I re-read a story that I wrote at the end of 2019, detailing my hopes and goals for 2020. It would almost be funny, if not for the lives lost or forever changed by the pandemic. As if COVID-19 isn’t enough to deal with, we also have social unrest, natural disasters, and all the joys that this particular election year brings.
The scary thought rattling around in my head is, “what if we look back on 2020 as a time when things were still sane?” No one wants to hear the phrase “the new normal” anymore. The coronavirus is bound to become endemic in society, and the reasons behind the social unrest in our country are not going to change anytime soon.
What if what we are witnessing is not a bump in the road, but the last few feet of pavement before we go over the cliff? This article isn’t about fear-mongering. I am no prophet, and I don’t pretend to have a clue what the next few months or years will bring.
However, I know that there has been far too much broken in our country for far too long. I am old enough to remember the days after 9/11 when our shock and horror united us in a way that was both beautiful and sorrowful. Now, we can’t agree on even basic tenants of decency without someone becoming offended.
I do not think the events of 2020 mark the beginning of the end. I think we passed that mile-marker long ago. We just didn’t know it. As long as all that was wrong in our country was out there happening to someone else, we could cocoon ourselves in our bubbles and assure ourselves it was a problem for another day.
Some other time is now
We have kicked the can down the road for years, if not decades, on most of what ails our society. Racism, prejudice, income inequality, immigration, the environment, pandemic preparedness, and fiscal responsibility have all been things we pledged to worry about later. Well, it is later, and all the bills are coming due at once.
The saddest part of all is that it will be our children and grandchildren who ultimately pay the price for our arrogance and rampant consumerism. Despite economic hiccups like 2008, overall, we have prospered. When people prosper, there is little motivation for change.
Now, the cliff is straight ahead, and whether the ultimate crash comes in November or a year or two, it is likely already too late to affect the kind of change it would take to save ourselves. I can envision us screaming blame and hurling insults at each other (probably via social media) as we hurtle over the cliff to our ultimate demise.
I hope I am wrong. I hope there will be a yet unseen silver lining, but the picture looks bleak from here.