This has been a year so bad even the humorists are failing us. Dave Barry has been writing laugh-out-loud funny newspaper columns for four decades, but his review of 2020 in last weekend’s Washington Post was a dud.
Most of us cannot find anything amusing about the year. For many, 2020 always will be the lost year.
First and foremost, of course, are the deaths of more than 330,000 fellow Americans lost to the raging coronavirus pandemic, and the toll is continuing to grow at an alarming rate. These losses will continue into 2021, until the COVID-19 vaccine can break the pandemic.
Another 20 million Americans lost days, weeks or even months to the pandemic while they suffered with the disease, whether at home or in the hospital. Their losses might continue to grow in the new year as well, since we do not know how long the aftereffects last.
Millions more lost their livelihood. We still have 20 million unemployed. Hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs have lost their businesses and their dreams. Shops, factories, restaurants, bars — many are gone. In Maryland alone, the comptroller reported this month that more than 11,000 businesses closed this year.
Thousands of people lost their homes because they could not afford to pay the rent. And where federal and state governments put a moratorium on evictions, landlords were faced with huge losses in income from those unpaid rents.
Millions of children effectively lost a year of school, a year of learning. Remote learning can work for some kids, but not all, and especially not those who have a poor internet connection or none at all. Parents who were unprepared to teach at home found it very difficult to learn on the fly, and their kids paid a price.
If you were able to work from home, the financial toll of the pandemic was minimal. If you were already wealthy, you probably got richer.
But people in most service work — in grocery stores, post offices, prisons and especially in hospitals – had to show up at their place of employment or quit. Thousands went to work in the worst of times — and have paid with their lives.
For people trying to stay safe and avoid COVID-19, it has been a bleak and lonely year, without concerts, theater, movies, sporting events or other mass amusements.
We have given up most human contact to keep ourselves safe. No hugging friends, no indoor visits, no parties, no happy gatherings of family or friends. Thanksgiving? Christmas? Mere shadows of Christmas Past.
We go into 2021 badly beaten down.
But wait. All is not lost. This year is very likely to see the end of the pandemic. Let that idea roll around in your head.
We are assured by scientists that the deaths and suffering will abate as the vaccinations take hold and roll back the tide of virus. Our scientists have created the means to save us.
Beyond that, we will not have another bitter and ugly presidential campaign to endure. It will not be all sweetness and light in the political world, but politics will be less all-consuming for most people.
As we look toward the future, we hope for leaders that recognize what we have gone through as a people and that they will take this opportunity to prepare well for the next time a pandemic explodes. Because we have been warned that there will be a next time.
In the not-too-distant future, though, we will be able to gather again with our families and friends, at house parties, birthdays, concerts, sports events. Perhaps we will resume traveling.
We should have learned some lessons from this terrible experience. Chief among them: No one now alive should ever take for granted again the kiss of a child or grandchild, or the encircling arms of a friendly hug, or the warmth of quiet conversation with a group of friends sharing wine and a crackling fire. Such simple human pleasures are to be savored.
As 2021 dawns, our hope for all of us is for a better, safer, more stable year. Let us rebuild our country, our economy and our lives from this terrible pandemic.