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It’s over. It’s really over.
We’re on to 2021; 2020 is done.
A year ago, I penned a piece in this august paper that looked backwards at the previous “20s” of the prior three centuries. The “South Sea Bubble” of 1720 told a story of irrational stock speculation bursting, with attendant economic ruin.
The year 1820 brought Maine’s establishment as a free state, countering the spread of slavery with Missouri; 1920 saw the Nineteenth Amendment, guaranteeing women nationwide the right to vote.
Those centennial milestones were important because they bring perspective. When you’re caught in a whirl of chaos, step back. Take the long view. Challenges and problems similar to those we face today — while undoubtedly serious — have been overcome by our forebears. There is serenity in knowing that “this too shall pass.”
Meanwhile, in February, the world seemed to go nutty. Democrats’ Iowa caucus was a debacle. The Trump impeachment saga raged, while Speaker Nancy Pelosi made it a point to rip up her copy of the State of the Union.
I blamed the New England Patriots. After all, they missed the Super Bowl for the first time in the Trump presidency. Clearly that angered some ancient eldritch horror.
Little did we know.
No doubt 2020 will be a watershed year in the history books. COVID-19 will be remembered much like the 1918 Flu. The presidential election will be remembered with the 1824 and 1876 elections as one of the most harshly contested. The trillions of dollars of new public debt will be with us for many years yet to come.
Yet there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about what comes next.
Within nine months of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, a vaccine was developed, manufactured, and deployed. Even more, it represents the culmination of decades of research attempting to find better ways to prevent disease.
The way mRNA vaccines work makes them about as inherently safe as anything can be. Some people are allergic to the sun; those rare cases shouldn’t stop others from getting a real good tan. With proper precautions.
The same holds true with the COVID vaccine. While there have been a small handful of problems for some individuals, they are few and far between.
Researchers are already at work attempting to find mRNA avenues to defeat other diseases.
Looking back at our past, in 2014, then-Attorney General Janet Mills opposed then-Governor Paul LePage’s quarantine order against nurse Kaci Hickox. Hickox had returned to Maine from western Africa, where she had worked with Ebola patients.
Looking to the future, advanced vaccines may help us defeat Ebola altogether. And, given other good 2020 news, we may be able to help do it right here in Maine.
Back in January, the Roux Institute was announced. A bastion of Northeastern University in Portland, it is an educational initiative seeking to leverage much of Maine’s intellectual heft, including areas like life science.
Maine’s housing market has been on fire with people looking to come to our state. While this creates some very real challenges with affordability for those of us who were already here, it can help combat our status as the oldest state in the nation.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that anything can happen. We can only hope that 2021 brings better times, with opportunity in a changing world. Things will certainly be different, but that doesn’t stop them from being better.
Whether we look back 300, 200 or 100 years, the arc of history has tended towards progress. Hopefully, 2021 is no different. Happy New Year.
Now, about those Patriots…
Michael Cianchette is a Navy reservist who served in Afghanistan. He is in-house counsel to a number of businesses in southern Maine and was a chief counsel to former Gov. Paul LePage.