitude going into a new year thing. Let's allow the ghost of new year's past to give us some perspective.

How did you feel going from 2001 to 2002? We were all aching to put 9-11 behind us, weren't we? Except we're still feeling the ramifications today.

How about 2008 to 2009? No one wanted to see an economic reversal more than me. But I'll tell you now that my industry is still struggling to recover things we lost in 2008 — and likely will never see again.

Those are just two examples from our 21st Century. Follow our ghost further back, and the examples just multiply.

But never fear, I can find something positive here.

If we aren't aware of the bad things, how are we supposed to fight against them? We've seen in the last year what happens when you say "it's not all that bad" — it gets worse. I keep going back to my life situations where someone said, "the first step in solving a problem is admitting that there is a problem."

So remembering the issues the old year leaves us is a positive, right?

And there is at least one more positive reason to be optimistic about 2021. The vaccines are here, and more are coming. It is realistic to believe that a sufficient number of people will be vaccinated by late spring that people can get back to sort-of normal again.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the first page of the 2021 calendar is more like the next page in a great mystery novel than it is like a tabula rasa. If we don't remember and acknowledge what happened in the previous pages, we have no hope of solving the mystery.

And that's really what we're here for, isn't it?

Happy New Year.

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Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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