Never have a people voiced so much disdain for a single year as they have for 2020. Headlines ask whether 2020 is the worst year in history. Social media sites echo endless dire testimonials. T-shirts and memes ask, “Is 2020 Over Yet?” Avenue Beat, a trio of sweet-voiced teenagers accompanied by a guitar, croon, “Can we just get to 2021?”

During 2020, many people experienced devastating personal losses of loved ones, jobs, prospects and opportunities due to covid-19. The world slid deeper toward devastating climate change. A raw outbreak of racial violence came home to roost. And the presidential election ended with a full-fledged assault on democracy.

How can we reconcile the grief and pain and look forward to a better 2021?

A look back at two other New Year’s after troubled times, in 1862 and 1941, should give us inspiration. Both years resulted in tremendous death and destruction. On the last day of 1862, 10,000 men died in a Civil War battle in Tennessee. While Europe and some parts of Asia were at war in 1941, Americans were largely spared the worst effects of the widening global conflict until Dec. 7 of that year, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, leaving 2,403 Americans dead. READ MORE