The signs that 2020 was going to be a year of turmoil started merely three days after the start of the new year with the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, sparking a very tense standoff between Iran and the United States. I remember vividly the remarks on social media, made somewhat in jest, that 2020 was going to be a chaotic year given its rough start. Not long after this series of events, news of the Coronavirus became much more prevalent, with the number of cases increasing exponentially each day in affected countries, and I wondered how long it would take to see those numbers here in the United States. I even bought a few packs of the N95 masks being sold at my job right before the Spring semester just in case things got bad here. My fears soon proved valid as classes went online, and I didn’t expect us to be back for the rest of the semester. As for my job, we promptly adopted safety measures and were forced to close the store to the public and rely on curbside pickup. Because I was technically an essential employee, I had the opportunity to see how COVID was affecting my area and the people in my community when I wasn’t behind closed doors during quarantine.
It was shocking to me to see how quickly the whole world could change. At present these sorts of things feel like the norm to me, but I remember how badly I just wanted to do my usual routine again. Time flew during this period, and soon the semester had ended, and just as quick the summer seemed to fly by. The summer was of course marked by nationwide protests over the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. This was the point at which I think America came out of the lull left by shutdowns and quarantine. This reawakening of the country was not one of celebration, but anger at broken systems and the subsequent reaction to the demands for change. This tension wasn’t one that was just seen on television or the internet, but one which manifested into every aspect of daily life.
As we’ve entered into the end of election season, the mark of the protests is clearly seen. Many seem to be fearful that however the election ends, we won’t see an end to the civil tension and violence that have been growing as of late. Simple counterprotests have turned into street brawls and shootings. Recently, plots by far-right groups to spark violence have been uncovered by the FBI. To me, these sorts of events, especially at the rate they have been occurring, signals to me, and I suspect to much of America, that we have entered a much more turbulent political landscape than at any point in recent history. This has been reinforced by the ongoings of the election, specifically moments during the debates. Trump’s comments during the first debate regarding the Proud Boys, in addition to his former statements regarding an unwillingness to cede office if the results of the election are questionable (hyped up by his campaign against mail-in ballots), are a far cry from the civil procedure Americans have been used to regarding elections since the Civil War. Additionally, Joe Biden’s refusal to comment on his stance on court-packing has caused fears of a Constitutional crisis on the right. With both sides of the aisle completely polarized, each fearing that the other will destroy America’s institutions, I believe the country is in danger of sliding into even more deadly violence and seemingly irreparable division.
When the leaders we continue to elect continue to fail us, it is no surprise that people lash out in times of change and hardship. The failure of the government to properly manage the pandemic is just one apparent example in the chain of failures by our leaders to properly protect the American citizenry. The response of our leaders regarding racial equality and justice has been hostile towards citizens seeking change. The government’s inability to take large enough actions regarding climate change have disillusioned the younger generations who will have to live with the consequences of the inaction of the generations before us. The political activism of our generation is hopeful to me. It is clear to see why we desire change to the degree that we do, when we have grown up in a country rife with division while no substantial actions have been taken to fix the problems everyday people face. Despite my hopefulness about the activism of young people, I fear that we will continue down this path of division and violence, and that 2020 will not be just one noteworthy turbulent year, but the beginning of a much less hopeful future.