We came into this year with such hope. A vaccine had been developed, researched, and found to be safe and effective, and after one of the more stressful years in modern history, there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
Despite the optimism that came with mass vaccination events at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Joe Bruno’s intrepid efforts to find a shot for anyone who wanted one, by mid-summer it became clear that not everyone was on the same page.
And I’m just talking about pandemic here. I won’t even mention the fact that we kicked off 2021 by watching nationalist right-wing extremists overrun our Capitol in an act of domestic terror unmatched in our country’s history, because that would take a few pages on its own.
Just in terms of public health alone, we’ve seen the undying desire to “own the libs” turn seemingly sane people into conspiracy theorists.
Now, I have no intention of using this space to shame all those folks who have done their “own research” on the vaccines, meaning they’ve scoured YouTube until they found something that justifies their crackpot ideas. It is what it is. I just get a kick out of hearing folks say the media wants to see COVID continue due to ratings or clicks or whatever they’ve come up with, when it’s those same folks who are adamantly refusing to participate in the only proven solution to the problem.
But I digress. You can scroll through any ol’ social media channel and see these same arguments play out day by day to no avail, and it’s all getting a bit tired.
So now, as we prepare for Omnicron and whatever else we’ve been left open to in the spirit of so-called personal freedom, I want to look at what we came together to accomplish in the face of adversity and divisive rhetoric this year.
While it’s certainly the most stressful time of year for me and my staff, the time leading up to our annual Best in the Nest issue also makes for the most inspiring time of year for me. It’s fitting that the final deadlines always land somewhere around Thanksgiving weekend.
As much as it annoys me that we all pretend a new year means anything other than the simple flip of a calendar, it is a helpful marker of time, and an opportunity to look back and appreciate the people, places and events that gave us hope this year.
If you’re a local news junkie like I am, it’s been a year to think about the future. In the council chambers of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, much of the first half of 2021 was taken up by discussion and debate about the Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan, a document that aims to steer Charlotte in the right direction in terms of future development.
Much ado was made of the fact that it was the city’s first comprehensive future plan since 1975, and Lord knows a lot has changed since then, but I myself am a little skeptical of any future plan that doesn’t address the glaring fact that climate change will have transformed the entire way we live on this planet by 2040, but again, I digress.
I think this issue plays an important part in envisioning Charlotte’s future, as the folks highlighted within these pages are the ones we have found to be doing the real work in their respective fields. Some are already celebrated locally, others all too often go unpraised.
As I state every year upon the release of Best in the Nest, my goal here is not to act as a gatekeeper overseeing some competition for attention and praise, it is to point people toward those folks we believe are doing the best things to make our city a better place — to connect the readers with their work. Whether it be a community organizer, a business owner, a bartender or a musician, we all have our roles in moving Charlotte forward.
So I ask that you view the following issue not as a contest with winners but as a guide to the city’s best, brightest and most talented. There are folks we missed — there always will be — but that’s what 2022 is for.
I don’t know what 2040 is going to look like. Maybe we’ll have floating Amazon warehouses in the sky like Tariq Bokhari believes. Maybe I-277 will have been turned into a river by then. Maybe every damn part of the city will be underwater.
But I do know that if we are to find a way forward, the folks listed within this year’s Best in the Nest, which will hit our website later today, should be where we start. Just not the Hall of Shame, don’t start with them, please.