Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Lowlights of 2020: A Year For the History Books




2020 was a year of unprecedented death, pestilence & civil unrest in the United States.  Income inequality is at an all-time high; cities are on fire both at the hands of angry protesters & the imminent climate crisis.  It's been an especially shitty year & it's hard to even pick the worst parts.  It will undoubtedly be one for the history books, though we're all anxious to put it behind us in the present.  Who wants to relive this nightmare?

But it's important to log these things for posterity so the details are not forgotten.  We can either learn from history or repeat it, and nobody wants a repeat of 20-fucking-20.  Worryingly, many people are acting as if it's just some random bad calendar year instead of the result of unbridled human greed & narcissism.  That's a surefire way to ensure we repeat it or make things even worse going forward.  (Yes, things can get worse).  Much can be learned by reflecting on where we went wrong, both as individuals and as a society.

So without further ado, here are the worst parts of 2020 in no particular order.  Feel free to Google and fact-check anything here or add to it in the comments: 

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*  Arrival of SARS-CoV-2 in the U.S. in early 2020.  Immediately before its arrival, a meme circulated joking that the '20s always started with a pandemic or plague.  

*  Killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake & Rayshard Brooks by police.  These events spark protests across the country, some of which turn violent.  Police killed 168 Black Americans in the first 8 months of 2020 alone.  

*  The government bailing out corporations instead of giving working people a basic income, rent freezes, universal healthcare or other means to stay home & fight the pandemic.  Individuals were given a one-time $1,200 stimulus check that amounts to around $6 per day when stretched over the course of the year.  

*  People using their cars as projectiles to mow down protesters in multiple cities similar to the Charlottesville Car Attack...and onlookers attempted to defend the killers.

* Former presidential candidate Herman Cain dies of COVID-19 after attending a Trump rally in Tulsa sans mask.  Shortly before dying, he Tweets a short rant against mask mandates from his hospital bed. 

*  Federal agents in unmarked vehicles snatch people off the streets in Portland & other cities.  Police also killed anti-fascist protester Michael Forest Reinoehl in custody 5 days after he killed a Trump supporting protester at a Portland rally.  Contrast this with police treatment of Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old who shot 3 protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin with an AR-15 semi-automatic style rifle and was taken into custody without incident.  

*  President Trump wishing known pedophile/child trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell "well" at a press conference.  This was followed immediately by the #SaveOurChildren social media campaign by Trump supporters, likely in an attempt to deflect from his "gaffe".  

*  The USPS debacle:  Sorting machines were dismantled & removed from post offices across the country in an unprecedented move by Louis Dejoy, Postmaster General.  This resulted in people not receiving their medications & other vital mail as a result.  

*  Mass of evictions that dwarfed those of the 2008 housing crisis.  As usual, Native American, Black, LGBT, disabled & Hispanic renters have been most heavily affected. 

* As of July, 47% of American families were dealing with hunger.  

*  The government forcing teachers & students to go back to school in the Fall by threatening to pull federal funding if they failed to resume in-person classes after COVID cases skyrocketed all summer.

*  Wildfires in California turn the skies orange & sepia, burning millions of acres & killing several people.  Temperatures in Death Valley, CA, reached an all-time high of 130-degrees Fahrenheit over the summer.  These events are a result of climate change but no politician in either party is proposing a serious green plan to address it, nor are our mainstream media outlets reporting on it as such.

*  The president admits knowing from the beginning how deadly COVID was & downplaying it after a year of holding largely maskless rallies.  Nothing is done--he's not impeached or otherwise punished.  Deaths reach 185,000 around this time.

*  Police shoot 13-year-old autistic child Linden Cameron in his home during a call for assistance by the boy's mother in Glendale, Utah.  The boy was unarmed & having a mental health crisis.  He was left with injuries to his shoulder, ankles, intestines, bladder and colon, as well as nerve damage.  

*  Trump cutting payroll taxes as a means to stimulate the economy & promising to permanently end the payroll tax if re-elected.  This would spell the end for the Social Security Disability & Retirement programs, with some arms of the program ending as soon as 2021.  In addition, the money saved by holding out these taxes will have to be paid back by workers & is considered a loan rather than an actual stimulus or bonus.  

