There is no way for us to know how future historians will look back on these dramatic and tumultuous times we find ourselves living in. We should know, by now, that they won’t be kind.
As I write this, smoke from runaway wildfires on the west coast hangs in the sky above Toronto. Meanwhile, stronger and more frequent hurricanes barrage the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. Yet, the urgent and worrying problem of climate change doesn’t even rate among the top three crises this year.
The year will be best remembered for the COVID-19 pandemic. It has caused the greatest global recession since the Great Depression. SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the pandemic, has so far killed nearly one million people worldwide.
Yet, there is a significant, vocal contingent, both in the United States and here in Canada, who believe everything I just wrote above is an elaborate hoax or conspiracy. What they find most offensive is the idea that, to help contain the virus’ spread, we should all wear some type of covering over our mouth and nose when in public, which they, in response, absolutely refuse to do, leading to the deaths of others who encounter them, and the further, uncontrollable spread of the virus.
The second thing this year will be remembered for will be the result of the upcoming presidential election, happening next month in the United States. The incumbent is Donald Trump, a man who has so thoroughly mismanaged his country’s response to this virus as to leave the rest of the world to conclude the United States’ hopes of containing it are a total lost cause, leaving borders closed to Americans for the foreseeable future.
While Joe Biden may not be anyone’s first choice as an alternative to Donald Trump, the answer of who would best lead the country out of this mess of those two options should be obvious to all.
Yet, there is a significant, vocal contingent who believe Biden is part of a global conspiracy that involves Jeffrey Epstein, pizza parlours and kidnapping children in the night. They believe Trump – a man who called Jeffrey Epstein a “terrific guy” – is, somehow, the leader who will protect them from this conspiracy.
The third thing this year will be remembered for is the wave of protests in response to the horrific murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin. Before Floyd’s murder, countless other Black Americans had been summarily executed by police officers, including – but not limited to – Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice – a 12-year-old boy playing in the street – and Breonna Taylor, who was shot by eight police officers conducting a “no knock” warrant on the wrong home. Jacob Blake, recently shot seven times in the back as he walked to his car, his children inside, was fortunate to survive his encounter with police, though at the cost of becoming paralyzed from the waist down.
The protests of 2020 have demanded that Floyd’s death – among the countless others – be the catalyst for desperately needed reform of police departments in the United States, as well as here in Canada, to deal with what are not isolated incidents or “bad apples” but systemic issues with racism and abuses of power and authority.
The response by police departments to these protests has been heavy handed, militarized and violent, only further making the case for why such reform is necessary.
Yet, there is a significant, vocal contingent, both in the United States and here in Canada, who believe that saying “Black lives matter” is a threat to their way of life. The contrarian replies of “all lives matter” suggests “Black lives matter” is a call for a different kind of supremacy, rather than a reaction to police officers who clearly believe the opposite.
Over and over again, we see evidence that there is a significant minority who live in their own reality. A reality defined for them by anonymous social media posts. A reality that does not require citation, facts or sources. A reality that tells them anyone who disagrees with them is wrong, stupid or, worse, a threat.
They have been conditioned by social media to believe that sources do not matter, so long as we are being told what we want to hear: If someone whose politics I don’t agree with says something, it must be wrong. Therefore, there is no virus, there is no racism against Black people by the police and Donald Trump is doing an excellent job.
But none of those things are true.
History cares about facts. The facts are that people are dead, and more are dying every day.
History will not be sympathetic to those of us who rejected facts because we were busy scoring points on our ideological enemies.
Now, more than ever, we need well-funded journalism to help us separate the facts from fiction.
And, hopefully, to help us in bringing some of our fellow citizens back to reality.
We may not know what’s ahead, but I look forward to REM, in our own small way, being a part of that solution.