Writer’s Note: When the USA has a birthday, the entire country marks the occasion. Some celebrations are quite large, especially those located at or near historic sites.
Others are local — centered on community, family, and friends. As the children play, the grownups are usually closely watching a grill and guarding an ice chest — or challenging others to a game of touch football.
July 4, 2020 — America’s 244th birthday — is different. While there will still be observances, there will also be a new emphasis on safety that goes beyond fireworks. For many, facemasks and “social distancing” will be the order of the day.
Yes, there will be celebrations, but not the kind we are used to. Things have changed. GP
A Year Older . . .
But Are We Wiser?
Not only are we recognizing America’s birthday this month, but we are also marking the end of the first half of 2020. What a half it has been! Major events —many with worldwide implications — jolted us for good or for bad.
The first half of 2020 felt as though we were being bombarded with one crisis after another. We didn’t exactly get used to that chaos, but it did numb us to the point that the most recent one was the one that held our attention.
January 2020 . . .
During just the first week of January 2020, three things happened — two that shocked the world and one (the far deadlier one) that was barely noticed. The new year began with bushfires raging in Australia. Evacuations were ordered and approximately one billion animals were killed. The U.S. military killed the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, an action meant to deter future Iranian attacks. The World Health Organization (WHO) was told officially that there was a new coronavirus (named 2019-nCoV) in China which was causing respiratory distress. No one knew at the time that a pandemic was beginning.
For those interested in the activities of the rich and famous, just one day after WHO being told of the coronavirus, Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife, American actress Meghan Markle, announced that they were no longer going to be active senior royals. Not only that, but they planned to live part-time in England and part-time in North America. Some viewed this with a yawn; others felt abandoned.
As many predicted, Iran launched a counter-attack in retaliation for the death of their general. Two Iraqi military bases were hit and American soldiers were injured. On the same day, a Ukrainian passenger flight crashed in Tehran, killing all 176 passengers. Iran blamed human error for the accident.
On January 11th, the first report of a death from the new coronavirus was sent to WHO by China. Two days later, LSU football completed a dream season by winning it all, leaving fans to savor a football run like no other. Heisman quarterback Joe Burrow became everyone’s favorite Tiger, and Coach O became the most admired man in Louisiana and beyond. Life in Louisiana couldn’t have been better!
On January 16th, only the third impeachment trial of an American president began following months of investigations, hearings, accusations, and general discord. President Trump followed Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. The first two were not removed from office, nor would be the third.
Washington state became the first state to report a coronavirus case. The victim had visited China and presumably caught it there. By January 20th, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand reported cases.
On January 23rd, the world took notice when China announced the lockdown of Wuhan, China, the city believed to be the origin of the killer virus. Eleven million Chinese were impacted. With case counts going up and local hospitals becoming overwhelmed, awareness of the virus increased.
The sports world was shocked by the death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and 7 others in a California helicopter crash. Bryant, a champion basketball player and NBA superstar, was only 41.
To round out an already turbulent January, the United Kingdom marked the final day of January by officially disassociating itself with the European Union. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the move after more than 3 years of divisive discussions.
February 2020 . . .
February proved no less exciting than January. Two political stories — the disastrous Iowa Caucus reporting problems and President Trump’s acquittal on the articles of impeachment — dominated the first week.
WHO announced the official name for the coronavirus — COVID-19 — explaining that it didn’t want to name the virus after any specific group or location — another example of a growing concern for political correctness.
In a verdict that brought vindication to some and shock to many, Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of sexual misconduct after a trial that lasted weeks and reinvigorated the #MeToo movement.
On March 5th, Senator Elizabeth Warren officially ended her run for president. Five days later, Italy — second only to China in COVID-19 cases — ordered a nationwide lockdown. El Salvador, New Zealand, Colombia, Poland, and Spain soon followed. The following day, WHO declared pandemic status for the virus.
On March 13th President Trump declared a national emergency. America began a “stay at home” policy that essentially shut down the American economy. The pandemic’s economic impact hit the stock market on March 16th when the Dow suffered its biggest drop since 1987. The economy had just set records in the other direction only days earlier.
All over America, parents began adjusting to working from home, homeschooling their children, going out only for essential services that remained opened, and watching in horror as case counts skyrocketed. Facemasks became a hot fashion item, and the 2020 Summer Olympics Games were postponed until 2021.
By April 2nd, over one million worldwide had been infected. On April 7th, China canceled the Wuhan lockdown. Senator Bernie Sanders ended his presidential campaign making former Vice President Joe Biden the presumptive Democratic candidate.
New York state had more COVID-19 cases than any country in the world, and the US had the highest death count worldwide. All 50 states had simultaneous federal major disaster declarations. April 20th found oil prices at a record low directly impacting Louisiana’s budget.
Reminiscent of the Biblical plagues, an invasion of “murder hornets” (Asian giant hornets) was reported in America. The hornets became the subject of countless social media memes and broadcast media jokes. It was about this time that people began posting that they were going to put up a Christmas tree, sing Jingle Bells, and call it a year. They did not know that the worst was yet to come.
Toward the end of May, Americans were horrified as many saw a policeman kneeling for 8+ minutes on the neck of a man being arrested. As onlookers watched, and later viewers saw on tape, the man died begging for help. It was a reality check that would reverberate through June and beyond. Protests began the following day as word spread.
Major American cities began reeling from the anger being expressed in the streets. Peaceful protestors marched for change in the manner of the late Dr. Martin Luthor King, asking in peace to be heard just as Civil Rights protestors had done. Quickly their protests were turned to violence as other groups joined in — some invited, and some not. Because of a series of problems relating to police activity that were highlighted by the death of George Floyd, police departments were “put on notice” that they would have to change their actions.
Toward the end of June, the anger had gone well beyond the police. Mobs looted and burned communities, and defaced or destroyed historic monuments — beginning with those associated with the Confederacy, but then spinning out of control to include statues of George Washington, Francis Scott Key, and Teddy Roosevelt, among others.
No longer did there appear to be a specific “target” or cause other than destroying history itself. American novelist, playwright, poet, and activist James Baldwin was considered to be the voice of the American Civil Rights movement. In his essay “Stranger in the Village”, Baldwin wrote: “People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.” If we focus on destroying history, are we not also destroying a part of ourselves?
In the midst of this chaos, slowly America began opening up, with states moving through different “phases” to get back to something near normal. COVID-19 cases continued to rise, with new national “hot spots” being identified — including Monroe, Louisiana.
What might the second half of 2020 bring?