2020 may not have been THE worst year ever, but it sure won’t be missed

To: Mr. Doom

Somehow I don’t think I’m going to have as much trouble as usual remembering to write “2021” instead of “2020” when the calendar flips tonight. In a typical new year it can take me a good month or month and a half to shed the muscle memory of the old year and get with the program so that I’m consistently typing the new numbers. However, because this coming year is hard on the heels of what has been anything but a typical year, I’m anticipating that the transition to 2021 won’t be nearly so hard for me.

I didn’t see it when it came out earlier this month, but I just Googled Time Magazine’s cover (and story) about the awfulness of 2020 and graphically it’s quite effective, what with the big red X overlaid on the numbers. The story title is “2020; The Worst Year Ever,” which is also pretty effective – short and to the point. Unfortunately, though, the second sentence of the article pretty much pulls the rug out from underneath the basic premise as the author (Stephanie Zacharek) says:

“There have been worse years in U.S. history, and certainly worse years in world history, but most of us alive today have seen nothing like this one.”

Either it’s the worst year ever or it isn’t. Right? I get it that a title like “2020: The Worst Year That Most of Us Alive Have Ever Experienced” isn’t a good one to pitch to the editor. It’s clunky and way too long, but if that’s really the deal, then it seems like it would be more honest not to go with the catchy, economical version and maybe say something like: “2020: It Sucked” or “2020: Good Riddance” or “2020: Dumpster Fire.” You get the idea. These get the awfulness of 2020 across, but aren’t holding out for titular awfulness.

But who knows, maybe 30 years from now when the fall out from 2020 is clearer, people will look back on this year and decide that it actually was the worst year ever (though, of course there’s absolutely nothing guaranteeing that 2021 or 2034 or some other year between now and 2050 isn’t much, much worse). For example, if we continue our slide towards authoritarian rule, if it’s later determined that this year (2020) was really our last chance to get some kind of handle on climate change, and/or if we don’t get enough people vaccinated and Covid keeps going we might decide that 2020 really was the worst year ever because so many shitty things were set in motion this year.

The WP ran its own “Was 2020 The Worst Year Ever?” story (Michael Rosenwald; https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2020/12/30/ranking-2020-worst-year-history/) and historians decided that for the US, 2020 is only the 8th worst year ever. I actually don’t have any problem with most of the years they put ahead of 2020, but I do take issue with 2001 (9/11) – it was definitely an awful year and so many shitty things were set in motion by it, but I firmly believe that it’s far worse to be under attack by one’s own POTUS (and the damn GOPP*) as we have been in 2020 than from foreign entities. I’m also not buying it that the Cuban missile crisis made all of 1962 worse than 2020.

And, awful is awful so there’s really not much percentage in getting caught up in the race to the bottom. Better to focus on how we’re going to pull our heads out, how we’re going to dig ourselves out and sort ourselves out so that we don’t look back on 2020 and wish we’d heeded its warnings. So here’s to a fresh start come 1/20/21 at noon EST.

May we be safe from our leaders.
May we be willing to learn what we need to learn.
May we trust that we are strong enough to act on what we learn.
May we accept that sitting back is not an option.

Tracy Simpson
*GOPP = Grand Old Pathetic Party

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