I was sick of it at first. After Donald Trump won the election in 2016, I couldn’t stand to look at my dumb newsfeed. The dumping on Trump was just overbearing. Don’t get me wrong. I agreed with every vengeful, depressed, angry, inconsolable word. The guy ascended to the highest office in the land by demonizing minorities and promising tax breaks for the 1%. That he got his ass handed to him by President-elect Joe Biden made me happier than every one of Santa’s elves on Dec. 26. My problem was that with all of this venom directed toward a single politician, a non-local figure, were my friends and “friends” going to forget about the problems in our own state? In our own cities? In our own school districts?
Who knows! I sure don’t because unless you’re also friends/“friends” with everyone I’m friends/“friends” with, we will remain in the dark. I check my newsfeed once a day, purely to see if anyone’s talking shit on me (you have no idea), and after that, I forget about it. Mark Zuckerberg knows enough about me, and you, to take advantage of us until well after we’re dead, and contributing to his psychologically, often financially predatory behavior by liking and sharing stuff seems self-destructive at the least, world-ending at most. An evil twat who looks like that guy behind you in Biology 2 who kept failing at secretly picking his nose, Fuckerberg is one of the biggest reasons local journalism barely exists anymore. Why bother reading vetted articles from professional writers — “So long!” “So many words!” —when you can just kick back, put your feet up, and bask in Uncle Ronny’s political screeds. Enjoy your time in techno-hell, goofballs!
I know of only a couple people who masked up and marched this summer, and that’s either a statement about who I’ve become as an old, married suburban dad or an indication that Fort Worth is another planet. Except for two or three of them, most of my friends/“friends” who rallied for justice in 2020 are Black. I know 99.9% of them through either my young Black son (friends’ families) or the local hip-hop scene. Whatever I’m doing, it isn’t enough. Whatever my friends/“friends” are doing isn’t enough, either. Should I tell them now or wait until after they read this, when they “unfriend” me? Haha. Please. By all means. Put me out of my miserable misery.
I wouldn’t say that the U.S. presidential election was the biggest national story of 2020 — the pandemic is definitely bigger — only that it was the only one that my healthy self can talk about from experience. To be totally honest, I was scared. I was shitting my pants over four more years of hatred, bigotry, and us-versus-them animosity. I was way more afraid of another Trump presidency than I was of COVID but mostly because I could control where I went and what I did. Unlike voting. Which seems so meaningless. One little tiny ballot in a sea of them? It’s hard not to become a little woe’s-me about that. I still did it, naturally, still waited in line with my mask on, went into that booth with my fingers on fire, and I still checked all the right little boxes. I just spent the past two months checking (natch) my Apple newsfeed every other 30 seconds anticipating some new, fresh, Donald Trump-created hell to set us back another 50 years. That’s all. Just a 49-year-old adult male nervously pounding Molson Goldens, rocking back and forth like a grandpa on bathtub-meth, and refreshing his newsfeed as quickly as if pedaling a bike uphill. Nothing to see here.
Am I still checking my Apple newsfeed constantly? Not nearly as much, I’m happy to say. The months leading up to the election went by so fast, March seems like two days ago. I had lucked out in many many-splendored ways. In mid-February, my wife and I had just returned from Italy, specifically Venice, a COVID hotspot unbeknownst to us and where I caught the worst case of food poisoning anyone’s ever had, the worst ever, ask anyone, they’ll tell you, everyone says, it was the worst. Or was it something else that had me throwing up into the toilet of our hotel room all night long? At this point, I may have heard the term “novel coronavirus” once or twice. That’s it.
And in March, my son and I had just returned from a spring break trip to my hometown of Pittsburgh when Texas and nearly every other state went into lockdown. I guess you could say I’m also lucky that no one in my family has caught the virus. *knocks on wood* There’s that, too.
Throughout the year, most of my beliefs were reassured. Of course, the Republican-controlled Senate cleared Trump of two impeachment charges. Of course, his lack of leadership at the beginning of the pandemic cost hundreds of thousands of lives and 20 million jobs. Of course, police shot and killed a young Black woman, Breonna Taylor, at her home. Of course, Trumpers defied stay-at-home orders, essentially sacrificing themselves for his reelection. (Cult much, folks?) Of course, police killed a Black man, George Floyd, for passing a counterfeit note. Of course, an established culture of sexual assault and a history of violence at an Army base led to the murder of one young woman, Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén. Of course, the man we needed the most in Congress, John Lewis, died, and of course, the woman we needed the most on the U.S. Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, also passed away. Of course, her dying wish that she not be replaced until after a new president was installed was trashed by Trump, who appointed a Christian zealot to the bench. Of course, the president of the United States of America was asked to denounce white supremacists and replied by telling the asshole Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” Of course, this year is to be forgotten.
There’s a little game I play with myself: If I don’t want something to happen, I imagine all the ways in which it can, knowing that the universe cannot be wrangled, that it cannot be bent to our whims. Playing the game with myself this year, I realized I should start playing the frickin’ Lotto. Most of the crap that I expected to happen did. And I guarantee you I’m not the only personal doomsayer. Show of hands: How many of you expected a Trump landslide? (That’s the only thing I got right. You’re welcome.)
The election was not, necessarily, about Biden’s victory. No one I know who thinks like me is ecstatic that yet another wealthy seventysomething white guy is now in charge. We are giddy, instead, that the misogynistic, racist wannabe dictator is going bye-bye — despite his best efforts to stay in power like we’re a Pacific island nation. He has tried every legal trick to overturn the will of We, the People, and judges have rejected him like Mutombo in the paint. Uh, uh, uh! Even if by some miracle he had been able to change the outcome of one swing state, it would not have been enough to change the entire election that he lost by 74 electoral votes and more than 7 million popular votes. Having never been to prison but having watched Oz, I can understand Donnie’s reluctance to concede. From what I understand, there’s no McDonald’s in the clink, either.
I’m as guilty as most of my friends/“friends” of not doing enough, of neither protesting nor registering voters. Being the father of a special needs 9-year-old, I can only fire off what little money I have to good causes, and if the never-ending stream of Act Blue emails crowding my inbox is to be believed, I’m making some kind of difference. Hey, 81,283,485 Joe Biden voters can’t be wrong. (You’re welcome. Again.)
As I was writing this, my wife lay sick in bed in the next room (probably allergies) while my son and I sat at the dinner table together, him in front of a plate of homemade meatloaf, couscous, and pea salad and me with my infernal laptop in my face. Between bites, he asked what I was working on. I told him a special issue about all that was good and bad about 2020. He asked why.
“Honestly, my man,” I replied, “I have no idea. Maybe because people like to remember stuff and know that they got over it or through it?”
“Yeah,” he answered, chewing. “That way, they can learn from it.”
Great point, little dude. What we have learned, if anything at all, will take a couple of months to figure out. In the meantime, you can catch me ignoring all of your online comments. (Screw you, Zuck.)