09 Sep What I Will Tell My Daughter About 2020
Wildfire smoke and the marine layer combined to render the sky shades of orange, red and sepia across the Bay Area on Wednesday. (Denis Perez-Bravo / Richmond Pulse)
Commentary, Donny Lumpkins
My daughter is 3 now, going on 4. This is what I will tell her about these times, the dumpster fire that was 2020.
I will tell her about the Black heroes we lost, among them Kobe Bryant and Chadwick Boseman. I will tell her about how police killed an innocent woman in her home and how many other unarmed Black men and women were killed at the hands of the police. But when she asks why, I will not have an answer.
I have no answer for anything these days, and I doubt hindsight will be 20/20 for 2020. We will all just look back and mourn. I will tell her about the race riots that scorched parts of the country to rubble. And how extremism possessed the nation’s people and turned them wicked.
I’ll tell her about how at the beginning of the year, rising tensions in the world threatened World War III. Australia burned seemingly to the ground due to global warming. And California had so many fires, we had to wear two masks — one for the smoke and one for COVID-19, the pandemic that threatened all but especially the most vulnerable of us. I’ll tell her that for months we didn’t leave the house, and when we did, we covered our faces. And that there was a vocal minority who thought this pandemic was a hoax and made it a partisan issue when, in actuality, COVID did not care what side you’re on: If you caught it, you could die just the same.
I’ll tell her that people hoarded supplies and left many without things they needed, including hand sanitizer and basic toiletries. That the pandemic brought out the worst in people and, for some of us, it brought out the best.
I’ll tell her throughout all this madness we found moments of joy. A silver lining in the storm. Small things that kept us sane. A glass of wine, the smell of homemade sourdough bread. The virtual embrace of a loved one and the promise that things will return to normal someday. We played Animal Crossing in our PJs. We hunkered down, stayed at home, and tried to keep each other safe.
But beyond our four walls, the world was coming down around us. We were not prepared for this pandemic, and our leaders failed to act, so it hit us like a tidal wave. The deaths began in the tens, then the hundreds, and soon the thousands. The sick, the dying and the dead overwhelmed hospitals. Dead bodies were piled into refrigerated trucks. We were unable to visit those of us who were sick for fear of spreading the virus. The economy slowed to a halt and millions lost their jobs in a matter of days.
On top of all this, it was an election year and the nation was more divided than ever — racially, economically and politically. Many believed America’s leadership was negligent, at best, and downright evil, at worst. The illusion of unbiased media had fallen and people lived in their own echo chambers surrounded by others who had the same beliefs. They vilified the opposition and things turned violent. It felt like all-out war. Americans killed by Americans on American streets. Families were split, not only by the pandemic but also by ideologies. And for what? Political power, for the soul of our nation, or for the very few elites to divide and conquer the masses?
We became jaded and angry, unwilling to see any side but our own. The far left and the far right battled like it was a new Civil War. And the rest of us watched as the U.S. we loved turned into a hellscape. It was no surprise that a meteor was expected to pass Earth the day before the election.
I’ll tell her the future we wanted for her was in more jeopardy than ever before. Though we could not see the light at the end of the tunnel, we still believed and had faith that it was there.
I hope I can tell her that when it felt like all was lost, we dug deep and found something we didn’t know we had. I hope I can tell her the world she lives in is the result of the tumultuous times that we lived through and improved on. I hope I can tell her we found common ground and learned to love one another, even if we disagreed. I hope I can tell her that for every person who died because of COVID or at the hands of the police or otherwise, there was a spark of love planted in someone’s heart.
I hope I can tell her the world is not a bad place filled with bad people but a good place filled with good people who want it to be better. I’ll tell her we got through this crazy time by relying on each other. Even though we had to love from a distance, it grew.
I’ll tell her that 2020 was the worst year of our lives, but we got through it together and that means we can get through anything. I’ll tell her that our future is not guaranteed, so give people flowers while they can still smell them. Because she is only 3, I don’t know when we will have this conversation, but when we do, I will tell her to remember to wash her hands.