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Editorial: Our wishes for a new year that desperately needs them

The sun shines through palm trees in San Pedro.
A sunrise in San Pedro.
(Los Angeles Times)

As our battered, wheezing and somewhat disoriented nation trudged gamely to the end of 2020, like one of those poor marathoners who finish so far off the pace that even the hot dog vendors have packed it in, there is some satisfaction to be had in recognizing that most of us did, indeed, make it. But exiting the year did not, of course, end the problems that have left us in such a sorry state.

It is a sad reality that, even with vaccines, in the coming year more of us will add to the COVID-19 death count that is approaching 350,000 in the United States — nearly the population of Bakersfield — and has surpassed 1.8 million lives globally — roughly the state of Nebraska. The economy will continue to struggle. Lies and conspiracy theories will remain a cancer in our body politic. Social inequality, the chasm between rich and poor, the inexorable rise in the costs of housing, a college education and healthcare — none of that went away at midnight.

But today starts a new year, which offers not only a moment for reflection on what we have endured but also a chance to embrace hope for the year ahead. Here are some of our wishes for the new year, in no particular order.

A host of sentencing ‘enhancements’ has created the opposite of what was once intended: rational and racially neutral sentencing.

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A safe return to school for students, teachers and staff involved in the public education of our students, and for the success of massive efforts to bring kids up to speed so that this does not become a lost year of schooling.

A faster and wider rollout of the COVID-19 vaccinations.

An end to false, racist and ridiculous accusations by white people, often women, against black people, often men and boys.

Masks worn liberally and without rancor until we reach herd immunity.

A night out at the movies.

More movies that aren’t remakes, reboots or “re-imaginings.”

Live concerts that don’t involve sitting in your car or in front of a computer screen.

A leisurely meal with friends inside a safely reopened favorite restaurant.

A short and mild fire season. And smarter wildfire policies that focus on “hardening” houses and communities adjacent to open lands against fire, rather than large-scale clearing of forests and brush.

A return to civility toward those with whom we disagree, and more efforts to listen to one another instead of sorting ourselves into insular groups of the like-minded. We asked for this last year but — unsurprisingly given a presidential election, a pandemic and the current administration — it didn’t happen. Perhaps a new presidency will model the first steps toward thoughtful disagreement.

A return to our belief in and reliance on science to guide us toward appropriate policy decisions.

We’ve seen how beautiful our clean-air future can be. Regulators need to do more to make it a reality.

A new emphasis on healthy living, including but not limited to proper nutrition and exercise, to combat obesity, which increases risks for a variety of potentially fatal ailments such as heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and, as we have learned, increased vulnerability to the worst complications of COVID-19.

Further measures to make voting easier and more convenient, and not just during a public health emergency.

A moratorium on the use of the phrases “cancel culture,” “deep state” and “thought leader.” And an end to cancel culture itself.

An end to Friday night document dumps from courts and government agencies attempting to hide details from the public.

A return to a time when overcrowded airports, long lines and baggage fees were the only things travelers had to worry about.

An end to the death penalty, a barbaric practice that much of the nation — indeed, most of the world — has evolved beyond, but that certain areas of the country, the Trump administration and, most frustratingly, the Supreme Court, still cling to.

An acceleration of meaningful actions, both domestically and globally, to combat climate change. Even before the Trump administration’s moratorium on common sense, the task was formidable.

That the incoming Biden administration proves to be creative and nimble enough to craft humane and wide-ranging immigration policies that reduce the “push” factors of poverty and violence in Central America, properly secure and monitor the U.S.-Mexico border, and give a fair hearing to asylum seekers who have an argument to make. And — this should go without saying — not separate families and not incarcerate migrants, including children, for having the audacity to ask for our help and protection.

That the new administration and Congress find a way to break the years-long deadlock over comprehensive immigration reform.

That we have learned a lesson from the current one-two whammy of the pandemic and the economic collapse to give workers more flexibility in where and how they do their jobs, and sufficient sick time to ensure that the ill can stay home without enduring financial hardships rather than risking the health of colleagues or customers.

That the Dodgers and Lakers win the professional baseball and basketball championships, respectively. Again.

A normal year of rain and snow.

Progress in moving homeless people into shelter and housing.

Significant inroads into expanding the availability of affordable housing without adding to regional sprawl that exacerbates pollution and global warming.

Continued crumbling of walls and glass ceilings in the arts, business, politics and every arena in which they have been stubborn barriers to an equitable and embracing society.

A more compassionate approach to social media moments in which young people post ignorant or offensive comments. We grow better as a society through teaching and nurturing than ostracism and shaming.

The state’s pursuit of small out-of-state sellers was bad enough when times were good. It’s even harder to stomach now.

A greater recognition that our planet’s species are interdependent and that a wide range of human activities robs other living beings of the space and resources they need to survive.

Victory for Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in the runoff elections in Georgia on Tuesday, which would give the Democrats a razor-thin majority in the new Senate and sideline Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whose ignominious performance over the last few years has left the nation worse off.

An orderly, civil and uneventful joint session of Congress on Wednesday to certify the electoral college results and put an end to the preposterous attacks on the legitimacy and integrity of our elections.

A smooth inauguration for President-elect Joe Biden, one that will demonstrate the enduring values of American democracy and set the tone and stage for what will undoubtedly be a challenging four years.

Less of Donald Trump, who has occupied far too much of our mental space and public discourse to the detriment of the serious, complex challenges that confront America and an interdependent world.

That we are able to begin to repair the damage of the last four years to our democratic values and institutions.

That elected officials recognize that exploiting divisions is inimical to democratic ideals, and choose to lead us toward compromise and unity — and effective legislation.

A pause (or even a reversal) in the escalating tensions between the United States and China — two superpowers that have far more to gain from cooperation than conflict — to avert a new Cold War.

A successful Summer Olympics in Tokyo — scheduled for July 23 to Aug. 8, having been moved from 2020 — that displays the power of sports to inspire, unify and heal people across the world.

That virtual ceremonies for the Emmys, Grammys, Golden Globes and Oscars — all scheduled for the first four months of the year — demonstrate the ingenuity, craft and resilience of America’s television, music and movie industries.

That we make strides toward a more humane criminal justice system as we attack the underlying causes of crime.

That as a society we do a better job of living up to our promise as a free democracy.

And, finally, that the new year brings as much joy and peace to as many people as possible.


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