2020 or 20/20: The Year of Optometry

Eyeglass Hand - Bokeh

On a warm but gloomy June morning, I found myself distracted by the ambiguity of social media just days after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Phone in hand, I contemplated whether to watch the eight-minute and forty-six second video that would forever change our society. Like most Americans, I was still attempting to stomach the killing of Georgian jogger, Ahmaud Arbery, in February, and the shooting death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky back in March. Meanwhile, as the Covid-19 pandemic conducted a “no-knock” warrant at every door across the world, it was 2020 that fired upon us while we were still asleep.

Where were you when you first heard the news about the death of basketball legend, Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna? How about the death of Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Congressman John Lewis or esteemed and longtime Jeopardy host, Alex Trebek? How about Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman? Eddie Van Halen? Sean Connery? Kenny Rogers and many more impactful stars that left us. My Lord, who’s next?

I bet you can count on both hands how many stores it took for you to find a roll of toilet paper, Clorox wipes and paper towels. Right now, in your garbage bin is at least one empty can of Lysol spray along with dozens of discarded face masks and several empty bottles of alcoholic beverages that have been sucked dry. I bet you stood outside in a long line (in the rain some of those days) at some far-off store for those sudden delicacies. Some days you were lucky, and on others, you went home empty-handed. Then, as you stood in the doorway of your paycheck-less home fighting back tears and struggling to breathe through a stupid N95 mask, you took a deep breath and entered your house, defeated.

Weeks before the pandemic took flight, we’d taken 2020 (or our 20/20) for granted, forgetful of life’s ultimate and indiscriminate power when it comes to dealing cruelty. Your favorite neighbors across the street, the Joneses, (the ones who invited you to the Chiefs-49ers Super Bowl back in February and who never forget your birthday), blew you away last weekend with some shocking news; they were divorcing. After 15 years of “holey” matrimony amid a low blow pandemic, they’ve decided to call it quits after teleworking from home and homeschooling nightmares with their three children. Meanwhile, at the end of your street, you didn’t know him all that well, but Earl (the guy with the fire-red Mustang) overdosed the last evening. Earl, 39, owned a restaurant in the big city. However, with the uprising of Coronavirus cases everywhere and mandatory social distancing protocols in place, Earl lost his entire business. He was also scheduled for foreclosure in the coming days. On Elsewhere Street, defiant neighbors threw house gatherings of fifty or more when every state governor advised against it. You watched from your bedroom window, shaking your head in disgust. If you weren’t busy making babies or looking for work, you got comfortable with Netflix, frustrated by the indefinite news on Covid-19 prevention and typical Washington politics. Fed up, voters leapt at the opportunity to cast in their votes, well-convinced that a change in leadership was necessary. And it was. Today is Friday, November 27, 2020, and President Donald J. Trump has still refused to officially accept his electoral and popular landslide loss to President-Elect Joe Biden.

Since the beginning of this historic election, “45” has enacted every possible right to a recount of ballots to demanding that the election be stopped altogether. He even went as far as declaring that he’d already won before millions of mail-in votes had been counted. Some would concede that Trump’s refusal to accept his grandiose defeat to Joe Biden similar to a pouty child being soundly beaten in a video game. As news reporters ripped the soon-to-be former president and his loyal supporters, some members of the G.O.P. remain steadfast in Trump’s unpresidential appeal. Behind closed doors, however, they criticize him when safe to do so. Just take a look at the thousands of protesters who overtook D.C. to uphold their leader’s rhetoric that he had been cheated. The president’s preposterousness was upheld by his White House Press Secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, the melting Rudy Guilani and every other career-saving Trump employee hopeful for a “hook-up” job after January 20, 2021.

Four years ago, if you were like me, you granted most of your conservative friends a pass after Trump’s swearing into dictatorship. Don’t blame yourself — you didn’t know it could get this bad. For heaven’s sake, I tried my best to stick to the adage of not mixing friendship with politics. Today, I write that such a notion is just not possible under a Trump Administration. Let me be the first to clarify. It’s not about left vs. right, liberal vs. conservative or republican vs. democrat, necessarily — it’s none of those things. It’s a Donald Trump thing. It’s a “grab ’em by the pussy” thing. It’s calling NFL players “sons of bitches” for exercising their First Amendment Rights thing. It’s a “stand back and stand-by” thing, and every other racist, homophobic, insensitive and misogynistic comment made over the past four years. Really? What does it mean that the President of the United States, a 74-year-old billionaire, paid less in Federal Income Tax than my wife who is legally disabled? I mean, really? Between calling white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia “very fine people” and desecrating the late Arizona Senator, (and Vietnam war hero) John McCain, to refusing to hang up a portrait of our nation’s 44th president, Barack Obama. It’s beyond politics at this point. Children separated from their parents at the border. Need I go on? Yet, as Trump’s own advisers attempt to amputate the president’s itchy twitter finger, he could still not get out of the way of himself to allow Dr. Anthony Fauci (the nation’s top expert on diseases) to get a word in at the podium.

