Commentary: “When we remember a time, we remember moments, a kaleidoscope of the sights, the sounds, the emotions that remind us of the way we were,” said the introduction to a 1986 ABC series called “Our World.”
Looking through the kaleidoscope of 2020 does not present a pretty picture. Instead of brightly colored prisms moving in harmony as the cylinder turns, we saw an ugly side of ourselves. A side of us that was nasty and repulsive. It was a vision that included selfishness, racism, egotism, violence, a dance with fascism, and the harsh realization that 74 million of our fellow Americans were OK with all of that.
Stressful situations bring out the best in people and, all too often, the worst in people, as well. If a fish rots from the head, a lot of the stink emanating from the White House in 2020. The “America first” president failed his own citizens when it came to protecting them from a deadly virus. As he lied about the severity of the virus and called it a hoax, we became a nation that turned on each other.
As we died by the hundreds of thousands, we became a country that didn’t want to help anyone else, even when it was in our own interests to do so. We fought with store clerks who were asking us to wear a mask. The simple act of putting on a face-covering during a pandemic became a political tool, as the “owning the libs” president used it as another way to divide the country.
As governors, mayors, and county judges were doing everything within their power to save the lives of their constituents by closing businesses and bars, initiating curfews, limiting crowd sizes, and other measures, Americans screamed about their liberties being taken away and issued death threats against those in charge. Then some of those same people, ignoring CDC guidelines, attended political rallies — “super-spreaders,” as they came to be known.
Racism continued to rear its ugly head last year. The expiration date on the toxic Trump presidency is near but the damage it has wrought on race relations will last for a while. In May, the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis ignited moral anger across the country. The ruthlessness of that act was filmed and ignited a flame. In August, police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot and partially paralyzed Jacob Blake as three of his children watched from the backseat of his car. Earlier in the year, Breonna Taylor was killed in her own home.
Illustrating the great divide of America, when a 17-year-old from Illinois drove to Kenosha to attend a rally for social and racial justice and shot two people, he became a cause celebre of the far right. Americans cheered a white murderer and condemned people of color protesting against being killed by police.
The past four years have given license for racists to come out from under the rocks they hid. In Galveston, the owner of several restaurants posted racist and homophobic memes on Facebook. Rudy Bentancourt took heat over the offensive posts on the restaurants’ social media pages. Betancourt owns Black Pearl and Press Box in downtown Galveston and Safari Beach Company on the Seawall.
One post shared on Betancourt’s personal page showed the Confederate battle flag beneath the words “If this flag goes.” Under that image are the words “These two have to go too” with images of the rainbow flag and the Black liberation flag, both with the red “No” symbol superimposed over them.
After facing tons of backlash over his posts, Betancourt’s page was deleted along with the Facebook pages for Black Pearl and Press Box. A large contingent of the Island’s sizeable LGBTQ community initiated a boycott of those establishments.
After four years of gaslighting by our Commander-in-Chief, hope is on the horizon. We used to be optimistic people, believing we could accomplish anything once we set our minds to it. But 2020, and to an extent the past four years, has me believing we do not have the backbone to do anything that will inconvenience us.
In the 1940s, the “Greatest Generation” pulled together and sacrificed as America and the world faced the destruction of humankind as they knew it. They stopped the production of cars to build tanks and airplanes. They rationed milk and eggs. In some cities and towns across the United States, including Rosenberg, Texas where I grew up hearing stories about it, sirens would ring out on select nights, and residents would turn out their lights and close their curtains during air-raid drills. The entire town would go dark!
Does anyone believe today’s entitled Americans would make similar sacrifices or work together in such unison? We will not even stay away from Walmart and Home Depot to save each other’s lives. And we’ll fight with their employees, to boot.
It only seems logical that we had more deaths in 2020 from COVID-19 than casualties in World War II.
Hopefully, I will have a brighter point of view and a higher opinion of Americans in four years.