2020 YEAR IN REVIEW | Don Rickers, Journalist

This year in the rear-view mirror

There is an old proverb that “hindsight is 20/20,” meaning that we have perfect vision and understanding when looking back on occurrences. The expression is usually a retort, an excuse really, to an admonishment after having made a bad decision.

And let’s face it. In 2020, we made a lot of bad decisions.

Where to start?

COVID-19 is as good a place as any. Governments were slow to react to the dangerous virus from Wuhan, and it spread like wildfire. People adopted safety protocols with varying degrees of conviction, and conspiracy theories abounded, which eroded trust in our political institutions, and in each other. Medical facilities were quickly overwhelmed, and the body count spiraled upwards. Last time I checked we were at 1.65 million dead (14,000 in Canada), and it’s far from over, folks.

The restrictions and lockdowns have seriously damaged global economies, gutted the job market, and decimated the meager savings of many families. Unemployment was at its highest level since the Great Depression. Income inequality got worse, and corporate profits at Amazon, Walmart, Microsoft, and Apple went through the roof as big tech got even bigger.

Some components of our economy may never fully return to normal…that’s the sad reality.

Think airlines, hotels, food and beverage services, the motion picture industry, education, retail stores, oil and gas. They were all hard-hit by the pandemic, and face a tumultuous business environment for the foreseeable future.

Working from home in the pandemic became the new reality for many, which was good news for pets, as rescues and adoptions soared. Greenhouse gas emissions actually dropped, as travel and industry slowed. Hurricanes and wildfires set records, and NASA said we endured the hottest year on the planet since 1880, when weather recordkeeping commenced.

The top infectious disease expert in America, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says 85 percent of the population need to be vaccinated to achieve “herd immunity,” and 60 percent would be the threshold in order to start bringing case numbers down to a manageable level. In Canada, our government and medical authorities are fast-tracking the roll-out of vaccines, which were developed in record time.

Fauci told the press he won’t be seeing his own kids this Christmas, in order to minimize potential transmission of the virus. He has urged others to make the same painful choice, and shrink their bubble.

It was impossible not to be drawn into the melodrama south of the border. With the highest voter turnout in more than a century, Donald J. Trump (aka Orange Julius, Trumplethinskin, the Tangerine Tornado) lost an election, or had it stolen (his version). In the process, his divisive rhetoric polarized America like never before. More than a month later, most of the staunchest Republicans have come to terms with the fact that Joe Biden will soon be President, having received approval of the Electoral College. Even Vladimir Putin has called Joe to offer congratulations.

 Of course, there’s still one very noticeable holdout. Trump himself hasn’t conceded. From one Donald to another: this is the opportunity to polish your golf game full-time. Go-go to Mar-a-lago.

I worry about the most powerful country in the world being run primarily by old men, and was glad to see Biden chose an accomplished, middle aged woman, and one of colour, to be his VP.

We rely on a strong relationship with our American cousins, and not simply because tens of thousands of us escape the Canadian winters to bath in the sunshine of Phoenix, Boca Raton, and Myrtle Beach. But as PM Pierre Trudeau commented during a Washington DC visit 50 years ago: “Living next door to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.” The elephant has been especially cranky this year, and Canada-US relations need a serious reset.

2020 was a year of anti-racism protests, of Black Lives Matter, on both sides of the border. Microsoft computer experts confirmed that evil techies from Russia, China, and Iran have been hacking us, including attempts to manipulate the US presidential election. Malware and Ransomware seem to be ever-present. If I was a college student right now, my major would be cybersecurity. It’s a ticket to a guaranteed, high-paying job.

Most mornings, it was hard to open up my Macbook and not read news reports of pain and suffering around the globe. War and famine are a constant presence in dozens of countries, like Sudan, Somalia, and Iraq, and others you likely haven’t heard of, or can’t pronounce. Indians and Pakistanis are still fighting in Kashmir, like they’ve been doing since 1948. Almost 8000 died in Mexico this year due to drug wars amongst the cartels. And close to 20,000 have been killed or died of disease or malnutrition in that “graveyard of empires” called Afghanistan.

Closer to home, Pelham observed the passing of respected councillor Mike Ciolfi, and in the by-election that followed, overwhelming chose Wayne Olson as his successor, a man of similar gravitas. Residents continued to worry about higher taxation and urban intensification, bemoaning the perceived loss of the municipality’s small-town vibe. Citizens were appalled at the tragic death of Earle Clapp in a senseless crime, and rallied to support his family, because that’s what good neighbours do.

Amongst all the tragedy in 2020, there were countless acts of valour, compassion, dignity, sacrifice, discovery, and understanding. And glimmers of hope as well. We have gone through life-changing events this past year, and have the scars to prove it. Life can indeed be fragile.

 I am hopeful that this holiday season will provide some sense of respite. A time to pause, reflect, and ultimately celebrate our individual and collective blessings. For even in a pandemic, we have much for which to be thankful.