OPINION: The Curse of 2020


Hailey Stessman

The lasting impacts of 2020 aren’t limited to the constraints of a 365-day year; it will continue into 2021 if there ceases to be change. Graphic by Hailey Stessman/The Gateway

Why was it that this past New Year’s Eve countdown elicited an impulse within me to cry?

Universally, the dawn of a new year is a moment abundant in festivities rooted in hope and confident anticipation for what is to unfold in the next twelve months. So it was strange for me to be in a melancholic state rather than a celebratory one when “Auld Lang Syne” hauntingly rang throughout the almost empty Times Square in New York City.

My neighborhood was quiet, a contrast to previous years when, at the stroke of midnight, the sky would burst into a multitude of fireworks. I remember looking over at my family on the couch and watching bittersweet smiles form on their faces as they sipped on their glasses of champagne. I could tell we were all thinking the same thing:

“It’s not over yet.”

Weeks before we passed the threshold into 2021, I noticed how often people on Twitter and Instagram were outwardly expressing their excitement for 2020 to come to an end and trying to speak a better new year into existence. It is difficult to encapsulate all of the pain, grief and suffering the world experienced last year into a simple sentence. Claiming that 2020 was challenging would be an understatement– it was complete and utter chaos.

In the span of twelve months, we collectively witnessed the looming threat of murder hornets, the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade (among others) at the hands of law enforcement, the passionate Black Lives Matter protests held across the globe which blatantly exposed the racist roots of police forces, the anxiety-inducing election resulting in the nomination of Joe Biden as the president-elect with Kamala Harris as his vice-president, the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the confirmation as Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy after displaying a poor knowledge on the foundation of the United States government, and of course, the tragic effects of COVID-19 as it spread across the world.

Yes, all of that happened in 2020. Did I forget to mention that “Parasite” won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, too?

I don’t blame those who took more of a shamelessly optimistic approach to the beginning of 2021; I think many of us were desperately searching for any form of escape from the turmoil that we endured throughout the year. However, I am sorry to say that you would have to be incredibly naive to believe that the second midnight arrived everything would be quietly swept underneath the rug and life would return to a peaceful sort of normalcy.

Yet, look where we are now. Vaccines for COVID-19 are being refused to undocumented workers and individuals by our own Gov. Pete Ricketts, white supremacist groups and Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol to interrupt the confirmation of the electoral results, and health care workers continue to struggle with the influx of positive COVID cases as hospital bed capacities reach an all-time high.

Only a few days in and I have already started to watch the mentions of a “curse of 2021” filter through my feeds and Twitter timeline. It’s time we realize that the events of the last year that continue into 2021 are not the products of a curse. We need to stop placing the blame of these tragedies and catastrophes on an otherworldly being and come to the realization that the statement of “this isn’t who we are” is a remark lacking substance.

This is who we were when indigenous land and autonomy were ripped from Native Americans at the “birth” of America. This is who we were when Black men, women and children were inhumanely forced to be at the disposal of whites as slaves. Unfortunately, not much has changed.

This isn’t some curse to be broken. This is what happens when a racist infrastructure stays in power for too long while continuing to only cater to upper class white citizens and politicians.

If we want to truly say “this isn’t who we are”, then drastic change needs to occur.