Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Random Barking: End Of The Beginning

 The Year Of Living Dangerously

2020 (MMXX) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar, the 2,020th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 20th year of the 3nd millennium, the 20th year of the 21st century, and the 1st year of its second decade. 
Initially trained as an historian, my reflex is to see 2020 as a mega-event -- where one year is dominated by  a few serious, unique and overwhelming occurrences affecting hundreds of millions of individuals. It's felt like wartime, with battles, victories, losses; new technology; politics affecting the war; and, deaths.

So in finding a year to compare with 2020, some obvious choices were the Great Plague of Athens in 380 BC, which took three years to burn out and killed ~25% of the Greek population. Or, 1347 and the Great Plague of Europe, the Black Death, which lasted four years and killed ~200 million; 1664-65, the Great Plague Year in London; or the 1918-19 Spanish Influenza epidemic.

2020 seemed to be a year of emotion more than actual conflict. As a nation, or as individuals, we were about 'waging war' with a viral organism, and with some of the most vicious, ugly aspects of human nature -- sometimes, in ourselves.

But I found myself looking for periods that felt more like a match than were correct in some one-for-one historical comparison. The Second World War felt obvious; maybe, too much so. It isn't part of my experience, but I was born not long after it ended. I absorbed its experience by my parents' generation, the Depression that preceded it, and the early Cold War / Red Scare America that followed.

Then I gave up. I realized that comparing 2020, globally and in America, with a year in WW2 is what we've always done -- dramatize events as one more chapter in the heroic, upward progression of America's story. It's normal to frame traumatic events in ways that help us absorb them, find a context and understanding. But we need to see what has happened, just over the past 365 days, with real clarity.

The true meaning of events we're living through are both profoundly personal and epochal at once. But by turning 2020 into a Ken Burns special in our heads, it becomes a Year already in the Past -- safely in memory, something manageable, unable to hurt us further.

That would remove the fear and disruption and claustrophobia -- but it will also rob us of our own individual experience of this moment, this time. It prevents us from seeing the reality of 2020's real impact.


We're still in the middle of a bad spike in a long-term pandemic. It isn't a dramatization to say: We're in the most fragile and desperate of moments in our nation's history, since 1776 or 1861. Believe it. Trump (please God) leaves office as of January -- but he tried, incompetently, to stage a Coup. He's still trying to subvert the election, still trying to burn down as much of America as he can before the 20th.

And, he's just the worst symptom of a deep infection at America's core; the worm at the heart of the rose. Trump will go; but Trumpism -- fascism, authoritarianism, Bannonism; what you like -- is now a precedent in American politics. Two months ago, seventy million adult Americans voted in favor of it.

As a nation, if we're wise, we'll take this Plague Year ending as a wake-up call to address a very long list, spanning generations, of cultural Chickens Coming Home To Roost -- starting with The Pandemic. How we prioritize the rest will determine where we go as a nation. And that's just the beginning

MEHR, MIT MUSIK, MIT MUSIK, MIT MUSIK: The Girl Who Refused To Be Mrs. Mongo put in her oar: "The phrase, 'Letting your freak flag fly' popped into my head, for some reason."  Fair enough.

No comments:

Post a Comment