It’s true, 2020 was a year marked by extremes that often felt both disturbingly dystopian and comedically surreal. Given its context in U.S. history, perhaps it does warrant the title of the “worst American year” as noted by Washington Post columnist George Will

I think it also warrants the title “America’s year of accountability.”

Many of the extreme moments this year point out the hyperbolic mannerisms of the “woke” culture that has swept a nation in turmoil with its own past and identity. 

But at the same time, I wonder if we have focused too much on the extremes of the year and not enough on the everyday steps of progress that have been made in the wake of America’s recent “awakening.”

Calling for the removal of the names and statues of every person in both U.S. and colonial history who ever participated in slavery in any way, used the n-word, acted racist in their own social circles or those who happened to share the same last name as another person who did is, of course, a bit ludicrous. 

Attempting to hold those who are perceived to have “sinned against” 21st-century sensibilities in their own times won’t realistically make the present or the future better in any tangible or experiential way — other than that perhaps people will come to see that their actions, no matter how small, can have long-term consequences. 

On the other hand, if we believe that the morals and ethics we uphold and abide by in our Constitution and in the Declaration of Independence are truly universal truths that are worth fighting for — ideals like all humans are created equal, freedom of speech is a right, every person should have the opportunity to pursue happiness and seek for justice — then the argument that people in the past didn’t fully understand such truths even while writing them is hardly sound.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that every negative thing a person — historical or not — does in their lifetime should be held against them throughout the eons of time. 

But those are the extreme cases. 

In reality, the intention behind most of the requests, petitions, protests and even the riots aimed at reshaping the historical narrative displayed by this nation’s monuments and institutions — which have quite literally been carved in stone — are coming from a place of exasperated pain and hope, and a belief in the ideals our country upholds. 

Is it really so unreasonable to want to remove the mementos of this nation that laud its history of racism, genocide, abuse and other systemic oppression of various groups of people? 

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At the time the protests and riots occurred, many reports made claims that such actions were an attempt to rewrite the history of the nation by imposing today’s moral agenda on a different time and society that knew nothing of today’s standards. I would disagree. 

Such actions, rather, indicate that Americans are finally waking up to the difficult truths of their history, and they’re doing so in a way much like a toddler learning to walk. They’re stumbling along the way. 

America was formed with a great purpose in mind, but we must not forget that it was done so very imperfectly. 

This year, like many before it, has given us the opportunity to stumble and rise again as we work to “disentangle” the good and bad parts of our history. Don’t let the momentum of accountability for our past, present and future stop here.

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