And Even after all of that, still, about 73 million voters attempted to re-sign Donald Trump to another term. Some wearing M.A.G.A. hats and Trump banisters in their yards or on their vehicles. They challenged the wearing of face masks and incited confrontations on social media and in-person. Like Trump, they called for “law and order” but refused to follow the law when it applied to them. We called them “Karens” and put them in check or on blast through social media, hoping to raise awareness to their racism and hypocritical ideology. Then, as more and more votes were counted and the nation started slipping away from Donald Trump’s finger tips, his supporters blamed his loss on fake news, phony conspiracies, hyperbole and sensationalized media.

In walks President-Elect, Joe Biden and his running mate, California Senator, Kamala Harris, first woman of color to be elected Vice President. Suddenly, there’s a glimmer of some hope. On the day Biden was proclaimed as the likely winner of the 46th presidency, the entire world celebrated. Between lockdowns, N95 masks, and friending at half-capacity, finally, a change was on its way from the hurtful rhetoric of four tiresome years. It was the first time we could breathe all year. Now, as 2020 begins to crest toward the new year, we each find ourselves left with the humble task of checking our 20/20.

For me personally, I discovered who my true friends are and was reminded of the importance of saving. Seriously, I doubt any bank account could’ve prepared us for such a pandemic, but still. I also learned that despite the 79 million voters who elected Joe Biden as their 46th president of the United States, another 73 million Americans were willing to give Donald Trump a second chance. That was difficult for me to handle in a country (in 2020) where NFL organizations felt compelled to attach “End Racism” slogans on the back of player’s helmets. The Mayor of Washington, D.C., Muriel Bowser, painted “Black Lives Matter” in bright, bold yellow letters on a street in D.C. for the whole world to see. The parenthetical phrase was meant to explain that black lives are important, too. Why? Because for so many years black lives were not valued. And today, in 2020, it’s a phrase that still makes some of our so-called American brethren uncomfortable to say. It took a knee on George Floyd’s neck for some Americans to finally get it. Sadly, 73 million Americans still don’t. Watching Mr. Floyd call out for his mother as he begged for his life, the story of Emmitt Till came to my mind. Till, a 14-year-old boy from Chicago, was dragged from a relative’s house one summer night in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman. He was savagely beaten and thrown into a nearby lake. Yet, the white woman who claimed Till inappropriately whistled at her, years later (long after his death) admitted it had never happened. Mamie Till, Emmitt’s mother, asked that her son’s casket remain open so that the world could see. If you haven’t heard about this story, google or YouTube it.

We live in the technological age — there’s no excuse for ignorance of American history, particularly when it comes to racial inequality and systemic oppression. For the past four years, Donald Trump has manifested hatred and racism in our country. For the past four years, the ever-so slow healing scab of racism was peeled back as America bled once more from the lashes of white supremacy. Trump’s nefarious “Make America Great Again” slogan will forever be etched into the pages of racist history as being the “remix” to the 21st Century’s version of the Confederate flag. So, for every hat and every yard sign to every shirt worn — that’s what it feels like. It’s a shame that it took one man, one president, to expose all of that.

By the end of this election, if you don’t know who your friends are and their heart, perhaps you should check your 20/20. Still today, we live in a society where the battle for human decency is still prevalent. Then, when the world saw George Floyd die with a knee on his neck and we called some of our white friends to fight alongside us in the eye of justice, what happened? Some (not all) turned off their Facebook accounts, disabled their Instagrams and shied away. They were silent and/or changed the subject whenever talks of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor’s name was brought up. Some claimed to agree that it was wrong what had happened before then casting their ballots for a second Trump term. One of my ex-friends, a stone-cold Trump supporter, had the audacity to invite me out for a double-date as if the 2016 Election never happened.

For everyone else, specifically those disturbed by the rhetoric of the past four years, thank you for doing what’s right. Thank you for marching with your fists raised in the air beside us. Thank you for using your platform as the extra voice needed to allow our country to heal once again. Let us not be misguided by color per se, but by the vibrancies of what’s in one’s own heart.

God Bless.

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Nathan Jarelle

Nathan Jarelle

Nathan Jarelle is an author, poet & blogger from the Nation’s Capital. Subscribe to his blog or visit his website at natejayreads.com to learn more about him.