It’s not easy to make New Year’s resolutions at a time when the future seems less predictable than ever. But here are a few ways in which you can’t go wrong, even if your resolutions are a few days late.
* Take a pledge of civility and charity toward political opponents. The big story of the 2021 Christmas season was an Oregon man being patched through to President Joe Biden for a livestreamed Christmas call and using the occasion to taunt him with "Let’s go Brandon," a widely known euphemism for a profanity toward Biden. The man also posted a video recording of the call to YouTube.
Most conservatives thought it was "hilarious," and/or changed the subject to claim that the culprit was about to be hounded out of a job and otherwise ruined. (In fact, while the man did unfortunately get some threats, most of the blowback consisted of him being rightly called a jerk.) Many pointed out that "the left" was profanely rude about Trump for four years. That’s classic "whatabouting" — and if you want to play that game, Trump’s entire public persona is about insulting people.
"They started it!" is a prescription for a race to the bottom. We might start finding our way back when people demand civility and charity toward "the other side" from their own.
* Avoid spreading "fake news." Even people who don’t circulate fringe nonsense — e.g., that COVID-19 vaccines are meant to inject us with mind-control microchips — can easily fall for stories that confirm their assumptions. (Yes, I've also been guilty on Twitter.)
Plenty on the left, including members of Congress, repeated claims that Kyle Rittenhouse, the teen who shot three people during civil unrest related to racial justice protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, drove to Kenosha from Illinois armed with an automatic rifle to hunt protesters. In fact, he worked in Kenosha, where a friend kept his rifle, and while his armed patrolling was arguably reckless, he did not shoot until attacked.
Plenty on the right repeated claims that a Virginia school refused to investigate a sexual assault by a male teen who got into the girls’ bathroom by claiming to be transgender. In fact, the assault was investigated, and the boy was in the girls’ bathroom because he and the victim had agreed to meet there — not because of transgender policies.
"Check before you pass it on" is always a good principle.
* Don’t make everything about politics. Sports. Entertainment. Books. Friendships and family. We can blame social media for exposing us to each other’s politics more than ever before; but social media is only what we make of it. One of the worst ideas out there is that our problems are so dire, we can’t afford to be nonpolitical about anything. That approach itself can become a dire problem.
In 2022, take a break from politics. That can also help with the fake news and the incivility.
Opinions expressed by Cathy Young, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, are her own.