365 days ago the world stopped and it became March every day. Before I say anything else, let me first say: I’m sorry that so many have suffered, mostly unnecessarily. People have lost loved ones, jobs, homes, and every sense of normalcy. My heart goes out to everyone who’s been impacted by the pandemic.
I’m writing down these thoughts on the last year because it feels wrong to not try and remember everything that happened. Its a strange and sick sort of anniversary we’re recognizing today, but we can’t forget a pandemic again. Otherwise the failures of 1918 and 2020 will become the failures of 2119.
Everyone will have a different memory of “the moment” when they realized the world was coming to an end. Looking back at text messages I realized that I was one of the first in my circle to see the pandemic coming. For me the moment was this: I can’t remember where I heard this about China, but “Watch what they do, not what they say.” The Chinese government said they had it all under control, and there was nothing to worry about... and then they shut down a city of 10 million. That was the moment I knew.
On February 28th 2020 I messaged my mother that the virus was no joke, “Be Safe.” My mother texted me “It’s overplayed on the news.” I told my mother that things would get very bad and that she should stock up on food and supplies. She thought I was being alarmist.
Paranoia and preparation have the same roots. But, even I didn’t see the first act coming: Who would have thought toilet paper would disappear from shelves? Marie and I started seeing more empty shelves in the store. It would be months until we saw certain items again. Ask Marie how much she missed White Cheddar Cheezits.
We didn’t know how airborne COVID was until later, so telling you that we were amongst the panic shoppers at Fred Myers before the Oregon lockdown started sounds bad, but we didn’t know. We really didn’t know. I’m not ashamed to admit that I went out the night before to pickup a bottle of whiskey. I would have bought more if I had known how long the world would take to end.
The early moments of the pandemic were terrifying, and the sense that we were living through an apocalypse was real... then its 8am and we have to go to work. Because capitalism can’t stop, not even for the world ending. Unprecedented times. Challenging conditions. Difficult areas to navigate. At work we said everything but never truly acknowledged the elephant rampaging in the room.
Things happen slowly, and then suddenly all at once. First I was told that my company would be allowing us to work from home 100% of the time if we wanted, and then a few days later they announced every office would be closed until summer. Then fall. Then finally they just said until further notice.
I’d already been working from home part time for the last couple of years, so it wasn’t really a huge change for me. Marie had much more to navigate moving her work home. Learning how to pace yourself while working from home is an adjustment, but thankfully our Cardigan Corgis kept us on task. Literally, R2D2 will bark when its time to go to bed. No staying up doomscrolling.
Doomscrolling. That’s a word that only 2020 could have created. You couldn’t stop looking at the train wreck that was the world, but you knew it was bad for your mental health. Everyone found their own way of coping. My way of dealing was to watch as the world burned, to bare witness to the ending. Someone needed to remember.
We never really stopped quarantining after the lockdown ended in April. My wife, two dogs, and a cat we have, all just hang out every day. Once a week we pick up groceries. When weather has allowed we go for a walk. We haven’t visited with family since Christmas 2019. Not even a porch visit, because to get to that porch we’d have to drive further away than feels comfortable knowing that any vehicle issues could put us in a risky position. We used the savings from not having to pay for commuting to do some house projects. That’s it. Such is the privilege having jobs that allow us to work remotely.
Avoiding death isn’t the only reason we’ve been quarantining. There’s the long haul covid survivors who continue to experience health issues. Dying is quick. Living with breathing issues for another 50 years sounds like a nightmare.
It also isn’t about just you, as many people seemed to forget or ignore. The COVID-19 virus is easily transmittable without you knowing or feeling sick. Do you see your parents? No, of course not you could unknowingly spread COVID to them. How would you feel if they got sick and it was your fault? Guilt is a hellva thing to live with.
The math of trying to decide when it isn’t or is a good idea to see people is compounded if kids are included. If you have kids I’m sorry for everything you’ve had to deal with. No one has the right answers, and no one will have gotten it right when the final summations are made. Even though Zoom schooling has been mostly a nightmare, I think the kids will be okay no matter what. Maybe this has helped everyone appreciate schools and teachers more?
In my wildest dreams I couldn’t have imagined the response of the Trump administration. I assumed it would be a clusterfuck of crony capitalism, insider dealing, and tax breaks for the rich. Never would I have guessed that the federal government would bend to one man’s delusions and do... nothing. For an entire year there was basically no response from the Federal government.
Reports have indicated that Special Advisor to his Father in Law Jared Kushner didn’t see the point of doing anything at first because COVID-19 was a “blue state problem.” The stupidity of thinking that a virus would leave you alone because you voted for Trump is on brand for Republicans.
To anyone reading who thinks the Trump administration did the best they could, or that they were in fact “awesome,” GO FUCK YOURSELF. I will to my dying breath never let anyone forget the utter failure of the Trump administration, and the numerous dead who can point directly to Donald Fucking Trump as the person responsible for their deaths.
