Media Benjamin My 10 Good Things
This year, 2021, began with a huge sense of relief: we got Trump out of office! I hoped we’d emerge from the ravages of COVID, pass a hefty Build Back Better (BBB) bill, and make significant cuts to the Pentagon budget. But alas, 2021 saw a white nationalist insurrection, two new COVID mutations, a sliced-and-diced BBB bill that didn’t pass. As with previous years, the Pentagon budget actually INCREASED!
It was, indeed, a disastrous year, but, as I do each year, I found some reasons to cheer:
1. Despite the chaotic, shameful exit, 2021 was the year that the U.S. got out of Afghanistan, winding down a deadly 20-year intervention, exposing the lies behind the War On Terror that cost U.S. taxpayers $21 Trillion. This said, the U.S. is now targeting the Afghan people by freezing the billions of dollars of Afghan money held in overseas banks. CODEPINK is part of the effort to #UnfreezeAfghanistan. We hope to succeed in our efforts as 2022 gets underway.
2. Latin America is undergoing a massive shift toward progressive governments and our team spent 2021 doing election observing and delivering syringes and food. Here were some of the best developments in Latin America this year: Gabriel Boric, a young Chilean progressive who campaigned for broad reforms, including universal healthcare and a higher minimum wage, won a landslide victory in December. His victory follows the victories of Xiomara Castro in Honduras in November, Pedro Castillo in Peru in June, and Luis Arce in Bolivia in October 2020. All of this bodes well for policies that benefit the people of Latin America. You can support our work in Latin America by making an end-of-year tax-deductible donation.
3. The struggle for racial justice and accountability saw some major wins in 2021. Former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all 3 charges related to the murder of George Floyd and has pled guilty in the federal civil rights version of the case. The three Georgia men who killed Ahmaud Arbery for the crime of going out for a jog were also convicted.
4. The U.S. survived its first major coup plot on January 6 and key right-wing groups are on the wane. We may still see a resurgence (including another Trump attempt to take the White House), but so far the insurrection seems to have peaked and is being rolled back.
5. COVID has returned with a vengeance, but we have been winning battles against other deadly diseases. Malaria, which kills half a million people a year, mostly in Africa, might be vanquished thanks to a groundbreaking vaccine, the first-ever for a parasitic disease. On the HIV front, a new vaccine has shown a 97% response rate in Phase I clinical trials.
6. In the U.S., workers are actually gaining power amidst the ravages of COVID. Wages are going up and unions are starting to re-emerge. With millions of workers quitting their jobs from burnout or re-evaluation of life goals (dubbed the “Great Resignation”), the resulting labor shortage has given workers more space to push for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.
7. The U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted in 2017, went into effect this year after fulfilling the requirement that it be ratified by at least 50 countries. The U.S. and the world’s other nuclear powers have not signed the treaty and it has no enforcement mechanism but, for the first time in history, nuclear weapons are illegal under international law. With 86 signatories so far, the treaty helps to delegitimize nuclear weapons and reinforce global norms against their use. At a time when the outcome of the nuclear talks with Iran are uncertain, and when conflicts with Russia and China regarding Ukraine and Taiwan are intensifying, such a reminder is critical.
8. While not nearly enough, there were some key environmental gains, with Biden starting his term by re-entering the Paris Climate Accords. The COP26 meeting put a spotlight on the urgent need for revved-up environmental action and environmental activists worldwide, including CODEPINKers, who traveled to Glasgow to protest. The Keystone XL and PennEast pipelines were officially canceled in the U.S. and another major polluter, China, is building the largest energy installation in history, a whopping 100 gigawatts of wind and solar power (the entire capacity, as of 2021, of U.S. solar energy), and plans to plant a Belgium-sized area of forest every year going forward. You can support our campaign to end the cold war in China by making an end-of-year donation now.
9. Yes, there have actually been some advances for women’s choice this year. When we look beyond the outrageous anti-abortion law in Texas that empowers private citizens to sue abortion providers, we see that many countries in the rest of the world are moving in the opposite direction. In 2021, abortion was legalized in South Korea, Thailand, and Argentina, while safe access increased in New Zealand, Ecuador, and Uruguay. A major victory in a very Catholic country came in September, when Mexico’s Supreme Court decriminalized it. Isn’t it ironic that, prior to Roe v. Wade, thousands of women from U.S. states along the Mexican border would cross into Mexico to get (illegal) abortions? Now, they might again be going, and this time for legal abortions.
10. Another reason to celebrate: 2021 is over. And 2022 may actually be the year we conquer COVID and move forward on a full agenda of pressing issues, including pushing Congress to pass a version of the Build Back Better bill; pressing for passage of the voting rights legislation that will stop the outrageous statewide voter suppression; mobilizing against the far right—and a return of Trump or Trump-lite; stopping the Cold War with China; preventing a military conflict with Russia in Ukraine; and cutting the outrageous Pentagon budget to invest in the health of our people and planet.
Read my Yes, There Were 10 Good Things About 2021 article in full, and please support CODEPINK by making a tax-deductable end-of-year donation.
With hope and determination,
Medea and the entire CODEPINK team: Alice, Ann, Ariel, Carley, Danaka, Emily, Farida, Jodie, Justina, Kelly, Lauren, Leonardo, Madison, Marcy, Marissa, Mark, Michelle, Nancy, Olivia, Paki, Teri, Shea, and Suzie