• Sona Chaturvedi

The Year That Changed America

Most of us alive today have never seen anything like 2020, and we probably never will again. Simply put, it was the year from hell. It is an understatement to say we were tested. While it is true that the last four years have been an abomination, these last 12 months took the proverbial cake. How can anyone even put this in perspective? There will surely be countless books, songs, movies, plays and poems that will search for the right words to describe this era, but it will be difficult to do it justice. We saw it all in 2020. We looked on in horror at escalating violence, racism, science-denialism, the widespread emergence of conspiracy thinking and right-wing pundits making their myriad of mendacious claims. More than 350,000 of our friends, family and neighbors needlessly died. Yes, it was preventable. Maybe not all of it, but if we had a leader who had an ounce of empathy and thought about anything but his reelection, the worst of this pandemic could have been averted. The crisis is far from over as we head into 2021, and the death toll continues to mount hourly. During this past year, we asked ourselves so many somber questions. How can we deal with this loss of life? A Russian puppet in the White House? The hate? The economic inequality? The homelessness and the poverty? We were on the verge of completely unraveling. But, we didn’t. Instead, political diversity took a giant leap forward. The first openly gay presidential candidate ran and even won the Iowa caucuses. We had a record number of women run for Congress and president. America, for the first time, is about to have a Black and Asian-American, biracial, female vice president. Something else happened that can’t be overlooked.

We showed up. When our democracy was in peril, more than 81 million of us heard the call and did something about it. Joe Biden received more votes than any other presidential candidate in U.S. history. We saw what was happening to our country, and we wanted to save it. We stood in long lines in the middle of a global pandemic. We voted, we marched, we demonstrated, we formed the resistance, we loved and we hated at times. We organized together to protect our democracy. We will be remembered as being on the right side of history. Historian Jon Meacham noted that times of fundamental change are fun to read about, but they are not always so great to live through. For those of us who did, we are grateful. And we will never forget those who didn’t make it to the other side. Not ever. We owe it to them to carry on our fight and define what our new “normal” will be. Since no book, movie or TV drama will ever capture what it was like to live through this terrible year, we have nothing but our memories to pass along. The world may never know our names, but we made a difference. Now that’s cause for celebration.