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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

A new year is here, along with a chance to see things with a fresh tank of gas

If you’re reading this, congratulations: You survived 2021. I don’t know about you, but I feel like an old car that went on a cross-country trip. I’m leaking oil, riding on four bald tires, and something is making weird noises under the hood. We are all jalopies now.


A year that started out with insurrectionists wandering around in the Capitol trying to overturn the presidential election ended with a new variant of COVID-19 crowding hospitals once again. And in the meantime, a significant percentage of Americans believe one or both of those things didn’t happen or don’t matter.

It. Is. Exhausting.

Are things going to improve in 2022? They should, right? But it sort of feels like that Beatles song “Getting Better,” when Paul McCartney sings, “I’ve got to admit it’s getting better,” and John Lennon pops up to sing, “It can’t get no worse.”

I think the thing that’s hard to wrap our minds around is that it’s getting better and worse at the same time.

We do have a new variant of COVID. But we also have vaccines and boosters that dampen its impact. And we have a lot more knowledge than we did two years ago about what protections work.

We do have Republicans all over the country rewriting election laws to make overturning a legitimate election easier next time around. That’s a terrifying prospect. But it’s also worth remembering that the system held last time, and the legitimate president is in office, and the ex-president is now catching heat from his own fans because he dared to say that vaccines work.

I know sometimes it feels hopelessly naïve to have faith in the system, to believe in our fellow humans, to think that we’re crawling toward the light rather than plunging toward the bottom of a well.

I’m just not sure how else to live.

Of course, we have to keep fighting in 2022 — fighting for democracy, fighting against injustice, fighting those who are willing to destroy the whole idea of our country just so they can stay on top.

But fighting all day every day is not only bad for us, it’s not effective.

We have to make room for beauty and kindness. We have to find something that will plug the leaks and patch the tires and get our old jalopies rolling again.

The brilliant comedian Gary Gulman says, “The thing they don’t tell you about life is this — life: It’s Every. Single. Day.”

It feels like the key to life is whether you hear that as a threat or a blessing. For 2022, I’m choosing blessing. Let’s gas up and go.

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Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary, On My Mind, which airs every Monday.