A Nation In Crisis
As COVID-19 spread through a fractured populace, it exposed a nation unable to confront a crisis. Is 2020 the year that the American experiment died?
- Neil Peart (1952–2020)
For me, the first inclination that 2020 was going to be a disaster occurred on January 7 when the band Rush announced that their drummer and lyricist, Neil Peart, had died. As a drummer, I had been in awe of Peart’s abilities since I was first introduced to the album Moving Pictures by my friends in junior high school. Their album, Signals, was released just as I entered high school and the lyrics to the lead track, “Subdivisions,” perfectly captured the restlessness of my suburban life:
Deeper within that album is the song, “Losing It,” which tells the stories of a dancer and a writer who have lost access to their talents. While “Subdivisions” laments those who “sell their dreams for small desires” or “lose the race to rats,” the protagonists in this song were able to “live their fantasies.” However, with the passage of time, they are beset by “aching limbs” and a mind that “is dark and dulled”, and can no longer perform. They live out their lives haunted by “the echoes of old applause” and an “empty page.”
As I reflect upon the last year, it seems that our country would fit comfortably amongst the dancer and the writer from “Losing It.” We were once a country that united when faced with challenges and made great advances. We sacrificed to beat back Nazism, helped Europe and Japan emerge from the rubble of war, built an interstate highway system, and put a man on the moon. In 2020, we could not even agree to wear masks to protect our fellow citizens from a virus. The bell tolls for us.
While it is easy to blame Trump for the condition of our country, the truth is that we have been on the road of decline for a long time. Unlike World War II, Vietnam, a war that was fought without a clear, immediate purpose fractured our society. Nixon’s lawlessness caused an unprecedented mistrust in government. The Reagan Revolution solidified a focus on the individual over collective success. In the aftermath of 9/11, Bush encouraged us to take our newly found collective spirit and head to the mall. Within months, we all had retreated back to our political silos and we were as divided as we were before the Twin Towers had come crashing down.
Barack Obama offered the promise of hope and change to a weary electorate, but he was too ingrained in the status quo to deliver either. Instead of delivering the infrastructure projects needed to move our country forward, he compromised with the Republicans in Congress and offered a stimulus package that relied heavily on tax cuts. Obamacare improved the delivery of healthcare but was a far cry from the universal healthcare that had been promised during the campaign. Income inequality increased, paving the way for the populism offered by Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. The Democratic party machine killed off Sanders’ candidacy and set the table for Trump’s ascension to power.
From the beginning of his presidency, Trump showed that he lacked the intellectual strength, the moral compass, or the leadership abilities needed to lead the free world. It should not be a surprise to anyone that when challenged by COVID-19, he failed miserably. When Trump leaves office on January 20th, our country will be more divided, be less economically secure, and have a lower standing in the world than when he took over from Obama.
Will Biden be able to make America great again? For the sake of my children, I hope so, but he has yet to inspire my internal optimist. As much as I would like him to be, I really do not see him as the inspirational leader we need to not only dig us out from the rubble that Trump will leave but to provide the course correction we need after a half-century of heading down the wrong path.
I hope that he will prove me wrong. I would hate to think we live in a country where our greatest days are behind us.
A look back at 2020…
- February: As California’s primary approached, Trump’s influence on political discourse could be felt in several local races.
- March: After the voters in Los Angeles’ CD-12 had gone to the polls they were notified that their former City Councilman was ensnared in the ongoing City Hall Corruption Scandal.
- April: With 5,883 people dead from COVID-19, I took my first look at Trump’s failures as the pandemic took root.
- May: Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin knelt directly on George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, killing him as he begged for his mother. Trump poured fuel on the fire.
- June: Trump demonized those protesting racial injustices and sent in troops to clear a peaceful protest.
- July: The COVID-19 death toll was up to 132,101 Americans. Trump and his supporters were in full denial mode.
- August: Trump became a snake-oil salesman, pushing untested cures for COVID-19. Even though 175,000 Americans were now dead because of the pandemic, Trump and his supporters were trying to downplay the significance.
- September: Congressional deadlock prevented a new round of economic relief. Los Angeles Sheriff deputies were caught in the act of destroying evidence.
- November: For the seventh time in the past eight elections, Democrats won the popular vote in the presidential election. What will they do with this mandate? 260,394 Americans were now dead from the COVID-19 pandemic and the reasons why were apparent during my airplane trip to Arizona. How do you find thankfulness when our world has been turned upside down by a global pandemic?
- December: As Georgian’s prepare to go to the polls in an election that will determine control of the Senate, a reminder that every vote counts.
Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD’s CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action endorsed him, and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.