It is now 2021 and most Americans would agree that last year was one of the worst years in our history. 2020 began innocently enough with a strong economy and no major wars or terrorist attacks; political divisions notwithstanding. The recent presidential impeachment (September – December 2019) left the nation bitter and polarized.
The initial scare of the coronavirus outbreak last winter and resulting lockdowns led to an understanding of the virus but also increased infections and deaths. Americans’ lives have changed significantly as the economy was rocked by state government-imposed mandates and restrictions. The federal government avoided overreach by mobilizing private industry and federal agencies while allowing states to decide how best to handle the virus. At the same time, political witch-hunts of Donald Trump continued as the President was attacked, instead of supported as he responded to the epidemic that morphed into a pandemic. Americans were then stunned as race riots, Antifa / BLM insanity and an extreme political divide characterized the balance of the year fueled by 2020 political campaigns and covid reactions.
America’s precarious position and its history now hangs in the balance as the gamut of problems and challenges this country and its citizens face are arguably some of the toughest of all time. 2020 is the tipping point in our history.
The coronavirus (covid-19) pandemic has changed America in so many negative ways. Fear of disease and the loss of freedoms are rampant. Initial concern In February and March of 2020 was largely well founded on limited, initial data and based on minimal understanding of the nature of covid-19. The federal response and the delegation of local responsibility to the states resulted in lockdowns and protracted shutdowns which persisted throughout the entire year. The impact on children and the shutdown and schooling coupled with the overall decline in economic productivity hit many small and large businesses alike. The national economic picture, whether measured through employment or the stock market, highlights the impact clearly. In February, stock prices were at record highs and national unemployment was the lowest since the 1960s. These figures would swing in the opposite direction as swiftly as the virus took hold of the national consciousness and impacted commerce at all levels.
Millions have become infected and over 400,000 have died legitimizing covid-19 as a significant medical epidemic. However, the underlying evidence points to comorbidities and preconditions which essentially means that only small parts of the population are truly vulnerable. Therefore, the overall impact could be lessened while still maintaining the safety and security of protected populations such as the elderly and those with significant sicknesses or weak immune systems. A mask debate(video below) and privacy issues emerged as major issues. The latter was evidenced by the cooperation of contact tracers, cell phone manufacturers, software developers and telecommunications companies all tracking personal whereabouts, magnifying already existing privacy concerns.
Linked to covid is a modern education crisis in America. The loss of school time with the shift to remote learning is pronounced and become clearer over time as this lost cohort of learning gets further behind due to lost educational opportunities. From K-12 to higher education, this shift is apparent. As children lose classroom seat time they miss out on up to 60% of grade level content assigned in a partial-remote, a.k.a., hybrid learning environment. It is clear teachers and schools are being careful to avoid burdening students and families with too much work. Moreover, many school athletics, clubs, gatherings, arts and music opportunities are being suspended in the age of covid. American schoolchildren are losing their ability to grow academically as well as socially, due to missed opportunities. As a result, more free time and reliance on internet-based, screen focused activities have additional negative outcomes. The focus on remote learning and social distancing has failed students who are not learning at the level they should be. Performance indicators of all types will bear this out unless they are tampered with, or developed with bias similar to political opinion polls.
What started as a national crisis with the potential to unify the nation, turned into a divisive political and media battle that shaped the crisis into a two- sided event. Similarly, the growing censorship by the media and clear bias in most news outlets has created a toxic national culture of mistrust, division and frankly, clear and unabashed disunity.