I think it’s safe to say that this has been one of the most painful and frustrating years in recent memory.
We thought 2016 was bad, with all of the celebrity deaths and the gradual dismantling of our public institutions and what not, but then this year came along and just completely blew everything out of the water.
Granted, considering 2020 literally began with the threat of World War III, the chances of this year being anything but rough were limited. But as it’s turned out, that might have been the best it’ll get until 2021 at minimum. It’s sort of like when you get bullied by this big kid on the playground at school, then at long last you finally whip around and push him off the monkey bars, feeling vindicated at long last…only to realize that the kid has an even bigger brother who’s 16 years older than you and has a brown belt in krav maga.
Elementary school was a rough time in my life, okay?
But there’s one thing in particular that sticks out about this year compared to 2016. Four years ago, a lot of the worst events that took place–all the deaths, the zika virus outbreak, the continued decline of American trust in the press–could be attributed to bad luck, or poor circumstances. Even the worst of the worst talking points, such as Brexit and the absolute cluster of crap that was the entire 2016 election cycle, felt like the work of individuals gaming broken systems for their own perverse gain, rather than some sort of massive hit-job on everything positive and wholesome.
By contrast, pretty much everything that’s gone wrong in 2020, with a few exceptions, can be traced back to the comprehensive and humiliating failure of the United States government.
First off, there’s that potential World War III I mentioned earlier. Why did that happen? Because President Trump ordered an airstrike to murder a top Iranian general at a Baghdad airport. That very nearly plunged us into a war right from the start of the year.
In hindsight, I almost think a war might’ve been a better alternative for what came later.
Later in January, the debacle that was the president’s impeachment trial began. What should have been a watershed moment in American politics quickly devolved into farce, as Senate Republicans seemed more interested in putting Joe Biden on trial. Joe Biden, for reference, was not the president at the time, and indeed has not yet held public office since Trump’s inauguration. Yet here was Mitch McConnell, huffing and puffing like someone put the wrong kind of lettuce in his tank (he doesn’t like romaine much), insisting that Biden’s son (also not the president) was guilty of, um, something, and pretty much the entire Republican cohort agreeing with him, allowing one of the most reckless and blatantly malfeasant presidents in modern history to claim a technical victory.
Then, of course, as February dragged on, it happened: COVID-19. It needs no introduction or explanation; in fact, odds are good that you groaned at your newspaper or computer screen the moment you saw the capital letters out of the corner of your eyes.
From the off, the White House completely disregarded experts, governors and common sense, instead bleating about the damage done to the economy by mass shutdowns. In the meantime, the virus swept across the country, infecting millions and killing nearly two hundred thousand as of this writing as it preyed upon the inconsistent or even nonexistent state-level protections put in place. To this day, Trump and his staff have refused to put into place anything resembling a nationwide plan to counter the virus, and in fact have actively harmed attempts to staunch the spread by threatening officials and governors who defy their calls to continue business as usual. Worse, Congress can’t even help American people, as Senate Republicans are adamant in their belief that Americans suffering from mass layoffs and literally hazardous working conditions should stop being lazy and find jobs already – because something something bootstraps, I guess.
And we just keep rolling. The George Floyd protests in June and July likely wouldn’t have escalated so much if not for the absolute disrespect shown by Washington for the death of an innocent man. Rather than finally sitting at the table and discussing reforms, the powers that be doubled down on their horrific stances and dismissed the protesters as thugs and looters and cried helpless for the defenseless police officers who have nothing to defend themselves against criminals–except of course for their guns and their pepper spray and their official physical training.
And now a massive, arguably climate change-influenced, potentially Category 5 hurricane has made landfall in Louisiana, and any attempts to rebuild afterward will face an absolute mountain to climb–because the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, just had $44 billion taken from it by – who else? – the federal government, in order to partially replace the unemployment supplement from the CARES act. You know, that thing I mentioned a couple paragraphs ago – the thing the Senate refuses to extend because it’s too busy acting like a symposium of the world’s worst dads.
Sure, not everything that’s happened this year has been the government’s fault. Only a madman would blame the tornadoes that swept through Nashville in early March, for instance, on Donald Trump. Nor would it be prudent to claim that any of the high-profile deaths that have happened this year have been the government’s fault – unless you believe Lindsey Graham personally sabotaged Kobe Bryant’s helicopter, in which case you’re just a lunatic.
But with that said, there’s been too much that can tangibly be traced back to Washington for it to just be a coincidence. The core of American democracy has begun to rot, and now the rot has spread to encompass the whole of the United States. The only hope now is to cut out the source of the rot–and that won’t happen unless America makes their voices heard in November.
And once that’s over, I think we’d all be forgiven for forgetting this terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad year ever existed.
Justin Glover just wants to get to Christmas already. Nothing bad happens on Christmas, right? He works as a copy editor and page designer for The Daily Herald. His column appears Fridays on the Opinion page.