There’s a funny thing about memorials. They remind us only that an event happened, but almost guarantee that passersby to the memorial won’t truly fathom the significance of the event. People look at the Vietnam War memorial wall of the 58,000 dead serviceman in DC, bow their heads to show respect, and move on without truly understanding just how significant that period of history was.
Many of you can’t wait to leave this year and never look back. Others will of course pay homage to this year, but will that be enough? Memorials are great, but obsession is how we ensure that a thing is not only remembered but also felt.
A memorial to African slaves will remind us that America did indeed have them, but it won’t force us to sense just how horrific it was. It takes documentaries, books, movies, constant arguing and obsessing to try to see that 12.5 million Africans were brutalized in unspeakable ways.
Likewise, everybody’s memes about how 2020 was just the worst because vacations were cancelled won’t cut it. Documentaries, movies, books, arguing and obsessing are what’s required to really understand that in 2020, we saw almost 2 million people die from a pandemic, millions more impoverished, families destroyed, minorities beaten, and whole ecosystems burned out of existence all during what was possibly the single most important presidential election in U.S. history.
2020 needs to be obsessed over, and every obsession starts with curiosity and asking questions.
The problem is that most of you are asking if this year was good or bad. It’s confusing because many lost and some profited. 2020 had many great things occur: finally, there was light shed on just how bad minorities have it in this country. Finally, people saw how much our environment can improve sans the presence of industry. Lockdown put many people into isolation and brought a whole new level of insight into who they are, though that insight wasn’t always a good thing. On an individual level, many of us found new jobs, discovered new interests, and made a voice for ourselves that we wouldn’t have if the pandemic never happened. But were those gains worth the 1.8 million lives lost to Covid-19?
The question of whether or not 2020 should or should not have happened doesn’t really matter. It happened. What matters is how it changed everything. How it changed us.
WW2 ended 75 years ago, and people are still talking about it, as they should be. This is simply because of the awe-inspiring details of the war. Awe is very much the first thing that comes to mind when you look at WW2’s rapid development of technology, tens of millions of casualties, and the fact that all of humanity came so close to being ruled by genocidal maniacs. When that awe sets in, you imagine yourself being alive back then afraid that the Nazis will take over and that’s how the lessons from that conflict stick. Otherwise, it’s just another forgettable chapter.
In the 5,000 years of recorded history, WW2 was a focal point where in just 7 years the whole world was radically changed beyond recognition. 2020 did the same job in just 365 days. These focal points in history need to be constantly dissected, analyzed, and debated. Society must never stop looking back on this year if for no other reason than that it’s the best way to guarantee that all those who died are remembered forever.