Pat's View: 2020 is best summed up in one word
By Patrick Robinson
The year 2020 is best summed up in one word. Loss.
This year—and I honestly regret reminding you that it’s not over—has been unlike any other in memory or in history.
In 2020, we’ve lost 4.7 million acres of forest due to wildfires, which are continuing.
In 2020, we lost a lot of sea ice north of the Arctic Circle. As of Sept. 1, the Arctic sea ice expanse stood at 1.64 million square miles. If that sounds like a lot, it’s the second lowest expanse for that date since satellite-aided record-keeping began in 1979. By 2035, the current prediction is no ice at all at the top of our world! That’s just 15 years from now. The effect will be catastrophic on ocean salinity, the Gulf Stream, coastal water levels and much more.
In 2020, we’ve lost nearly 200,000 lives, due to COVID-19. I’m aware of all the counter arguments, like co-morbidity, the idea of herd immunity (which means we would need 60% of the population to be infected, which is four times the current level, and also would mean four times the deaths (800,000) so just please shut up about that). By year’s end, we will have seen well over 200,000 people die—so many of whom could have lived.
In 2020, As of July 24, 72,800 restaurants closed due to the pandemic and its economic effects. Current predictions are for as many any 160,000 to close before the end of the year.
In 2020, we lost a year of athletic participation at multiple levels, from youth soccer to college football. This year is gone and can’t be recovered.
In 2020, we lost faith in our ability as a nation to respond together to a national crisis. The amount of, type of and level of division in this nation is extremely damaging. In past national crises, we have put aside partisan politics to stand as one. This time, our pre-existing divisions have kept us from looking out for the common good, cast doubt on proven science and perpetuated the pandemic, even as we strive to find solutions.
In 2020, we lost our way regarding the use of force by police. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others by aggressive, angry, over-zealous, poorly trained and ill-equipped police officers has led to a long-overdue national reckoning. We can’t go forward like this any longer. Conversely, we can’t just slap numbers on slash-and-burn solutions, like defunding police. We clearly need law enforcement. But we need better training, better (and less lethal) equipment, better leadership (especially at the tactical level) and better approaches to policing. This must—and will—change.
In 2020, we (or many of us) lost our intolerance of dishonesty. While it’s true to some extent that politics is a game of shading the truth, hearing outright lies told over and over again has to be held to some kind of accounting. Lies promoted on social media and by various persuasions in conventional media have to be exposed and laid bare, too. The bias across the political spectrum—from MSNBC to FOX News—is not making us stronger, because their reports are highly curated versions of the truth. There must be a better, less angled more centrist kind of truth-telling that is meticulously fact checked and presented. Extremism on either side only leads to more discontent and division.
In 2020, we lost an incredible number of live music, theater, dance and other performance arts. If you think that doesn’t matter much, you’d be wrong. Not only are the arts a huge part of what makes life enjoyable, but they propel an ocean of commerce in the form of ticket and merchandise sales and funding that keeps those artists alive. The effects of this loss have been devastating for many performers and artists.
And what have we gained?
A respect for how contagious viruses can be.
A love for our homes and what they represent.
An appreciation for frontline essential workers.
An understanding that remote work is still work and can keep us all going.
A clear vision that voting really does matter.
A recognition that some things we might have enjoyed (like movie theaters) are really not that necessary.
What do you think we’ve lost or gained in 2020?
I would also like to add we have a newfound respect for our educators who are working through very difficult conditions to try to navigate our children’s education.
The arts community, from symphony to dance to theater, has been absolutely devastated by Covid-19. Thousands of musicians, actors, stage hands, administrative personnel, have been furloughed, and most free-lancers have had trouble accessing relief funds, even if they are available. .
Then there is the emotional and psychological toll of not being able to perform and see each other, not on Zoom, but in the flesh. Their lives have simply stopped and the word "devastating" simply doesn't do it justice.
I also miss the absence of intellectualism, the frank, honest exchange of ideas and opinions without being herded into an ideological, or political pen. it seems everything and everyone - past and and present - has been conscripted into furthering a particular political agenda.
I miss the loss of decency, too. I am still trying to reconcile the irreconcilable, that the most unseemly accusations hurled at political opponents - our neighbors, even - have come from those who consider themselves the compassionate, the rational, the self-described "enlightened" among us. It makes me think of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge's warning that impassioned beliefs can lead to angry intolerance. We all should heed that advice.
Take it easy on each other out there, life isn't easy.