In so little time.
Who knew when 2020 dawned that the inexorable tug of history would become a series of wrenching yanks that would unsettle the whole world? Think back. The year began with an impeachment trial for only the third time in US history.
Then, there was the startling political drama, soon to be eclipsed by subsequent events, of Joe Biden’s phoenix-like turnaround in the Democratic primaries—from winless, seemingly hopeless, candidate to presumptive presidential nominee almost overnight.
Then, the whole world was overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic. All life seemed to stop in its tracks. Two million Americans have been infected—more than one in four worldwide–and well over 100,000 deaths.
Prompted by the pandemic, we witnessed the greatest economic collapse in the US since the Great Depression, the impact from which we are still reeling as individuals and as a nation.
And now, for the past three weeks, our country has been blanketed by demonstrations over the brutal killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis cop, urgently demanding radical changes in the way we do policing in this country.
These events overshadowed such headlines as the continuing crisis of separated families at our southern border, the President’s daily vindictive rhetoric against perceived enemies, climate change, international tensions.
And the year is not yet half over.
What will the next six months hold? What will the headlines be? It is unwise to predict, but here are some potential flashpoints to watch:
Re-opening the Economy: Will the pattern of slow return to doing “business as usual” restore economic prosperity? Will there be new spikes in coronavirus cases? Will people of color continue to bear the brunt of economic downturn? Or, will this moment offer a genuine opportunity—especially after George Floyd’s death—to expand the field of allies in the struggle for racial and economic justice?
Hurricane Season: Though it has just begun, there have already been three “named storms” in the southeast. Will the impact of climate change portend yet another deadly season of severe storms? Will wildfires rage again in the West? Can we cope with natural disasters on top of domestic unrest, a reeling economy and a pandemic? Will we offer generous and fair assistance to those who suffer losses in natural disasters?
The International Arena: Who is minding the store in international affairs? Will tensions continue to fester between the US and Iran, North Korea, Venezuela? What will Russia do? China? Will we continue to antagonize our allies and coddle our adversaries? How will the Presidential election impact our foreign policy?
A Second Wave of Covid-19: Will the pandemic’s expected second wave materialize? How bad will it be? Will we be ready? Will we continue social distancing, re-close non-essential businesses, enforce stay-at-home policies? Will the public cooperate or lose patience? How will a new wave impact the developing world?
The Presidential Election: Usually the biggest quadrennial story in the US, how will this year’s rush of history impact the election and, more importantly, its aftermath? How can we assure voting is safe and accessible in the midst of a pandemic? The recent debacle in the Georgia primary illustrates how fragile our voting system is and how easy it is for local politicians—let alone foreign powers—to subvert an election.
President Trump has already signaled his questioning of the upcoming election’s legitimacy with tweets decrying fraud in mail-in ballots. How will he react if he loses? Will he yield peacefully?
These flash points serve as multiple catalysts for uncertainty and forebode an accompanying potential for violence. Intersectionality is also at play, as one crisis overlaps another, thereby intensifying the impact of each, especially for people of color.
If you think there was a lot of history in the first half of 2020, wait until the next six months. Buckle up.