Jimmy Failla: 2020 and America's great divide – here's what we can do about it, together

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There’s a moment in the final scene of "The Goonies" where rescuers give their jackets to the cold, bewildered kids who’ve been fighting for pirate treasure inside a water-filled cave.

I invoke it partly because I’ve eaten so much over the holidays I could easily play "Chunk" in a reboot. And mostly because 2020 was my first full year as a nationally syndicated talk show host and it's left me feeling just as dumbfounded as The Goonies watching Chester Copperpot’s pirate ship sail into the sunset.   

By no means am I complaining – I’ve dreamt of hosting my own radio show since I was 5 years old. Although I will admit I never once pictured doing so out of a spare bedroom in my house because of a government lockdown. 


There’s an old saying in horse racing that "you’ve gotta be a mudder" who can run on a sloppy track in order to win the big races. We were all mudders in 2020. The track got sloppier by the second but if you’re reading this it’s because you found a way to keep going. You may not have won the race but give yourself credit just for finishing because as years go, 2020 was one of the longest decades ever.

Nothing made sense in 2020.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle vacated their royal positions, becoming the first people in history to quit a job in order to spend less time with their family. 

Joe Biden became the first guy to win the presidency without really running for it. Sure he’d do a Zoom fundraiser and the occasional six-person rally, but I remain confident there were more Elvis sightings than Biden sightings this fall.

And while we’re on the topic of rare occurrences, history will show the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball Drop took place without spectators for the first time since 1907. Not that New Yorkers care, we’ve been watching the Jets drop the ball all year.

Forgive that joke, Jets fans. Even if you don’t it’s fine by me because America was never supposed to have a "one size fits all" sensibility and we need to stop trying to create one. 

That was my biggest takeaway from talking to thousands of Republican and Democratic callers this year. Our society seems to be suffering from a weapons-grade level of ideological intolerance that's left many people unable to respect opposing viewpoints on any level. 

Everyone needs to remember our national motto of “E Pluribus Unum” – a fancy way of saying there’s room for all of us so CHILL OUT. 

I’m not sure how we lost our ability to coexist, but if I had to guess, social media and the carefully curated world of the smartphone have given us a staggering sense of self-importance that tells us our opinions are the only ones worth hearing. It almost makes sense in a world where we never stop sharing our hot takes and our hot meals. We no longer keep up with the Kardashians, we are the Kardashians, minus the great work on prison reform.

It also can’t help that Twitter has taught us to hate dissenting views as a form of currency. The Smart Phone Fight Club rewards the snarkiest posts with the highest dosages of digital dopamine, aka "likes." All of this non-stop, incentivized conflict has led many people to forget that we all play for the same American team and as the country goes, we go, regardless of how we voted.   

With that in mind, my New Year’s proposal is that we bring back cool people. Remember those folks in the '80s, '90s and early aughts who were too busy living their lives to spend all day trying to impose their personal preferences on everyone else? The folks who didn’t care what party you were from as long as you were cool at a party? 

We desperately need more of them and seeing as everything else gets a reboot these days, I say we give it a go. Because after watching society cannibalize itself this past year over everything from protests to Peloton ads, it’s clear to me we’re never going to make progress until people learn to calm down and coexist. 

I know that sounds impossible days before a runoff election in Georgia that will determine control of the Senate. I’m also well aware that no one in the history of telling people to calm down has ever gotten them to do so. I’m married 15 years, I get it. 

That being said, none of the issues we’re fighting over are going away any time soon no matter who wins Jan. 5. This is a society that still hasn’t agreed on whether an Internet dress from 2015 was blue and black or white and gold. I doubt we’re going to reach a consensus on health care, climate change or gun rights in the near future.

In the meantime, everyone needs to remember our national motto of "E Pluribus Unum," which means "out of many, one." It’s a fancy way of saying there’s room for all of us so CHILL OUT. 


Let’s face it, gang. America has been fighting so much this place is starting to feel as if it could be here today and gone tomorrow, like Hilaria Baldwin’s accent.

All of that changes if we learn to show each other even the slightest modicum of respect in the New Year. I’m not asking you to abandon your core beliefs. I’m asking you to abandon the need to destroy anything in your path that doesn’t agree with you and give cool a chance. 

I know old habits die hard, and Goonies never say die. If you need help taking the edge off I also know a world-class radio show you can check out. (And once you get done with Brian Kilmeade’s show be sure to give mine a try, too.)


These past 12 months were the most toxic times many of us have ever witnessed. It’s natural to want to relitigate the pandemic, the protests or the politics but as the old saying goes, hindsight is 2020. 

Happy New Year. Don’t be a punk. 


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