MMXX: Annus Horribilis
Farewell to a plague year.
TWENTY-TWENTY began with such promise: the looming impeachment trial of Donald John Trump. As the ball dropped in Times Square last New Year’s Eve—with not one of the thousands of gathered revelers wearing an N95 mask!—we were waiting for the House to deliver the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. That finally took place on January 16.
If we can pinpoint the exact moment when 2020 went off the rails, it was when custody of impeachment passed from Nancy Pelosi’s well-manicured hands to the purple clutches of Mitch McConnell.
Things went south in a hurry after that. The rest of January saw Senate Republicans make a mockery of the impeachment trial, refusing to allow witnesses. The traitor Rand “Red” Paul attempted several times to out the whistleblower. Chief Justice John Roberts, who I used to admire, forever tarnished his reputation by presiding over this farce like a checked-out dad at the playground, too busy with his phone to stop his kids from roughhousing in the sandbox. While this was happening, Great Britain formally withdrew from the European Union—a great success for Putin and his BREXIT op.
It was a rough month for patriots. Even the capital-P Patriots had a bad January, falling to the Titans in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs. During that month, the retired basketball great Kobe Bryant died with one of his daughters in a helicopter crash, which cast a pall over the sports world, and seemed an ill omen in general.
Oh, and five days after Pelosi handed the impeachment baton to Moscow Mitch, the first case of covid-19 in the United States was diagnosed, in Washington State. In my mind, those two events—impeachment and pandemic—are inseparable: two sides to the same tortured Kandinsky painting that is 2020.
February was no better. Trump was acquitted by GOP traitors, with only Mitt Romney voting to remove him. The high point of the month, if not the whole year, was Pelosi ripping up Trump’s idiotic State of the Union Address.
In March, the world came to a screeching halt. Tom Hanks got covid. The NBA suspended play. All of the sudden, a pandemic that had felt fantastical, like something we were only watching on TV, became real. All of the sudden, it was on. And it has been ever since, despite the denials of maskless MAGA politicians like the late Herman Cain and Luke Letlow, the 41-year-old Congressman-elect who died this week of covid-19 complications.
As a novelist, it’s hard not to read 2020 as a fable, a parable, a cautionary tale. There is something Biblical in the obduracy of the GOP, the staunch Republican refusal to do right by the country—ever! for any reason!—because…abortion, I guess? Tax cuts? Lib’rul tears? As Old Testament fare, it reads like this:
For three years, the Orange Pharaoh reigned over his people, sowing chaos, enriching himself and his family and friends, capitulating to the dictates of the nation’s enemies, proclaiming himself the Messiah. The god-fearing people prayed to the Almighty for salvation from this odious monster. At last, the People’s Representatives contrived, by the grace of God, to remove him—but the corrupt, retrograde Senators refused to even consider doing so, and acquitted the Orange Pharaoh.
That act of hubris activated a curse. Plague swept across the land, killing hundreds of thousands, infecting millions—including some of the Senators, and even the Orange Pharaoh himself! But he did not die. Only the will of the people could remove the Orange Pharaoh, and they elected to do so that fall. But the curse was not yet lifted. The god-fearing people had to wait a full year for their deliverance. This was to punish the Senators and the Orange Pharaoh for their many sins.
Absent the Book of Exodus language, the narrative is no less a tale of woe: In January, the country was given a chance to oust the useless criminal fraud in the White House. Corrupt Republican Senators, representing a minority of Americans, opted to leave the wastrel in office. Almost immediately, the pandemic presented the overmatched president with a public health crisis, the likes of which the country had not seen in over a hundred years. Trump responded by sabotaging any attempt to stop the spread, installing his Gimp as head of the coronavirus task force, and allowing his son-in-law, Acting President Jared Kushner, to play politics with people’s lives. The result: mass death—a Blue State genocide—because Kushner did not act to save his family in New Jersey and California, or his friends and neighbors in New York. Trump himself toured the country at a series of rallies, spreading the virus wherever he went. After the election, as millions suffered, Trump abandoned any idea of managing the crisis. Instead, he went golfing.
Covid-19 was an Act of God, but its spread was preventable. In New Zealand, where the prime minister is a woman, the virus has been all but eradicated. In the United States, where the president is a serial rapist, we are losing 3,500 Americans a day to the disease. By Inauguration Day, it will have killed more Americans than the Second World War.
The good news, as we bid the plague year adieu, is that there is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. The president’s overt racism sparked a new civil rights movement in 2020. Voters, sick and tired of Trump, shattered records at the ballot box to remove him. Courts shot down every attempt to invalidate the election results. On January 20—no matter what procedural hijinks human dildo Josh Hawley pulls on January 6—Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in. The country will once again have a functional federal government. Their first task will be to mass produce and distribute the vaccine—yet another thing the Trump Administration, with its failed Operation Warp Speed, intentionally botched, as a final “fuck you” to the American people he swore on Lincoln’s Bible to protect. (The actual Lincoln’s Bible, obviously; not my pseudonymous friend).
This time next year, with any luck, we will remember the Biden inauguration and the vaccine distribution effort as inextricably linked—as we now recall the Senate acquitting Trump and the first covid-19 outbreaks in the U.S. as more or less simultaneous events.
Obviously it will take Joe and Kamala a few months to right the ship. January and February may well be the worst months of the pandemic in the United States. But years from now—I’m sure of this—we will speak of 2020-21 like this: “Remember when Trump was president, and everyone was sick and dying, and then Biden became president, and just like that, we were all better?”
That is what this New Year will bring: happier, healthier days; an end to our national trauma; a re-commitment to our democratic values; recovery, in every sense of the word; a new hope. Three hundred sixty four days from now, revelers will once again gather maskless in Times Square, shoulder to shoulder, singing, dancing, and, when the ball drops on 2021, hugging perfect strangers—and unlike in years past, no one will take that simple act of communion for granted.
As the Pharaoh says in The Ten Commandments: “So it is written, so it shall be done.”
Happy New Year!
Photo credit: Yul Brenner in The Ten Commandments.