2020 in Review: 12 Months of Unique Horror
A month-by-month review of the best and worst (mostly worst) of 2020.
2020 was a year when time lost all meaning and traditional markers of change — graduations, seasons, parties, holidays — blurred into an indistinguishable slideshow of Zoom calls.
Each month, it seemed, another unavoidable news story exploded onto the headlines, dominating attention, commanding every facet of our collective attention.
This year, each month seemed to have its own color, its own unique tune of horror that required both countless headlines and its own array of memes. As E. Alex Jung writes for Vulture, "Nothing made sense this year — unless you were on the Internet." Each catastrophic event, with its mind-blowing amounts of human suffering and its cataclysmic historical implications, took on new meaning when refracted through the mirror of social media.
In some ways, this year brought us closer together; in other ways, it tore open the last semblances of any illusion that we're all in the same struggle, instead revealing the brutal inequalities that define our society. When all faced with the same roster of calamities, it became clear that some people could suffer through while losing little save for the opportunity to go bar-hopping on Saturday nights, while others were pushed off the brink into the precipice of disaster (that is, if they hadn't already been swimming through the fetid ruins of the capitalist dream).
So, this list is not meant to be a universal summary of the way 2020 was horrifying. No list could ever summarize what 2020 or what a history of inequality and human greed has done to individuals around the world this year.
Instead, it's my reflections on the ways certain events seemed to dominate our collective consciousness in ways few events ever have before, let alone in such rapid succession.
In January, many people I knew seemed buoyed by a strange sort of optimism. The majority of New Years' Resolutions I saw involved some variant of: "In 2020 I'm putting myself first." People were set on growth, and everybody seemed convinced that 2020 would be their year. It would be the era of "2020 vision," the dawn of our own roaring '20s.
Meanwhile, China recorded its first coronavirus death on January 11th. Reports of the coronavirus were crossing the globe in whispers; a text message, a headline here and there about the strange new disease that had erupted in Wuhan.
Donald Trump was first briefed on the virus on January 18th but seemed distracted, apparently stopping the briefing to ask about a ban on vaping products.
Being 2020, the year came in hot with its own special form of chaos. Australia wildfires continued burning, ravaging over 47 million acres of land. On Jan. 3, a U.S. drone strike hit Baghdad's International Airport, killing Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and sparking rumors (and eventually, a flurry of memes) about an impending World War III.
Later that month, we tragically lost Kobe Bryant and his daughter. Considering this calamitous beginning, the idea that 2020 was going to be the year of our personal self-growth, a year where we'd prioritize ourselves and evolve into our final forms, feels achingly misguided. None of us knew what was coming next.
Shakira & J. Lo's FULL Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime Showwww.youtube.com
Yet all around the world, things were falling apart. Coronavirus was spreading around the world at this point; Europe counted its first death, and Africa saw its first case.
Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler and other members of the 1% began selling millions of dollars worth of stocks after becoming aware of COVID-19, a theme that would continue as billionaires would get progressively richer throughout the pandemic. In yet another blitz of foreshadowing, the Iowa caucuses were a complete disaster after a faulty app led to months-long recounts.
All of 2020 was surreal, but March may have been the most surreal month of all. Italy saw its "darkest hour" and imposed the world's first lockdown. France prepared for what its prime minister described as an impending "war."
In March, it felt like the ground was dropping out from under our feet. On March 9, the Dow Jones suffered its worst single-day drop ever. By mid-March, the whole world had shut down; citizens were ordered to stay home everywhere from India to Australia. Offices closed. Broadway shut down.
On March 20, Tiger King dropped on Netflix and immediately went incandescently viral. Dua Lipa dropped her album Future Nostalgia. In New York, people started buying beans and hoarding toilet paper. Everyone started baking bread.
By April, it became universally clear that coronavirus was not going anywhere anytime soon. The world went into lockdown and global cases passed 1 million.
In May, things seemed to reach a brief impasse, and 2020 stood on the precipice of a (somehow even more dramatic) part II.
A plane fell in Pakistan, killing 97. Costa Rica became the first Central American nation to legalize gay marriage. Nasa-SpaceX's shuttle took to the skies. Armed protestors stormed Michigan's state capital demanding haircuts in May. Grimes gave birth to Elon Musk's cyborgian baby.
One story dominated all: At the end of May, the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer took place, sparking immediate protests.
In June, America was overcome by racial justice protests in response to George Floyd's murder. The Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S. became the nation's largest movement in its history. Protests spread around the globe, and statues of racists fell.
Meanwhile, coronavirus surged; an oil spill sparked a state of emergency in Russia; temperatures in the Arctic reached their highest points ever; locusts invaded India.
The apocalypse was in full-swing, as were dreams of a much better, radically different world.
The heat, the intensity, the wildness of July is something I'll never forget as long as I live. Brooklyn was rocked by constant fireworks that rang out all night long, sparking conspiracy theories about government plots.
August saw another wave of BLM protests after Jacob Blake was shot in Kenosha, Wisconsin and paralyzed from the waist down.
It was also a month of terrible tragedy. We lost Chadwick Boseman. Wildfires exploded across California, turning the sky an apocalyptic orange. A cataclysmic explosion racked Beirut.
Cardi B - WAP feat. Megan Thee Stallion [Official Music Video]www.youtube.com
September, of course, offered no relief. We lost Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18th, a devastating loss for Democrats. Then, all of America cringed watching Biden and Trump try to bridge the parallel universes they both existed in at their first debate.
In October, all eyes were on yet another world-changing event — the 2020 election. Of course, the road was not smooth. Trump announced he had COVID-19 on October 2nd. Early voting started in mid-October, with record numbers of people turning out to the polls.
Unrest continued, with anti-lockdown protests in Brooklyn and BLM protests continuing across the US. Amy Coney Barrett was announced as Trump's supreme court nominee, a radical departure from RBG's legacy of equality.
In November, we held our breath and fixed our attention on Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and other states that seemed to be counting ballots in slow-motion. On the 7th, finally, CNN called Biden's victory. New Yorkers and people around the world erupted into cheers.
But we barely had a moment to catch our breath. Cases began to surge in the US, which started reporting 130,000 cases per day, reaching 200,000 by the end of the month. Much of Europe locked down again. Many suffered from pandemic fatigue.
In November, Pfizer and Moderna announced, in quick succession, that their vaccines were ready for global dissemination (with a little help from Dolly Parton). Weird monoliths began popping up in odd locations. Amidst the terror, there were flashes of hope.
CNN's Van Jones brought to tears as Joe Biden wins US electionwww.youtube.com
Now it's December. Trump continues to contest his loss, and The Proud Boys rally in the streets. In India, 250 million are on strike, forming a labor movement epic in scale.
On December 14th, the Electoral College voted and Joe Biden was officially confirmed (for the millionth time, it seems) as 46th president of the United States.
It's been an unbelievably chaotic year, full of ups and downs. We saw darkness and terror and our fellow citizens and family members in lights we never imagined.
We saw people pushed to the brink. We also saw people gathering together to take care of each other as the government and systems meant to keep us safe collapsed around us. And we saw, sometimes, hints of a new world among the raging fires.
Taylor Swift - Love Story 2020 (Snippet) - Ryan Reynolds Commercial for "Match"www.youtube.com
Let's hope that 2021 is better, that there's a renaissance in art and a resurgence of social programs after this catastrophe. But if 2020 has taught us anything, it's that we can't predict anything — and things can always get worse — but it's always better if we take it on together.
Here's to a happy and safe New Year and a much better 2021.
Let us know what we left out on this list on Twitter @Popdust.
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