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Even before the horrible year that was 2020, New Year’s Eve celebrations have long been filled with the near-certain expectation that things will definitely get better. Generally speaking, it’s a fine sentiment. Optimism is good; hope is good; and striving to improve the future from where we are today led us from the cave to the fields, across vast oceans, and into the limitless of outer space.

But nothing magical happens when the calendar year flips over. There’s no unexplained scientific phenomenon that shifts the incalculable number of atoms in our known universe into undaunted forces for good simply because we’ve reached the conclusion of this year’s cycle through the Gregorian calendar. Instead, history tells us things can always get worse.

After the stock market crashed in 1929, the Great Depression didn’t reach its darkest days until 1933. The 1938 Nazi annexation of Austria was followed by the invasion of Poland in 1939, then the steamrolling of France and near-defeat of Britain in 1940.

Yet while there’s no iron-clad guarantee that 2021 will be great, every one of us can contribute to the effort to realize a redemptive year filled with healing and joy.

No government action will make 2021 better than what we just went through in 2020. As with most positive change, any meaningful, lasting shifts in the trajectory of our towns and our nation will almost always stem from individuals choosing to do good.

World events of a grand nature will remain outside our ability to master. Pandemics, wildfires, and — unless you live in one of a handful of swing states — presidential elections involving more than 158 million votes are things almost entirely beyond our control. Yet, even in the worst of times, we can control how we interact with our fellow Americans, and a shift in the right direction in this regard is one of the simplest — albeit difficult — steps we can take.

It’s within the grasp of each of us, as individuals, to decide if what we both consume and contribute is life-affirming or malevolent, restorative or toxic. In our workplaces, online using social media, with our families, and interacting with total strangers, we are responsible for how we live amongst one another.

In our current rancorous political environment, we’ll have a chance at a better year if we realize most genuine conversations or debates aren’t best served in a tit-for-tat on Facebook or Twitter but in person over coffee, lunch, or a drink after work.

This doesn’t mean surrendering our principles or allowing ourselves to be walked over. It does, however, require we prudently recognize whose minds are open to change, and those who refuse to be unconvinced of what they believe; which arguments may bear fruitful discussion, and those that will only lead to more frustration and anger this country can do without.

Regardless of one’s faith, there is wisdom in the instructions given in the Bible’s 2 Timothy:

Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. (2 Timothy 2:23)

As the author of the epistle to Timothy later notes, being honest doesn’t mean being needlessly hurtful or tactless, and he reminds us to “Gently instruct those who oppose the truth.” There’s an Aristotelian golden mean between failing to state a necessary truth and being an overly blunt jerk about it.

Similar valuable cautions are given in Titus 3:2 not to slander, to “avoid quarreling,” and to “show true humility to everyone.” Later in the chapter, we’re also reminded

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it may be best to walk away from those who continue to engage in foolish controversies:

If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them. (Titus 3:10)

Admittedly, it’s hard to do, especially in a climate that often mistakenly views the last person who responded in a Facebook fight as “the winner” or politeness as a sign of “weakness.” Even so, it’s one of the few ways to lower the temperature to the point where authentic, amiable exchanges and healthy debates are possible. We’ll be a better nation in 2021 if Americans take time to ask and reflect, “Will this truly make things better?” before acting.

Furthermore, giving 2021 a fighting chance will involve constantly “checking one’s priors” at the door. Or, as Jordan Peterson has phrased it, we’d do well to “Assume that the person you are listening to might know something that you don’t.”

As more Americans limit their media consumption to voices and opinions they already agree with, ideological and philosophical blindspots pose an increasingly higher risk. Yet rarely are things as simple as either the “left” or “right” (antiquated terms to begin with) being absolutely correct or absolutely wrong.

Taking in the views of only a small territory of the political spectrum is one of the contributing factors that led us to a place, never more evident than in 2020, where one half of the country can’t even stand being in line next to the other half — six feet apart, no less. We don’t have to agree, but we have to be able to at least relate to where those we disagree with are coming from. This begins with the humility to acknowledge we may be wrong about something, or, at least, not as correct as we think we are.

“Genuine conversation is exploration, articulation, and strategizing,” Peterson writes, “When you’re involved in a genuine conversation, you’re listening.” This may also require mingling outside a safe, “bubbled,” friend group, especially if that group is comprised of similarly like-minded folks.

