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  • Sam White

Dear Pandemic Survivors: This is The Way 2020 Has Left Us.

I know you’re probably ready to claw your eyes out if you hear “this has been an unprecedented year” one more time. I get it. Me too. But it really has been.

2020 has been a prolific year in terms of civil rights, human rights, women’s rights, environmental crises, human empathy, and the intersection of ethics and economy. The news has been relentless, every single day seeming to bring more fear, vitriol, and history-making stupidity for us to ingest. Collectively, I think we’re all pretty full.

The year started off bizarrely enough with threats of World War 3; and while the kind of war that we expected may not have happened, the world was certainly at war with itself in a different way. We saw our world burn from end to end — from Australia to California —while being thrown into a global lockdown. We’ve watched governments fracture, innocent citizens be brutalized and killed by police, millions die due to a deadly pandemic, millions lose their jobs and be thrown into poverty, millions more who didn’t care about either of those things, the 1% become even more engorged with outrageous amounts of money, and an evil administration that abused and gaslighted us the entire way.

To say it’s been a lot to process would be the understatement of the year. I believe we’ve yet to truly understand the deep and long-lasting trauma of this heinous year. I think it will take a long time for us to come to terms with the way 2020 has left us.

(Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash)

2020 has left us in a collective state of mourning. Millions of people across the world have watched their loved ones die due to the deadly pandemic, oftentimes alone. Pandemic protocols have forced families out of hospitals and into devastating goodbyes via Facetime, the cold skin of technology a harsh replacement for warm human touch.

Thousands of others have died at the hands of a racist and corrupt ‘justice’ system fueled by white supremacy. During the summer the spotlight was brightly centered on the daily realities of Black Americans who have not been awarded the same rights to life — to go to a convenience store, drive in a car, go for a jog, walk down the street, or sleep in their bed — as their white counterparts. Black families have been mourning for centuries but 2020 has fed us that mourning in media for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

We’ve lost beloved celebrities, such as Kobe and Gigi Bryant, Chadwick Boseman, Regis Philbin, Alex Trebek, Eddie Van Halen, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, pillars of our culture who have inspired the masses during times that were dark and uncertain. Them being taken has left us with a feeling of unbiased mortality; “Good things don’t last forever. No one is untouchable.”

2020 has left us doubting our friends, family, and neighbors. Many of us have been shocked by those who have shown their true colors during this emotionally and politically turbulent year. People who we once thought were intelligent and compassionate people have turned out to be ardent Trump supporters who’ve show no regard for human life (or frankly, even logic itself). Those of us, myself included, who do not have the stomach to tolerate people in their lives with a moral compass so different than their own, have had to grapple with the heartbreaking loss of friends and family who have long disguised themselves as good people.

This year has shown us it’s not “just politics” anymore — it’s morals, it’s ethics, it’s where you stand on the rights of people who don’t look like you, who don’t practice religion like you, who don’t love the same people as you do. This has become about who you are as a person down to the core of your being. It’s about where you stand on racism, oppression, violence, and equal rights. And it has exposed two very different but glaringly obvious groups: one that cares about the lives of other people, and one that does not.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “if these people were this evil all along, surely you should have known this before the election — maybe that’s your own poor judgment of character.” And while this may be true for some (I’d like to consider my close circle of family and friends all decent and somewhat like-minded people) we don’t get to a number like 55% of white women voting for Trump without a shocking number of people hiding in plain sight. 2020 has left us knowing that performative activism and internalized racism is a bigger issue in our communities than we may have previously thought.

2020 has left us with complete distrust in our police and government. My grandmother is— and I say this with the deepest love and respect — one of the most naive and innocent people I’ve ever met. A woman who quite literally can feel the pain of others, who does not have the capability of anything but love and kindness in her heart, has watched her perception of a world that she thought was right and just be completely shattered as images of police brutalizing innocent protesters; beating them bloody, pepper-spraying them with no rhyme or reason, stomping on them and spitting in their faces; were projected across all of our screens for months over the summer.

She watched, many days glassy-eyed, as a government she thought was built to protect us began to expose its ugly hand, which was wrought with evilness, selfishness, and repugnance, only feigning concern for the financial integrity of the mega-rich while showing blatant disregard for the lives and livelihood of millions of average American families in need. It broke my heart as I watched the optimism slowly leave her spirit.

2020 has left us knowing that half of the country does not care whether we live or die. We’ve spent the year watching half of the population continue to party, congregate, refuse to wear masks, and call this pandemic a hoax while the other half have had to bury their loved ones due to the negligence of others. We’ve watched our healthcare workers die in record numbers — not only from exposure to this deadly disease but to stress and suicide. Hospitals have been so overrun for months that they’ve run out of space for the bodies, working around the clock to try and save people who didn’t care enough to follow the rules in the first place.

Restaurant workers, retail workers, and transportation workers have been forced to put their lives on the line to keep a roof over their heads. Many people who have been dubbed essential workers now know with complete certainty that it was never themselves that were essential — only the bottom line. We are just bodies used to make money. Our capitalist system has made it abundantly clear that money shall be made regardless of how many lives it takes to get there.

2020 has left us knowing exactly where the priority of our government is. As this year comes to a close, we are offered another pathetic excuse for a stimulus bill full of gluttonous feasts for the rich and crumbs for the poor. We have been forced to sit back and watch politicians spend the entire year not only claiming that COVID-19 was a hoax but actively block pivotal aid for people in need — and now we watch these same people cut to the front of the line for the vaccine that so many frontline workers desperately need. We are left knowing that our lives explicitly do not, and have not ever, mattered to them.

2020 has left us exhausted, numb, hopeless, and isolated. Many of us have spent the majority of the year in complete isolation, deprived of the social interaction that humans so desperately need to survive. We have had to endure all of this trauma without the things in life that make us happy. We are left tired and pessimistic, feeling like we are too small to take on the megalith that is big business and corporate capitalistic greed.

I can’t think of one person in my life who hasn’t felt the barbaric consequences of this year on a deep and painful level. Everyone I know feels defeated in a way that scares me — and makes me angry.


While we know that the world won’t magically reset on 12 A.M. January 1st 2021, let people enjoy a bit of relief that the worst year in America’s recent history will be put to rest. This year has been so prolific that I believe we will view life in a pre-2020 and post-2020 sense. Life has changed. Things are different now. Traces of our old lives and the ‘before times’ seem so far away. This collective trauma has affected us in ways we don’t truly understand yet. Knowing this, we must learn to be gentle with ourselves and focus on our healing — taking care of yourself while the world goes up in flames may seem selfish but it’s one of the most important things you can do.

If anything good came out of this year it’s that more people are aware of just how severe these issues are. People who were previously in the dark have had no choice but to see the light of the reality we live in. Swaths of society have finally been awakened. With that in mind we must let 2020 leave us with a fire in our bellies that will only be put out by drastic systematic change.

And with that, the only thing left to say to 2020 is this: “good riddance and fuck you.”

 White Ember Letters

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