Love comes first

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Love comes first

The author is head of the Today & People Teamat the JoongAng Ilbo.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper didn’t say much when I met him at a party during his visit to Korea in 2018. He seemed like a polite but shy man. I could not see the journalist side of him who cornered a presidential candidate with sharp questions and saved a bleeding child in earthquake-struck Haiti. People who expected adventure stories were disappointed.

But my curiosity was solved when I saw him hosting the New Year’s Eve show in Times Square in New York on Dec. 31. He said that when he was 10, his father had a heart attack on New Year’s Eve and he panicked after seeing people partying and celebrating. As a result, he had a kind of party trauma. Everyone has their own stories. If I judge people based on my standards alone, I can easily end up misunderstanding them.

Was 2020 so hard because of Covid-19 alone? The deadly virus killed more than 1.8 million people around the world as of Jan. 5, including 1,007 in Korea. The pandemic taught me how valuable a life is. Nevertheless, we wasted last year hating each other fiercely. The administration that advocated to “put people first” only cared for certain people first, and the nation was divided between those who raved over the government and those who didn’t. Isn’t it unfair to waste my life dividing my side from your side when it’s too short to dislike one another?

I hope 2021 will be different. I wish it would be a year to stop the vicious cycle of hatred and become the time to make efforts to understand each other. British writer Ian Maclaren said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” a quote widely misattributed to Plato.

Someday, we may completely forget about the time we could not go out without a face mask or sigh on crowded public transportation and say, “Oh, working from home was nice.” You may complain to the karaoke owner for not giving you extra time for free and get frustrated by the passenger on the next coach seat. And news articles will be filled with angry, negative comments with swear words as before.

But let’s not forget that the karaoke owner and the passenger next to you are also fighting their own battles.

As Anderson Cooper wrapped up the New Year’s Eve broadcast, he said that many people who lost their loved ones would be lonely. He also asked audiences to remember that they were together as the same humans, wishing for a new year of caring for one another.
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