*  Jeff Bezos becomes the first man worth $200 billion while unemployment soars & his workers in Amazon factories struggle with harsh working conditions & low pay.  

*  Joe Biden vetoing Medicare For All during a pandemic despite it being part of the Democratic Party platform supported by a majority of Democrat voters.  He's also promised to increase the military budget past its current $7 billion mark & plans to enforce the penalty for those who can't afford private health insurance, placing his stance on healthcare to the right of Trump's.  To seal the deal, he picks a former prosecutor & police officer as his Vice President and replies that he "supports police" when asked whether he supports the Black Lives Matter movement.  

* Untimely deaths of many beloved public figures:  Kobe Bryant, Naya Rivera, Carl Reiner, Little Richard, Chadwick Boseman, Toots Hibbert, Regis Philbin, Wilford Brimley, Kelly Preston, Charlie Daniels, Nick Cordero, Hugh Downs, John Lewis, Larry Kramer, Fred Willard, Andre Harrell, Jerry Stiller, Roy Horn, Cady Groves, Brian Dennehy, Eddie Van Halen, Sean Connery, Alex Trebek, Johnny Nash, Nikki McKibbin, Natalie Desselle-Reid, Brodie Lee, John Prine & MF DOOM.    

* A terrible year for hurricanes & tropical storms.  5 cyclones were active at one time in September:  Sally, Teddy, Paulette, Renee, Vicky.  The last time there were five storms at once in the Atlantic was 49 years ago in 1971. Multiple floods plagued the Southern states as well. More evidence of climate change.

* The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which fell a couple months shy of the 2020 election. This left her spot on the Supreme Court open. Within hours of her death, Mitch McConnell vowed to have the Senate vote on president Trump's nominee to fill her seat before the November 3rd election against her dying wish.

* Courts failed to indict any of the 3 officers involved in the Breonna Taylor killing for her actual murder, charging one of them only for "wanton endangerment" for the bullets that went through her neighbors' walls. Protests that night in Louisville, Kentucky turned violent, with 2 police officers getting shot along with 2 other individuals, one of whom died.

* Former Congressman Ron Paul has a stroke during a livestream video, triggering an outpouring of concern from viewers.

* Ignoring Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dying wish, Trump nominates hyper-conservative Amy Coney Barrett as her Supreme Court replacement. Recall that Republicans roundly rejected Merrick Garland--Obama's SCOTUS pick--in 2016 citing the proximity to the election. If Barrett is appointed, it will be the most conservative Supreme Court since 1950.

* A leak of his tax returns shows that Trump paid a total of $750 income taxes in 2016 & 2017. He earned at least $434.9 million in 2018. For reference, the average tax filer paid $12,200 in 2017--roughly 16x more than the president.

* Amazon released a report stating that 19,816 of its frontline U.S. workers at Whole Foods & Amazon factories contracted COVID from March 1 through September 19.  Meanwhile, owner Jeff Bezos' wealth has increased by over $85 billion since the onset of the pandemic in March.

* After an atrocious presidential debate, Donald Trump tests positive for COVID along with 12 other Republicans including his wife Melania. True to form, they maintain their "no mask mandatory" policy at the White House as Donald receives experimental treatment at Walter Reed Memorial Hospital at taxpayers' expense.

* The Department of Homeland Security quietly releases a notice moving to ban any "member of a Communist or other totalitarian party" from entering the U.S. or seeking citizenship What year is it again?

* Donald Trump checks out of Walter Reed Hospital 3 days after checking in, claiming he feels "20 years younger" and that COVID is nothing to fear. That night, after climbing the stairs to the White House balcony for a photo op, he appears to be gasping for breath as he removes his mask. A few days later he cancels the 2nd debate with Biden because he disapproves of the virtual format. * The number of COVID cases within the Trump Administration officially surpasses that of the entire country of New Zealand as well as Thailand, Vietnam & several other countries.

* Howie Hawkins of the Green Party is shut out of the presidential debates along with other 3rd party candidates. When invited on Morning Joe on MSNBC, they spew false claims as soon as his short segment is over. Among the claims: 3rd parties were "solely responsible for every Republican administration in the 21st Century."

* Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed to the Supreme Court for what will likely be a lifetime appointment. Among her list of accomplishments is belonging to the People of Praise cult and siding with a prison guard who repeatedly raped a pregnant teenage inmate on the job.

* Hurricane Zeta crashed ashore as a near-Category 3 storm in late October, making it the strongest on record to hit so late in the season. A simultaneous ice storm swept the Central Plains of Oklahoma & Texas, causing widespread power outages lasting days and affecting over 457,000 people. All this while California's wildfires were still smoldering. Temperatures in Oklahoma quickly rebounded to 75 degrees going into November. Climate crisis in full swing.

* After a 4-day delay while states like Nevada, Pennsylvania & Georgia counted their ballots, Joe Biden was finally declared winner of the presidential election. Celebrations filled the streets during the height of the COVID pandemic. While revelers wore masks (mostly), masks have been to only reduce spread even when worn perfectly. Little was made of this by mainstream news outlets like MSNBC or CBS despite the seriousness of the virus heading into winter.

* The day after Biden's win (November 8th), COVID cases in the U.S. reached a grim new milestone of 126,742 per day, with the world surpassing 50 million.

* It is reported that 80% of the over 230 inmates who died of COVID-19 in Texas County jails were not convicted of a crime. Many of them were simply in the pretrial detention phase unable to afford bail.

* Unsurprisingly, Trump fought his election loss by filing lawsuits in multiple states which he also lost. That didn't stop him from refusing to concede & delaying the transition, which cost precious time in the battle against COVID by delaying distribution of the vaccine while serving as a distraction from the deteriorating state of the economy and public health.

* A lawsuit reveals that managers at a Tyson meatpacking plant in Iowa placed bets on how many of its workers would get COVID. Said plant remained open even after officials urged it to shut down early in the pandemic.

* Wisconsin shooter Kyle Rittenhouse is released on $2 million bail thanks to donations by conservative donors, some of whom included actor Ricky Schroeder and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.

* Actress & lesbian role model Ellen Page changes name to "Elliot Page" & announces that she's actually a man while comedian Eddie Izzard announces his pronouns are now "she/her". This comes after a year of censorship of radical feminists on social media platforms like Reddit and misogynistic attacks against those that dared to speak out against trans ideology like JK Rowling, who was sent death threats & told to 'choke on ladydick' by trans people on Twitter.

* In a dystopian first, water joined oil, gold & other commodities on Wall Street as an entity to be traded & bet upon, highlighting fears that the precious resource is becoming scarce in drought & wildfire-infested California.

* Biden announces that he plans to "re-open schools within the first 100 days" of his presidency after "asking" Americans to wear masks during that time. No national mask mandate, no stimulus check, no rent freezes, nothing of substance that will allow American workers to pause and stop spreading the virus while the vaccine has a chance to get it under control. The new boss looks a lot like the old boss.

* As of December 14th, the U.S. has lost 300,000 people to COVID with 400,000+ projected deaths by February 2021.

* To cap off a truly abysmal year, congress tentatively approves a stimulus bill direct to the people in late December... for $600. Not even enough to cover a single rent or mortgage payment for most Americans.

* Trump announces 26 pardons of close allies, some of whom include: Paul Manafort, son-in-law Jared Kushner, Roger Stone, Mark Shapiro & Margaret Hunter. No such pardons for Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Assata Shakur, Ross Ulbricht or other figures who didn't personally scratch his slimy back.

* On Christmas Day a bomb exploded in downtown Nashville, TN, injuring 3 people and damaging over 40 businesses. No fatalities were reported but the bombing was intentional. Despite the domestic terrorism vibes of it all, President Trump never bothered giving a speech or holding a press conference on the incident.

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While it seems on the surface like this year and this administration are the problem, it's much deeper than that.  Both COVID and the climate crisis are the culmination of human overpopulation & destruction of the natural world by corporations going back generations, while racism & violence were pivotal in the formation of this nation & have been present ever since.  Outrage has been building since the high-profile deaths of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner & Michael Brown before Trump ever ran for president.  Wealth inequality will only get worse as we enter late-stage capitalism unless aggressive regulations are put in place to stifle the 1%'s ability to hoard wealth & exploit workers (unlikely).  None of these problems is new to 2020 or the Trump administration, sadly.  They're just now coming to a head.

