Randy Stapilus

Randy Stapilus

Randy Stapilus

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When a year ago the realization came that the year 2020 was done, over, celebration swept all over: We were, we said, finally past that rotten patch.

We were making an assumption that things would be a lot better in 2021.

They are, some of them, to a point. But our biggest problem remains unchanged. Here’s a piece of what I wrote a year ago:

“Former legislator Luke Malek (who said he plans to run for lieutenant governor in 2022) said he wants to ‘work together to solve problems rather than divide people.’ Such a quote only a few years ago would have seemed so anodyne as not even meriting mention; wouldn’t everyone think that? But in 2020, that Malek quote, coming in a time when anger, suspicion and division have become overt political strategy in some places, almost seems like a daring reach.

“As we arrive at 2021, we have had a year in which division — physical division, social distancing — has become a common fact of life, and something nearly all of us want to change and at least greatly reduce in the year ahead. As we do that, as we see each other face to face a little more once again, might that mean we reconsider some of our divisions? Might we be a little more willing to listen, a little less determined to find dark motives, conspiracies and even evil in people who are simply different from us?”

A year later, too many of us still are not. (Malek, by the way, has ended his race.) Socially, many of us are stuck on an anger- and ignorance-driven hamster wheel, mindlessly building up energy to be used for nothing good.

The dominant social story of our lives has been COVID-19, as prominent on front pages and in newscasts as it was the last time we hit this point in our solar orbit.

A year ago, we were taking deep breaths after a bitter campaign season. The new year brought riot and insurrection at the national Capitol, with ongoing defenses (as well as prosecution) of that and of the debunked idea that the presidential election was somehow stolen.

In Idaho, the case for a better 2022 runs thin. Idaho’s key quote this year was “When do we get to use the guns?” — meaning specifically, against fellow citizens. And that was just a leading indicator. 2021 was the year factions of legislators decided, well, that’s a long story and a sad one. It was the year I wrote this: “How do you progress in Idaho politics today? Trash everyone and everything around you, claim you’re being conspired against at every turn, act with supreme arrogance and contempt for the law and even common courtesy, and cash the checks and welcome the supporters.”

After 2020 and 2021, is there reason to hope we will become a more responsible citizenry and our elected officials as a whole will become more concerned with our well being than with the outrage of the day?

Not much. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

A few months ago, I ran across a half-century old flyer promoting a “Code of Fair Campaign Practices.” The page asked candidates to pledge they would talk about issues and candidate records “with sincerity and frankness,” to “condemn the use of personal vilification, character defamation” and tactics to spread them, appeals “to prejudice based on race, sex, creed or national origin” and false information; and repudiate support from anyone who does those things.

Not that campaigns and candidates back in those days were beacons of innocence. But candidates and backers who did act this way often paid a price, sometimes the price of defeat. The price was imposed by us, the voters and citizens who expected a decent standard of their representatives.

That could happen again, if we crank down our anger and cynicism.

It’s not out of our control. It’s up to us. That’s the message for 2022.

Randy Stapilus is a former Idaho newspaper reporter and editor and blogs at www.ridenbaugh.com. He can be reached at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com. His book “What Do You Mean by That?” can be found at ridenbaugh.com/whatdoyoumeanbythat and on Amazon.com.

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