Saturday, December 19, 2020

The 2020 Endurance Test

Scott D. Parker

Where to begin? And what to say? Well, let’s state the obvious: If you’re reading this, then you got through 2020.

That means you did what you had to do to navigate this unprecedented year, this historic event that touched everyone. As a historian, I often read about the folks who lived through the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Depression, or World War II and wonder what it was like to live through an event they themselves didn’t know how it would end. When Pearl Harbor happened or the Stock Market crashed, no one knew the ending. That’s the benefit of hindsight: we know how it turns out, and sometimes, we can just marvel at their fortitude.

But one of the things even I as a historian rarely studied was the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918-1920. Sure I knew about. I reckoned early on in 2020 that if the flu could sweep over the globe in an era without planes, Covid-19 would surely and easily wash over all of us.

And it did.

I forgot where I heard it amid all the things I’ve read and heard about the 2020 pandemic and how it relates to the 1918 pandemic, but one of the facts that bore into my consciousness and stayed there is this: you, me, and everyone you know who is alive in 2020 to experience Covid is alive because an ancestor faced the 1918 flu and survived. Those folks a century ago did what they had to do to survive and endure and get through that historical event, and so did we.

We endured. We persevered. But holy cow did it hurt.

I don’t know about y’all but I teared up and cried many times throughout this year. My son was a high school senior class of 2020 and had his senior year shattered. All those things you and I got to experience was lost to him. All our fellow citizens the world over who lost jobs, lost businesses, lost dreams, and lost hope. I pray for them and shed tears for them.

And then there are the deaths. Over 315,000 people in the US have died because of this damn disease. For every one of them, they had families who saw an empty chair at birthdays or Thanksgiving and next week, they’ll see it again at Christmas. The pangs of grief for these people is something I can only imagine. The news was relentless when it came to Covid. Throw in the election and the Black Lives Matter reckoning and 2020, the year that was supposed to start a brand-new decade brimming with promise just dragged us down day after day.

But there were always signs of resiliency. Remember back in the spring when New Yorkers banged on pots and pans to lift the spirits of the healthcare workers? What about the family in north Texas who began making PPE because they wanted to do something? For ever piece of bad news we heard, there slowly began to be good news, small stories of humans helping humans. Kindness being shown to strangers, even if we’re supposed to stay six feet apart and wear a mask everywhere we go. Because in times of great stress and turmoil, our goodness for and about each other can blossom.

Who would have thought that a video of a nurse in New York getting the Covid vaccination this week would have brought tears to my eyes? It did. For my wife, too.



Hope that 2021 will be better. Hope that the vaccine will work and we’ll slowly get back and create the New Normal (I’m pretty sure we won’t be going back to the Old Normal). Hope that things will get better. Well, let me rephrase that: Knowledge that things will be get better. Certainty. It won’t be fast, it won’t be easy, but as a historian who sees the long view, it will happen.

And we’ll be able to commemorate our endurance of 2020. We’ll be able to celebrate the good things that happened this year, the personal ones as well as the community ones.

We’ll be able to talk about the things that got us through: my newfound love of my local library and the ability to sync with my ereaders, the albums we heard—a banner year for music—the TV shows we watched, the books that were published—like our own S. A. Cosby and the awesome success of his novel BLACKTOP WASTELAND—and the books that were written and will be published in 2021. In that last category, Claire Booth has a new novel debuting on 5 Jan 2021 (it’s already available in the UK) and yours truly will also have a new novel in early 2021.

There are always signs of hope and optimism. They are the reward for our endurance.

We here at DoSomeDamage thank you for your continued patronage of our little experiment. We thank you for the community surrounding us and including us in your lives week after week. We’re going to take a couple of weeks off to see 2020 out the door and welcome in a new year. We’ll be back with regular columns on 9 January 2021, but be sure to check back earlier that week for Claire’s post about her new book FATAL DIVISIONS.

Until next year…

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