2020: The worst year since...

2020: The worst year since...

Is 2020 is “the worst year ever”? asked Stephanie Zacharek in Time.com. “Most of us alive today have seen nothing like this one.” Not since the spread of fascism in the 1930s “have we been faced with so many abnormal events that have been so egregiously distorted by aberrant leadership.

” We witnessed “apocalyptic” wildfire devastation in California, watched George Floyd’s life gruesomely snuffed out by Minneapolis police, and saw a presidential election “contested on the basis of fantasy.” Above all, we’ve suffered because of a virus that’s killed 1.5 million, destroyed millions of livelihoods, and upended “the lives of virtually everyone on the planet.” Isolated in our bubbles, we’ve looked out “at a world that seemed to be falling apart.” It was bad, said Robert Allison in the Charleston, S.C., Post and Courier, but when it comes to worst, it’s not even a contender. Take 1919, after World War I killed 20 million and devastated Europe, when the death toll of the Spanish flu epidemic reached 50 million. Or 1968, when MLK Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were gunned down, America’s cities burned, a losing war in Vietnam divided the nation, and the Hong Kong flu killed a million. 

Then there’s 1942, said Richard Chin in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “the year of the Bataan death march, the deadliest months of the Holocaust, and the beginning of the battle of Stalingrad.” Or any year of the Civil War. Or consider 536, when a volcanic eruption in Iceland sent a dark cloud over Europe and Asia that caused “plunging temperatures, crop failures,” and millions of starvation deaths. “In the long scheme of human suffering over the ages, we ain’t seen nothing.” Yes, 2020 was rough, said Daniel Riley in GQ.com, but “for so many aspects of life that needed changing, the pandemic was an accelerant.” It opened the door to new ways of working, and with car and plane traffic way down, it “offered a trial run” on reducing carbon emissions. 

We had a “long-overdue reckoning” with our policing, and “reimagined our cities,” with streets closed to traffic and outdoor dining flourishing. We learned to value what matters. In the future we may look back on 2020 not as a relentless slog of misfortune, but as “the year the future was born.”