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  • Justin Zimmerman, AIT

A Reflection on the Year

2020 has been, in a word, a year. Even now, I can still remember the simpler times of January, when we had, in no particular order here, only possible war with Iran, an entire Presidential impeachment, and, worst of all, midterms to worry about. From there, it only took around one global pandemic resulting in hundreds of thousands of American deaths, a particularly exhausting election cycle, nearly 30 named hurricanes and tropical storms, threats of economic recession, extended protesting and rioting following continued incidents of police brutality, international lockdown and unrest, various SCOTUS-related controversies, and the concept of Tiger King to get us to where we are now, and even then, we still have to survive through December. Great.

But the real, hard truth is that these aren’t random, indiscriminate tragedies that characterize one bad year. 2020 has absolutely nothing to do with it, and more 2020s will continue to happen whether we like it or not. Almost everything that has happened this year that people are so quick to dismiss as “2020 rearing its ugly head again” is the natural, logical product of larger endemic problems that have been around far longer than Dec. 31st, 2019, 11:59. Every political problem is a result of a divided and fundamentally flawed bipartisan system that is rotted to its core with greed and has blazé disregard for constituency. The current health crisis and its global fallout, in turn, are a product of that political repression turned against science, in much the same way that this summer’s phenomenon of police brutality is that very repression turned against the American people, along the deep scars of racial lines. Many of these problems begin far before even the current administration, with decades-old issues of climate change and civil rights having been kicked down the road between political generations with little actionable change. To dismiss these patterns as “a bad year” instead of being symptomatic of broader issues is, frankly, an incredibly dangerous coping mechanism that fails to address these root causes.

At the same time, however, even in circles that recognize this, there has been a concerning tendency to shame the desire for a return to normalcy. After all, if these problems existed before, then going back to normal means doing so without dismantling them, right? But what gets missed by this conclusion is that even if the issues causing them are completely expected, we still very much are living through incredibly difficult times. I don’t know a single person who prefers where we are now to any arbitrary alternative where a plague isn’t ravaging the United States, where humanitarian issues aren’t still playing out in front of us, where it isn’t also a close, decisive and historic election year. Arguably, wanting that past normalcy back is almost a sign of sanity.

The discussion that instead needs to happen is, when everything is said and done, and the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31st, 2020, what can be done to avoid it all happening again and how can individuals and communities on all scales come together to meaningfully decide the future by addressing the unresolved issues of the past for a collective better tomorrow. And if that future is one without a Tiger King, then by all means count me in.

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