In reality, neo-liberal policies going back to Jimmy Carter have laid the groundwork for the neo-fascist Trump regime.  It's unlikely that electing more of the same out-of-touch centrists with mindsets like Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer or Pete Buttigieg is going to change anything for the better.  They care only about serving their wealthy donors & enriching themselves in the moment, not preserving the planet for future generations.  

The division between everyday working & poor people has reached a fever pitch as well.  It's become de riguer to say 'up' when the other political party says 'down'.  Our rugged individualism & defense of personal freedoms has resulted in the worst pandemic management on Earth--a fact history won't look kindly on.  Wearing a mask & washing your hands when you're unable to socially distance is not asking much.  Staying put when police detain you is the right move; likewise, not shooting a suspect with a lethal weapon should be the first, second & third course of action unless an officer's life is in imminent danger (which it usually isn't).  Waiting until all the facts are in before judging a situation should be your go-to, and we should all strive to be less hypocritical.  None of this is a guarantee that things will go your way but it's a damn sight better than being a prideful asshole.

Enemy nations see this division as an opportunity to plant additional seeds of destruction.  Not just Russia but China, North Korea, Iran & Cuba as well as the Middle East & elsewhere.  I see citizens from all over the globe cheering our downfall in the comment sections of Youtube, Reddit & Facebook.  But we're too caught up in our own drama to see the threat.  And we've become too preoccupied with the pandemic & economic fallout to tackle the looming climate crisis, which is a far wider reaching threat in the long-term.  It's starting to look like our downfall will come from within at the hands of the wealthy & powerful few.  Or maybe that's always been the case.  A corporate coup d'état in slow motion as the visionary Chris Hedges calls it.   


Where We Go From Here

If you really want to make a difference, focus on going beyond just voting every 4 years.  A single day of community organizing, protest, volunteering, mutual aid, striking, unionizing, boycotts or other grassroots work at the local level is worth a lifetime of voting in presidential elections.  Voting is fine but don't stop there.  If you're going to vote, put at least as much thought into local elections as your voice is far more impactful there.  A system in which the popular vote is overridden by the Electoral College and where gerrymandering, redlining, postal service disruptions, voter machine hacking & other forms of fuckery abound should not be the basket you put all your eggs in.  In other words, voting in presidential elections is the least you can do, not the most.  

We must bring back class struggle and solidarity along working class lines, forgoing identity politics for the time being.  To quote the late Fred Hampton, you don't fight racism with racism.  You fight racism with solidarity.  And you don't fight capitalism with Black capitalism; you fight it with socialism.  Protests and demonstrations don't accomplish much if we don't harness our collective power to shut down production by withholding our labor when necessary.  This was a common and effective tactic in the days when unions flourished but it's been all but wiped from our collective memory.  That's no accident.

Likewise, "cancelling" problematic figures individually is the right idea but is no substitute for organized boycotts of products and services.  The leftist working class ethos has been hijacked and re-imagined by wealthy liberals in key positions (the DNC, the media, academia, tech) to keep us divided and distracted.  That's why the news beams out racially charged stories for weeks on end while ignoring the growing wealth inequality affecting us all.  A race war is preferable to a class war in their eyes.  Biden's cabinet is already full of symbolic "firsts":  first woman, Black person, gay person.  This actually portends a darker future than if he hadn't made this gesture as it suggests these will be the ONLY wins we will get from this administration.  

We have to stop settling for symbolic wins.         

As Dr. Cornel West says, I'm hopeful but not optimistic.  It's important to maintain hope even in times of darkness.  How?  By looking to history.  Every period of extreme turmoil is followed by an equal or greater period of advancement & renaissance.  But it won't happen by itself.  We have to come together based on our shared humanity & not give into our darker drives to fuck over our fellow human. As long as we are living, there is hope. In fact, we don't even have to be alive. The greatest leaders have fought for a hopeful future they never saw.
Do what those who have bent the arc of history toward justice have always done: sow seeds for a garden you might never get to enjoy. For your children, your grandchildren, your neighbors, your country, your planet. We only get one.







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