Hey, coulda been worse, right? In 1918, the year Joe Biden won his letterman’s sweater in leather-helmet football, the number of deaths in America was up 46 percent over the previous year thanks to the pandemic and the Great War. This year: only 15 percent. Huzzah! If you have the urge to punch 2020 in the nads, be aware that in 1349, a third of the population of Europe died.
2020 was a mild setback compared to 536 (“the worst year to be alive,” mainly because Amazon Prime deliveries took like six months because of a glitch in mastodon operations) and 1816, when volcanic ash from an eruption coated the atmosphere and nothing would grow in the “year without a summer,” causing mass starvation. There hasn’t been a gnaw-on-your-dead-grandpa year since, though maybe we’ll have one a couple of years from now, when Bill Gates wants to pull the cool-the-atmosphere-with-ash trick again, this time intentionally. Hey, go for it, experts! Sure, Bill is an expert in writing intermittently functional software, not in climate engineering, but why should that stop him from appointing himself to smother out the sun?
Come to think of it, maybe it’s experts, not 2020, that should be absorbing a baseball bat to their collective crotch. Thanks to experts, leaders and authorities, 2020 was the Year of Wrong. Every day, the high and mighty calmly assured us that “facts” and “science” and “data” were telling us stuff that was completely, horrifically, catastrophically wrong.
When the Wuhan Flu broke out of whatever Chinese bat-brunch spot it came from, authorities told us it was no big deal. Donald Trump’s wrongness, as usual, got the most attention: “We have it totally under control. . . . It’s going to be just fine,” he said on Jan. 21. Trump had lots of company in being wrong: “Get on with your lives + get out on the town despite Coronavirus,” Mayor Bill de Blasio urged New Yorkers on March 2, the day after the first confirmed case hit town.
“In this situation, the facts defeat fear because the reality is reassuring,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, also on March 2. “We should relax because that’s what is dictated by the reality of the situation.” Cuomo added this was “not our first rodeo.”
No, not our first rodeo, merely our worst rodeo: a rodeo held in a joint twice the size of Madison Square Garden where everyone dies gruesomely. The virus killed 12 times as many New Yorkers as 9/11 but at least Cuomo was relaxed about it.
The surgeon general of the United States told us not to wear masks (science!), Cuomo ordered nursing homes to accept coronavirus patients until May 2 (facts!), and Vox said, “Will this be a deadly pandemic? No.” (Data!)
When Trump ordered a partial halt on travel from China on January 31, Joe Biden’s reaction was to cry xenophobia. A chorus of media supremos agreed. “Beware the Pandemic Panic,” wrote Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times on January 29, terrified that in the future “politicians begin pushing for travel bans” that might “persecute the marginalized.” Manjoo added that “misinformation about the scale of the virus is already trending” and scoffed at the idea that it is “thermonuclear pandemic level bad” before going on to fret about the real threat: “racist memes.”
Everyone who claimed to know what he was talking about was wrong. Joe Biden’s campaign was dead after he somehow managed to finish 17th in a field of eight in New Hampshire? Wrong! Biden would destroy Trump in an epic landslide victory heralded by a 17-point drubbing in Wisconsin? Wrong! Biden won by 43,000 votes spread across three states, a smaller margin than Trump’s 2016 win, which was 78,000 in three states.
Defunding the police was a sensible or even plausible solution to police shootings? Wrong! How about this memory-holed idea from way back in the ancient past of six months ago: Mass rioting would change the dynamic between police and black people. Wrong, unless you count “NFL players start wearing slogans on their shoes” as crucial reform. Just spitballing here, but if that’s all the screaming mobs wanted, maybe they could have just sent a letter to Roger Goodall instead of burning down gas stations, looting Macy’s and murdering beloved 77-year-old black police chiefs. I’m sure renaming the Indians and Redskins to “Cleveland baseball team” and “bad football team” will somehow ease the plight of the Indians who live on the Rez. (Yeah, that’s what they call themselves, sorry if that sounds off to you, just as Jack Donaghy of “30 Rock” was uncomfortable saying “Puerto Rican.” This was before Donaghy actor Alec Baldwin knew he was married to a cosplay Spaniard.)
Instead of capitalizing Black in a meaningless gesture to correct race issues, I suggest that from now on we capitalize Wrong to emphasize the talismanic power of Wrongness in our lives. My prediction for 2021 is that people in positions of authority will continue to be Wrong. Why do I think this? Because at the end of 2020 everyone is still Wrong. Anthony Fauci on herd immunity? He admits he was Wrong! “Wonder Woman 1984” being the blockbuster we needed? Wrong!
They save the most Wrong decision for the end: after private industry developed a COVID vaccine before a single American was even infected, then spent the entire year testing and running through regulatory obstacle courses, government agencies are handling distribution. As I write these words, 11 million doses of vaccine are out there ready to go but only 2.1 million folks have actually gotten the shots. If Walgreens, CVS, or even Arby’s were in charge of this operation, you’d already have your vaccination appointment logged in your Google calendar.
Instead, our betters have decided that, when 10,000 people a week are dying, the answer lies in running distribution like the DMV: You’ll get the vaccine when the government workers behind the counter are good and ready to wrap up their conversation on whatever episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” they’re chatting about and turn their attention to you. Dr. Monseaf Slaoui, Chief Advisor to Operation Warp Speed, projected at Thanksgiving that 20 million Americans would be vaccinated by year’s end.
Wrong! At the rate they’re going in the first two weeks— 1 million vaccinated per week — we’ll all have our shots in six years. Don’t worry, America, our superiors will work this out soon. Hey, it’s not their first rodeo!
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