A Brief Summary at the End of 2020
Let us move past the two most obvious horrors of 2020: racial unrest and the virus, because those two civilization-destroying impulses underlie everything else that has happened; every regret, all the anger, and the cynical hatred spread far and wide. Those broader catastrophes that have brought about change or destruction of society have been ever-present throughout human history: tribalism, religion, politics, plague. Perhaps the endless 2020 election cycle provides an apt metaphor for just what has happened to us in this shrill and panicked year.
No matter where you stand, whichever president you define as hero or villain, you are outraged. You find the whole thing shameful, or expected, or part of some ancient plot, or simply the last straw that has forced you to completely give up hope.
“Didn’t they count the votes?” is the question many people ask, although in numerous different contexts and tones. The Biden side tends to offer these words smugly, a smug similarity to the Trump followers triumphantly baying in 2016. Today’s Trump and 2016’s Clinton’s roar about cheating, frustrated children knocking all the pieces off the game board because they can’t take losing. On numerous social media platforms there is a startlingly verbatim point-of-view. Said both in 2016 and 2020, the opposing sides offer many number of cliches,
- Love it or leave it,
- Not my president,
or, with aggressive mirth,
- I love watching you snowflakes cry.
Back and forth, this same view of each other — stupid sheep or part of the problem. Online, Donald Trump’s favorite attack dog mode, the sort of place you don’t need to face anyone or wait for a response to repeat yourself, online we see the same petty name-calling, the schoolyard cynicism that defined Generation X as we were growing up. And the youth are just as bad, Millennials or Gen Z or whatever other lazy title has been given to the latest generations:
- The pedophile white house is selling children to billionaires!
- Okay boomer.
- Donald Trump is the greatest President ever!
- Okay boomer.
- You’re so stupid you don’t even get it!
- Okay boomer.
- The socialist mob is destroying America.
- Okay boomer.
- Okay boomer.
- Okay boomer . . .
At least ‘X’ for my generation has retrospective meaning, our crossing out everything in our cynical fanaticism, believing in nothing.
The corruption of conspiracy theories has spun into a blur, now so pervasive that crazy people call other crazy people one of ‘them,’ a part of the scheme to take over the world. Trust, mutual respect, they no longer exist. This is not to claim that prior to 2020 — prior to Trump — the crumbling of the ‘United’ part of “The . . . States of America,” was not shuddering with primordial tribulation, tearing the land apart. We thought of each other as the enemy, and after the racially influenced divide perpetrated by Barack Obama’s election people started saying it out loud.
The police shootings, the unarmed, murdered black people sees the nation also divided as to whether their lives even matter. In the crush of events this seems simply another part of the sticky nightmare we terrified people have all been caught up in.
- Black Lives Matter!
- All lives matter!
- No lives matter!
- You’re the racist!
- You just said that blacks deserve to die!
- You just said that white lives don’t matter!
- I didn’t —
- Why are you so stu —
- Fuck you, white motherfucker!
- Stupid nigger!
- You wouldn’t say that if I were right in front of you! I’d stomp your ass!
- Bring it on! I got my AR-15 waitin’ for you!
- I hope you fucking die of COVID!
- I hope your daughter gets raped by some thug!
- White nationalist piece of shit!
- Black Lives Matter is a terrorist group!
All of these quotes are real, although not all from the same conversation, and not always coming from the side you might suspect, but you get the point. For some people, a poorly timed or contextually questionable “All lives matter,” still means to them exactly what it says: of course black lives matter. Mexican lives matter. Native American lives matter. Asian lives matter. Gay lives matter. Even white lives matter. I get the point,” some are saying to themselves, “that black lives have traditionally been treated like they didn’t matter and that ongoing events need to be confronted. I even support the movement! But believing that my open-hearted acceptance of everyone is somehow a racist instinct . . . I just don’t get it . . .”
Of course, like in the examples above, plenty more people seem to fulfill the claim of racism with that same cynical smugness — perhaps not racist at all but full blown misanthropy! There are those who use the “all lives” to dismiss the importance of ongoing fights for equal rights. Some will even exploit the awfulness of actual thugs, real murderers and rapists and wife beaters and pedophiles, that same wretched scum that clings to the bottom of the swamp in a multi-colored coalition. Those people, those monsters that reflect the same image of white serial killers and hispanic torture-gangsters, and Asian mobsters killing family members, and black crackheads gunning down children in driveby shootings — this is how all racists stereotype one another. Such people are without hope for humanity.
The plague has somehow earned controversy too, hideous politicians and all-for-cash doctors and pharmaceutical corporations spinning different tales, feeding them to their friendly news arms like Hollywood moguls used to feed the tabloids back in the good old days. The newscasters aren’t so much reporting lies as they cover what they want to believe is the truth, from whichever angle, unvarnished reality seeping through in occasional waves, shuffling the channels to see which one is in the right for the moment (and even this is debated). And yet some people believe the disease is fake, an evil conspiracy by either left or right (sometimes both) to take away our freedom.
- They ain’t keepin’ me locked in my house!
- I don’t care! I’m seeing my mother!
- It’s all bullshit.
- It only kills like 0.0000038 percent of people!
- Eat right. Exercise. You won’t get it.
- You know why they’re doing it? They want us all to be slaves.
Others quote bible verses:
- They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire.
Sometimes they even lie to make their point, or tell the truth, or whatever. How could we know any longer?
- My grandmother died from it you fucking asshole!
- I got it and it was just a little cold. Pussies.
- You people are so stupid.
- You people are so crazy.
- Stupid Trumptard!
- Crazy liberal!
Ad infinitum . . .
And yet the rapid development of a vaccine has created even more questionable controversy, a wider off-shoot of the anti-vaxxer movement. Some people look to the past, to the horrible truth that yesterday segregated groups of people were injected with experiments, even potential germ warfare tests. This is of course not just blacks, but Jews and homosexuals and certain people of different religions, brainwashing drugs and ones that melt out your eyes. Such fears are grounded in misunderstood facts, although made questionable by the openness of who will get the drug, another attempt to cure a dread virus, believed by some to be a genocidal plot.
The suspicion that manufacturers are inventing something that does nothing, that they invented the disease in the first place so they can cash in on the cure is also grounded in sketchy certainty, the brutal corporate competitiveness of science constantly raising the stakes. And yet . . . where is the profit coming from? Aren’t there, no matter how controlled by their greedy masters they are, aren’t there some actually decent people who only want to make the world a better place? Has such an idea gone, dead, buried in our fear and paranoia?
This is just a fragment of the impact of 2020 on our future, this hateful divide grown along the cracks of an apocalyptic earthquake. Diseases come and go; hatred continues to change sides. Hopelessness . . . hopelessness mixed with a conspiratorial outlook that everything is under control, and it’s all about me and me and me and everything is coming to get me, pervasive selfishness rumbles to our planet’s very core, perhaps the dawn of a self-imposed age of extinction.