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1920 sat on a wall

When the New Year is about to arrive, troubles of the previous 12 months quickly melt away, and an optimistic confidence soars in the minds of the hopeful.

It’s a perennial dream that rarely works out the way it should, and the accumulated gloom of each December washes away in a renewed and assured promise of good times ahead. Everything will be better now. Everything will be fine.

One hundred years ago, Mail Tribune Editor Robert Ruhl said goodbye to 1920 in a long editorial.

“The year 1920 came in like a million dollars and went out like 30 cents,” he said. “It will occupy a place in financial, economic and social history second only to Humpty Dumpty. Like its mythical predecessor, it climbed a high wall and then had a big fall. As the curtain goes down, it lays there, a foolish and disillusioned old man, rubbing its sore head.”

What could have so troubled Ruhl about those previous 12 months?

“1920 climbed a high wall of excessive prices, excessive profits and excessive jazz,” he said. “The wall was too high. And 1920, instead of appreciating that fact, went completely crazy. It was Humpty Dumpty all over again. The higher he got the harder he fell.”

The end of each year reminds us of what we’ve done and what we’ve seen — the good, the bad and the indifferent. 2020 was certainly all of that.

It’s easy to list just a few individual words that conjure up detailed scenarios in our mind of what we’ve been through; although not everyone’s scenario will be the same.

Try these: Mask, election, pandemic, virus, fire, evacuate, police, loser, demonstration, winner, Twitter, dead, vaccine, impeach, Facebook, enemy, panic, truth, television, press, quarantine, sports, riot, school, work, teacher, court, nurse, hemp, love, hate, black, white, insecure, rent, fun, Zoom the list may never end.

We can all agree that 2020 has been one of the worst years we’ve ever had to endure and that 2021 will have to deal with much that is leftover; however, we will still hold to our optimistic confidence and hope.

As Emily Dickinson wrote:

“Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops — at all.”

Even Robert Ruhl’s harsh judgment of 1920 was tempered with hope. That “old man” 1920 didn’t stand a chance.

“Over the hill,” Ruhl said, “in the glow of a rainbow sunrise, comes the lusty offspring, 1921. There is a confident expectation, perhaps common to all new years, that the son will be a better man than the father. Acquired characteristics are not inherited. And the characteristics of 1920 were all acquired.

“The new year will be a sober, reconstructive, and hard-working year — because it must be.”

We can hope that a century later, 2021 will do the same.

Good riddance to 2020! Let’s hope that 2021 will be so much better — a blessing we all can see — because it must be.

Here’s a wish to all of you for a happy and prosperous new year. A new year may always seem to be happy and prosperous, but it’s up to us to make it so.

Writer Bill Miller is the author of five books, including “History Snoopin’,” a collection of his previous history columns and stories. Reach him at newsmiller@live.com.