I’m not even up to May 2020 yet.
I’m a white guy who works insurance married to a white woman who’s an attorney. So please trust me when I say, I have not experienced discrimination in my life. The worst things I’ve experienced would not make anyone think , “That sucks, lets protest until it changes.”
I was already aware of how much the police suck having seen the Ferguson protests unfold on Twitter in 2014. I had seen many videos of police being terrible on Twitter in the years since but I was not ready for what came in 2020.
George Floyd... Fuck.
Too many people have lived their lives thinking they understand how the police work; when in fact they live such a privileged existence that they don’t even have to think about the police. What came next shocked Marie, but I was ready for it... the police rioted. Video after video after video after video after video after video after video after video after video of police officers arresting the press, running over people with their vehicles, tear gassing children, shooting people in the face with rubber bullets, fucking hell they even pushed an old man to the ground so hard his skull split open... and they did it all on camera.
Impunity. Its a word that describes a lot about 2020. The people who felt they could do whatever they wanted because rules didn’t apply to them. The police, Donald Fucking Trump, and COVID-deniers who wouldn’t wear a mask. Imagine their shock of being told that actions have consequences. You don’t have to actually, because so many of them were recorded lashing out at the world around them.
The heartlessness of so many people has been the hardest part of this last year. To quote a piece: “I don’t know how to explain to you that you should care about other people.” Which is a nice way of saying, the Republican Party is a death cult shit posting memes to social media for attention on the road to hell. If you’re in denial, I would point you to... all of 2020.
So we’re through spring and into summer now right? The election season is starting. You can’t hide from it by going to a movie theater, vacation, the mall, or anywhere really because you’re at home. Every day. At home. At least the sun is out, and you can sit on your porch and drink a beer. I didn’t want Biden to be the nominee, but honestly I’m not sure anyone else would have won because only Biden could run his campaign down the center lane.
Remember Trump got COVID? How surreal was it to watch him lumber into the hospital after a helicopter ride? There was moment where we all wondered if he’d die, and Pence would be the defacto candidate left on the ballot in November. If that had happened would Pence have gotten the sympathy vote and won?
I could spend another thousand words explaining how fucked up and utterly unfair our election systems are to all parties. Instead let me just say what a perfect microcosm the election was for the year as a whole. We went to bed thinking, “maybe Trump won?” Then got to spend another several days watching Donald Fucking Trump embarrass himself trying to claim victory as state after state announced Biden had won.
That embarrassment continued as court after court threw out baseless claims. It was like Trump wanted to lose as many times as possible in a single election. Seeing Rudy Gulliani in front of a gardening supply store with the press telling him the election had been called by all of the major networks, interrupting his lies, that was a highlight of the year. If it had stopped there instead of continuing to build towards the insurrection violence on 1/6 we could all be laughing now.
The election dramas were a distraction that kept you from thinking about how Thanksgiving was canceled. At least for anyone who didn’t want to catch or spread COVID19. Marie and I didn’t host or go anywhere, but we had wine and steaks. I wish more people had done the same. Instead cases jumped two weeks later and the deaths did a month later. Who were those people who ignored all the warnings?
This question is the one that eats at me. Those people who ignore warnings. Who ignore the bodies stacked up outside the morgues. Who ignore story after story on social media of people who’ve lost loved ones. Are these people ignorant, foolish, or delusional? I wish I understood them better.
Marie made me a cake for my birthday. It was leaps and bounds better than the bakery made cake I ordered for her birthday. Pandemic baking is one of a few bright spots of 2020. My personal opinion is that we should all just skip a year. No one had a birthday in 2020. We get a freebie on the age card. Sucks for the teenagers who were up for driver's licenses, but honestly they shouldn’t be driving anywhere anyway.
Christmas was the last holiday of the year and the most quiet. Marie and I put up the decorations inside for no one but ourselves. There’s a few video calls, and the traditional Christmas Eve viewing of Die Hard, but mostly its just us sitting around watching bad Christmas movies on Netflix. We don’t buy gifts for anyone but the niece and nephews. Just feels like there’s not really a need this year.
I’m not going to talk about the insurrection.
Biden’s inauguration was a breath of fresh air, but Amanda Gorman stole the whole day with her poem “The Hill We Climb.” I hope we get many such gifts from her in the coming years. It was what was needed after four years of watching a death cult burn everything in pursuit of power.
Covid fatigue has become our every day existence now as the anniversary of the apocalypse approaches. Everyone is feeling it and everyone is dealing with it as best they can. The group texts have gotten dusty. The video calls have become infrequent. The baking yeast is fermenting alone.
Case counts and deaths are down, but the world still feels small and dark right now. It always feels coldest in the last breath of winter before spring begins. I’ll leave you with this, remember this painful year if only to help spare future generations our mistakes.