Curses and Consequences

Can we really blame all of the world’s issues on a year?


Stirring it up: Anna-Marie Lauppe shares her thoughts on a variety of issues.

I have a few friends I talk to every day, and we were brainstorming column topics. One group wanted me to talk about why 2020 sucks, and one particular friend in another group wanted me to talk about how absurd it is that people are blaming everything bad on a year. I love my little seat here in the middle ground, so I decided to talk about both.

Listen, I know this year has been a rollercoaster with mostly twists, turns, and drops, but us going from 2019 into 2020 PROBABLY didn’t cause that. Flashback with me if you will to the fall 2019 semester, which covers mid-August-early December 2019. I ask you all — were we really any happier?

I remember the Fall of 2019 being one hell of a tough semester. No one seemed to be able to articulate why, but it was like every person I talked to — students, faculty, staff, administration — all had the same thing to say about that time in life, which was just “Ugh, I’m ready for it to be over. I’m ready for 2020; it can’t be worse than this.” If anyone believes in jinxes, you might think we had jinxed ourselves.

There are a lot of things that happened in 2020 that really suck(ed), but we could have and maybe in retrospect SHOULD have seen coming. Let’s start with the Australian bushfires. These actually started in December of 2019 and carried into 2020 because …fire doesn’t listen to our hopes for a better new year.

The next major thing was of course the COVID-19 pandemic. This was being speculated about as almost a rumor at the very end of 2019, and by January 2020, we were told this new disease had pandemic-like potential. Did we act fast in trying to deter it? Probably not as fast as we could have, and now here we are, 10 months in, and still struggling with the pandemic.

The West Coast Wildfires are another thing in my opinion we could have seen coming. It makes my heart sad, but fires outbreak in California every year, so we could have expected that. What we probably couldn’t have expected was how far they would have spread.

The Black Lives Matter Protests are yet another thing that brought division in our country this year. People were faced with the systemic racism in our country, and they were asked to pick a side essentially. For some, it was easier than others.

No one could have predicted the murder hornets and luckily I haven’t seen or had to deal with any, and I hope none of you have either. There have been numerous terrible deaths, which most of us would agree are tragic and sad.

I am not saying that all of these things aren’t extremely hard to deal with. From a university perspective, we canceled commencement, which sucked. We had to cancel spring and fall sports, which sucks, and we can’t have the same in-person contact we were having before, which SUCKS.

But I lean away from saying this is 2020’s fault. First of all, a year can’t really be a source of blame. Time is a construct and the year itself doesn’t matter. 2020 has done nothing but give us a label for the culmination of shit we have experienced over the past 10 months.

People need something or someone to blame. Some people blame our president. Some people blame the government as a whole. Some people blame karma. And other people blame 2020 … Not all of these things are really in our control, but some could have been.

If we think about things from an overview perspective, we might be able to see how everything that has happened and continues to happen is indicative of a much larger issue. Fires, for example, we know how they start, and we know how they spread. In Australia, they have a fire season every year with 2019 being the worst by far, but it is very similar to California.

In 2019, some fires started because humans were careless, and others were caused by lightning. Scientists say fires of this magnitude not only contribute to climate change, but could also be exacerbated by climate change. Same thing in California. This year there was a lot of human interference at play from what I understand, but again climate change plays a part.

Climate change isn’t a new subject. Human beings have an effect on the planet, and it isn’t necessarily a good one. We don’t allow the earth to heal itself in the way it naturally does and instead we pour chemicals and other stuff into it at a rate that the planet just can’t keep up with. Fires will keep happening. The results of our actions against the planet will continue to be more and more evident as time goes on. This isn’t just a 2020 phenomenon.

The pandemic is obviously a harder topic to understand. We think we know how it started, and we don’t know much in the way of how to end it. The things the Center for Disease Control tells us don’t seem to be taken seriously by all, and that is a problem. I’m sorry people who don’t trust the CDC but honestly we don’t have a Center for Disease Control for no reason. You trust your dentist or you mechanic to tell you the best way to care for your teeth or your car, but you don’t trust a group of scientists about how to at least attempt to keep yourself AND OTHERS safe?

If the best we can do right now is wear a mask and stay six feet apart because there is no vaccine and no way of knowing how the person sitting to your right might get it or how their symptoms might manifest, then we should probably just do it. They told us it could be a pandemic when it first started. We didn’t lock down anything, including travel, and now a lot of people have died or gotten sick and there is no end in sight. We could have seen that coming. If you don’t take a global infection seriously and do your part, people can and have gotten very sick or even worse, died.

Quarantining, maybe we couldn’t have seen coming, but man if it gets so bad, what else can we do? Every person has a choice when it comes to how seriously they take COVID-19. What sucks isn’t the year. What sucks is that certain people choose not to take a global pandemic seriously enough to just do what the CDC says.

I’m not blaming these people. I am asking everyone to join me and look inside ourselves for answers as to why this is happening and not overgeneralize to the point of being like “oh, it’s just a 2020 thing.”

We will most likely still have Coronavirus in 2021, if not forever, and if we look inside ourselves and find we aren’t doing everything we could be doing to protect ourselves and others from it, then we might have to accept that 2020 should not get the blame for something we are choosing.

Now, I don’t speak much on how I feel about the Black Lives Matter protests, and I don’t think I will now. Please understand this is due to a personal journey that I am still going through, and I am just not ready yet to tell my story.

However, I will say that systemic racism is real and protests against police brutality are a necessary consequence of systemic racism. Someone once told me that if I hurt someone, I don’t get to tell them how they must react to that hurt. I think that can be applied here.

People of color have gone through enough hurt at the hands of others and if this is how they want to react to that hurt, then it is well within their rights as people and as Americans under the U.S. Constitution to protest peacefully.

Every single one of us can do something about systemic racism, and if you don’t know what you can do, you aren’t trying hard enough. This isn’t a 2020 issue. This is a this year, last year, 100 years plus, yesterday, today and tomorrow issue. It’s a journey, so let’s get to it.

This year has been rough; I can’t deny that. No one asked to be here at this place and time dealing with all of this stuff. Maybe 2020 is cursed…well, probably not. But, instead of raising our fists at 2020, perhaps we should all take a piece of the blame.

Some of us decided a party with a bunch of people during a global pandemic wasn’t that bad, others have allowed their internal biases to overlook the injustices faced by far too many or maybe the majority of us don’t take care of our planet like we want it to take care of us…just maybe.

My best advice is to do what you need to do to make the rest of 2020 survivable. Prioritize self-care and talk to people every day. It is so important to connect right now because everything feels disconnected.

Finally, think before you blame a human-made construct like a year for things like climate change and social injustices that humans actually did construct or 2021 is going to be the next “worst year ever.”

That is the maybe unsolicited tea from me to WU.