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2020, The “Terrible Year”

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Upon entering the last trimester of 2020 it is impossible not to conclude that this has been a terrible year at the personal, collective, and global level, and we still cannot predict what will happen in the presidential election on November 3, or how this fateful year that has caused so much pain and anguish will end.

I remember that January of this year was so traumatic for Puerto Ricans, for many reasons including the earthquakes from which the southwest of the Island still have not recovered; so much so that the people decided to start from scratch and say goodbye to January as if the year started in February, with fireworks and all.

What we didn’t know is that just around the corner, in March, the chaos of COVID-19, where we still find ourselves today, would begin. The pandemic continues to beat down the entire world, although the United States occupies first place in cases, 6 million, and deaths, 184,000 and counting.

In the midst of the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of people have lost loved ones to the virus, but also to other illnesses, in many cases poorly cared for due to the quarantines and the hospital crisis.

On a personal level, this horrible year I lost my father to cancer, so 2020 will remain frozen in my mind and in my heart forever, as much as I would like to forget it when it’s over.

But COVID is not only literally taking lives. It has left millions of people without work struggling to support their families in the middle of a panorama that, rather than improving, is growing worse. The daily news about the fight over unemployment benefits or the wait for extra help that does not come are added to the news of all the businesses that little by little have ceased to exist, harming the economy at all levels.

At the same time, the economic crisis exacerbates the mental health in homes, neighborhoods, cities, and the entire country.

And if we add to that the old scourges that have plagued us for decades, like systemic and institutionalized racism, or police violence, it is not surprising that demonstrations are intensifying throughout the nation.

But one of the central problems that all of these crises confront is the lack of leadership from the White House, starting with the irresponsible response of the federal government to the pandemic, which resulted in the death count being so elevated.

This historic moment in which we live requires leaders who really are concerned about the wellbeing of the people and nation they govern; leaders capable of feeling empathy for others; leaders who don’t just want to be in the good graces of one segment of the population, the Anglo Saxon one, to the detriment of the others. Leaders who try to calm the nation and not foment division, exploiting every situation politically and in their favor.

Unfortunately in this terrible year we are led by a terrible president who continues doing exactly the opposite, and who instead of denouncing violence, favors one group and foments more tension. He even went to Kenosha, Wisconsin, the city where the African American Jacob Blake received seven shots in the back at the hands of a white police officer, leaving him paralyzed, and where a 17 year-old Trump supporter killed two protestors and wounded a third, without the president making any sort of reference to the incident. Why did he go? To make us believe that he cares about what is happening, or to fan the flames?

And with a little more than sixty days to the general elections, it’s to be anticipated that Trump will foment even more division because his campaign is based on the fear of the specter of “fraud,” which he is growing in order to mobilize his base.

I would like to think that a majority longs for change and that this terrible year may surprise us by departing with good news at the polls. I’d like to think so.

On November 3 we will know if, for many of us, 2020 will end as turbulently as it began, or if a door toward hope is opened.