Dear 2022


Your family has been hard to love of late. 

I wrote to your younger sibling, 2020, in her infancy – when she was only a few days old.  I made wishes for her.  And, almost as soon as I had written, I felt ashamed at the presumptive folly of my wish-making.  Yet here I am again.  Full of hope.   

Back in 2020, following a poet’s lead [Philip Larkin: ‘Born Yesterday’), I wished your sister dull.  I wished 2020 the blessing of being ordinary; for her to be about the gradual spreading of ordinary happiness.  I had in mind the steadiness of contentment, rather than the mercurial fireworks of ecstatic highs. 

We all know that 2020 was anything but dull.  And contentment a rare thing. Yet, contentment for all sentient beings must surely be the worthy (if unreachable) endpoint for our biggest hopes.  

My own hopeful thoughts – always infinitesimally tiny in the noisy ocean of possibilities ahead – evaporated as soon as they were voiced.  Hopes are ethereal.  Yet they persist. 

And I can’t help but have high hopes for you, 2022. 

No-one could call a pandemic dull or ordinary.  As well as craving safety, shelter, wellbeing; our species sought certainty, direction, leadership; and we hoped for normality.  2020 gave us little, and her sibling 2021 less.  Lockdowns, limitations and restrictions carried their share of dull.   But these years have been full of extremes.  And they have taken so many on earth to the darkest of places and beyond.  The despair, the suffering, the confusion of 2020 extended into 2021, joined by a stark sense of inequity across and within nations.  Gaps opened further between regions where vaccination programmes surged into life and those where people were left exposed.  The images remain; the suffering continues.

It is really not my place to comment, from the privileged comfort of my protected patch of the world.  Human beings across the globe have felt the awful power of this virus.  In many ways, this reality calls for the absence of words: sombre, shared silence is the only authentic response.  Words are hollow bubbles. 

And yet, like thoughts – like hope – like bubbles, indeed – words float up again out of the silence. 

2020 and 2021 were very, very rough for so many, and in so many ways.  This fact colours everything. 

But, there have been positives.  Shared hardship elicits waves of compassion.  Fellow-feeling flows from the levelling effect of a common threat.  The extraordinary kindness and devotion of so many individuals and organisations, to good causes, to the protection of others.  These are incalculable, potentially paradigm-changing pluses.  We could become more caring, more empathetic, more kind through all this. 

The collective force of human ingenuity has saved millions of lives, enabled continuity, and opened new possibilities. Our thirst for equity has been sharpened: calls for social justice have been voiced more passionately; heard more clearly; actioned more purposefully. Our duties to the natural world have never been more prominent, nor more urgent; lockdowns have caused the small shoots of regeneration; big (though perhaps not big enough) environmental pledges have been made.

Is there a more urgent desire to make the world a better place; to emerge together to a fairer post-pandemic world. Is that to be your thing, 2022?

So, 2022, I wish you kind.  Kinder than your forebears.  And, from time to time, a bit of dull wouldn’t go amiss.

Dear Donald


You prefer a DM, but here’s a letter. Maybe I’ll send it to your Washington, DC address.  And hope it catches you before the removal crew arrives.

Yes, you’re leaving: moving out of the White House.  The American people who put you there in 2016 have now served notice.  Of course, you’re challenging the landlord.  But you must know it’s time to leave, if not leave quietly. 

The people who put you there knew that you were going to be unconventional.  They knew that you were going to blast your way through all the normal codes.  They wanted you to do just that. They wanted you to speak unfiltered; to appeal to the gut; to give voice to the millions who felt voiceless.   To those whom you championed, you could do no wrong. 

They did not elect a statesman; someone who would unite in victory.  They chose a divider.  A slash-and-burner.  Someone who would become more and more convinced of his invincibility, insulated by a boo-hooray bubble of loyal support; enabled by a street-smart entourage and a legal team on steroids. 

You have given the world something truly special: self-authenticating, fact-free correctness.

In the end, when it came to bidding for a second term, too many people were put off by your aggressiveness.  Your stoking of tensions.  Your deliberate expansion of the differences between those whom you rated and those you slammed.  The badmouthing of traditional allies finally tired.  Your rapt admiration for the world’s authoritarian strongmen.  You acted as if the handbook for global statesmanship was the plotline of ‘Despicable Me’.

History will show that your tenure was a wild, fantastic aberration, won’t it?  Right from the jaw-dropping moment four years ago when the impossible happened, it’s been a four-year episode of The Simpsons.  Fiction made fact; fake news made real. Right?

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But I am wrong. 

As wrong now as I was then – in 2016 – when I went to bed knowing that it would be Hillary. 

You were never impossible.  You were inevitable. 

I lacked the insight to see your power.  Insulated by my middle-class, old-world attitudes; cosy in my comfortable liberalism; doped by my total lack of understanding of the United States; blind to the frustrations that now erupt from the volcanic inequality of our times.

The wise saw you coming a mile off.  They knew your power before it was real.  The Real Donald Trump.  Destined to be number 45.  You captured millions of votes.  You were properly elected through a properly democratic process.  Free of any skulduggery or intervention from other powers – so far as I know, anyway.  It was a fair win in 2016 – narrow, but fair. 

People saw something in you.  You timed a wave; your words chimed with people who felt marginalised; untouched and under-represented  by politics; unheard; airbrushed out.  You were real to them.  You promised some kind of inversion, turning the old certainties on their heads.     

I am absolutely no expert.  And you won’t read this, it goes without saying.  It seems to me that the version of politics that you invented was all about you.  Like everything else: the foreign policy. The pistol-fired tweets. The weakness for guns. The furious golf. The manic orange glow of self-belief. The anti-COVID bleach you urged into your people’s veins.

It was all you.  Your peculiar populist genius.  The Donald. 

Now, as 2020 enters its final weeks, you are ending as you arrived.  Calling foul with a puckered pout and blow-torching any still-standing norm of decency that has miraculously evaded your fire so far.

It’s been box office, for sure.  Fascinating to see the dignity of office debased.  Iconoclasm is compelling viewing, it seems.  The world has got used to the bombastic, capitalised salvos; the apparent lack of regard for logic, evidence, fact. These are displaced by the fire of emotion, conviction and sheer bloody will. 

Never mind the politics. What kind of example have you set? Really? What have you done for leadership, dignity, democracy?

I can only hope that your actions have equal and opposite reactions in the years ahead. A change of tone to a gentler, kinder, more factful leadership. It will take a long time to heal the divides and rebuild the trust. I hope the next guy in finds a way to reframe the way democracy talks to itself. It’s time to seek proper greatness. 


A Letter From Shrewsbury. Serious Fun. My views only.

Back to your tower.
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