It means not assuming to know the totality of someone’s beliefs and values based on their stance on a single issue. It means being OK with someone thinking, even acting, in a way we personally disagree with (as long as it doesn’t directly infringe on anyone’s rights to life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness). A tolerance of true intellectual diversity will be a key factor in helping 2021 rebound after the past year.

In what could be the most important New Year’s resolution we make, by exercising humility, patience, and grace, we can each take responsibility in helping make 2021 the year we all need it to be, one individual choice at a time.



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Convicted fundraiser who tried to work his way into Biden’s inner circle sentenced to prison

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Amajor Democratic bundler, who raised large sums for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and consorted with Joe Biden, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for what prosecutors said was a “mercenary” political influence scheme.

Imaad Zuberi, a Californian businessman was sentenced Thursday for schemes to funnel foreign money into U.S. political campaigns, then take millions of dollars for himself.

The Los Angeles Times reported that U.S. Assistant Attorney Daniel J. O’Brien said Zuberi was “purely a mercenary, funneling money to whomever he believed would do his bidding.”

Among the many unsealed court records, Zuberi was seen photographed with Joe Biden and Barack Obama when they were Vice President and President. He was also pictured with former President Bill Clinton and former presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. He took pictures with former Republican Rep. Paul Ryan when he was speaker of the House as well as the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Also included in the Times report was a hacked email chain released on WikiLeaks. Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook messaged colleagues saying, “I’m OK taking the money and dealing with any attacks.” Jennifer Palmieri responded saying, “Take the money!”

He also attended Hillary Clinton’s election night party in New York City in 2016 as well as serving as a co-chair of The Trump Presidential Inauguration Committee.

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Zuberi made more than $950,000 in unlawful donations to the political committees of Obama, Clinton, McCain and others. Zuberi’s activities extended as far as a recent attempt to work his way into the Biden circle, according to Politico.  

In addition to the money he made, Zuberi also raised $270,000 for Hillary Clinton and $1.3 million for President Obama.

Zuberi, 50, pleaded guilty to a “three-count information charging with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)” for making false statements on a FARA filing as well as tax evasion and illegal contributions to political campaigns. He also pleaded guilty in a separate case earlier in June 2020 to a count of obstruction of justice.

“Zuberi turned acting as an unregistered foreign agent into a business enterprise,” Assistant Attorney General for National Secretary John C. Demers said in a Department of Justice news release.

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Cruz responds to pictures of him on Mexico flight, with Texas struggling from deadly winter storm

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Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz confirmed Thursday that he flew earlier this week to Mexico with family members, following the emergence of pictures appearing to show him in an airplane cabin and at a check-in counter, as fellow residents to recover from a deadly winter storm.

Cruz said in a statement that he accompanied his daughters on a flight Wednesday night to Mexico because they had the week off with school canceled.

“Wanting to be a good dad,” said Cruz, who also stated he is returning to Texas on Thursday afternoon.

The storms has been connected to at least seven deaths in Texas and knocked out power to as many as 2.5 million residents. The number of residents without electricity as of Thursday morning was down to less than 1 million, officials said.  

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“My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas,” Cruz also said. “We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm.”

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South Carolina House passes bill that would prohibit most abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected

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The South Carolina House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 79-35 to pass legislation that would prohibit most abortions. 

The bill must pass through a procedural vote in the House on Thursday prior to heading to GOP Gov. Henry McMaster who has indicated that he will sign it, according to the Associated Press. Two Republicans voted against the legislation while two Democrats voted for it. The state Senate passed the measure last month. 

The bill requires doctors to carry out an ultrasound to check for a fetal heartbeat and if a heartbeat is identified an abortion can only be performed in certain circumstances.

The legislation would not penalize a woman for obtaining an unlawful abortion, though the individual responsible for performing the abortion could face consequences.

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The outlet reported that other states have approved similar or even more stringent abortion prohibitions which could be implemented if the Supreme Court throws out the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. All of the other states’ abortion bans are currently entangled by court challenges and if the South Carolina bill is approved it will likely face litigation that prevents it from going into effect, according to the AP.

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