Farewell to a Dreadful Year

The French writer Jean Raspail died this summer. It was somehow fitting that the man whose dark novel The Camp of the Saints foretold the end of western civilization should pass at a time when everything seemed to be falling apart.

As a summary of the state of the world at the time of his death, one could hardly do better than to quote a passage from Raspail’s prophetic book:

“Day by day, month by month, doubt by doubt, law and order became fascism; education, constraint; work, alienation; revolution, mere sport; leisure, a privilege of class; marijuana, a harmless weed; family, a stifling hothouse; affluence, oppression; success, a social disease; sex, an innocent pastime; youth, a permanent tribunal; maturity, the new senility; discipline, an attack on personality.”

Three major events intersected in the tumultuous year of 2020: the coronavirus pandemic, the Black Lives Matter/Antifa-inspired riots that occurred after the police killing of George Floyd, and the vigorous assault on free speech that became known as “cancel culture.” These all preceded a presidential election that degenerated into a calamity.

When the coronavirus first appeared, the neo-Thought Police in the media took pains to refrain from referring to the virus by its place of origin (the “Wuhan virus” or the “China flu”) for fear of being politically incorrect. Notwithstanding the fact that West Nile Virus, Ebola, and Lyme Disease, among other maladies, are named after the geographic origins of the disease, there was an exception made for this one. Using the term Wuhan flu was simply not permitted.

Starting with the contretemps over the name, the virus became entirely a creature of politics: a useful crisis that could serve as the springboard for the progressive agenda. During the first two months of the year, as the virus was spreading from China to the rest of the world, the progressives in the media minimized it.

In the early spring, the Imperial College of London model predicted 2.2 million deaths in the United States and 500,000 in Great Britain. This became the scientific basis for a large-scale abrogation of personal and economic liberty. The models were later adjusted and by May it had become obvious that the death totals would be far short of that forecast, but by that point it was too late. The lockdowns originally sold as a temporary expedient to “flatten the curve” remained a feature of much of the U.S. economy for the remainder of the year.

On dubious authority, numerous state governors and city mayors forcibly shuttered all businesses they deemed “nonessential” to society and enforced the edicts with penalties, including threats of imprisonment. “Safetyism” became the order of the day. By the end of the year, emboldened politicians were telling people how to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The lockdowns dealt a devastating blow to the private economy, causing the GDP to tumble and wiping out 14 years of job gains. “Never before had public officials required millions of lawful businesses to shut their doors, throwing tens of millions of people out of work,” Heather Mac Donald wrote. “They did so at the command of one particular group of experts — those in medical and public health fields — who viewed their mandate as eliminating one particular health risk with every means put at their disposal.”

To deal with the economic distress, the federal government approved spending of trillions of additional dollars, dramatically increasing the dependence of private individuals and businesses on government. But in practice the lockdown policy was ruthlessly regressive. It most adversely affected those in lower-income occupations and small business owners, those with limited capital and limited opportunities to borrow, and rewarded politically connected big businesses.

Then in the summer of 2020, the cities erupted. Following the death of George Floyd, thousands of people took to the streets (in the midst of a pandemic) to protest “systemic racism,” whatever that was. However, while “mostly peaceful protestors” ran amok, church attendance was strictly limited. George Floyd, who had a long criminal past, was practically turned into Mother Theresa. At a time when normal people couldn’t have funerals for their family members, Floyd managed to have four. The violence that fanned out across the country led to a huge spike in crime in New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Portland, and other major cities.

Meanwhile, cancel culture went from tearing down statues and public art to censoring speech. Suddenly, words or expressions innocently used for decades and centuries, were deemed to have “racist connotations.” These included, for example, “Peanut gallery,” “Eenie meenie miney moe,” “Gyp,” and “No can do.” The term “master” was viewed as problematic because it supposedly related to the relationship of master and slave. Did anyone ever think such a thing when praising a performance as “masterful” or conferring a “master’s” degree? Does it matter? Liberal writer Andrew Sullivan observed that the use of the term “white supremacy” to mean not the KKK or the antebellum South but American society as a whole in the 21st century is now routine on the Left. The word “women,” is now being replaced by “people who menstruate.”  

Political commentator Yoram Hazony noted that George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm had been taught in schools for decades. It was all in vain, he concluded: “Liberals never dreamed that when they opened their institutions to ‘Social Justice’ and ‘Identity’ politics, they were setting off down the exact road Orwell had warned against.”

Against this backdrop we held an unprecedented presidential election. COVID provided the pretext for the country to adopt a new system of voting. While it was deemed entirely safe for people to cram into a Wal-Mart, voting in person was deemed to be so unsafe that a new regime of mail-in voting was adopted, at the urging of the Democrats.

Hans von Spakovsky, an election law expert at the Heritage Foundation, previewed all of the potential problems with mail-in voting back in August: mail-in ballots are more vulnerable to being altered, stolen, or forged; they run the risk of being miscarried or not delivered by the postal service; and they run the risk of not being not being postmarked, making it impossible to determine if they were mailed on time. For the Democrats, of course, these irregularities were a feature, not a bug.

Moreover, Big Media and Big Tech, acting as official enforcers of cancel culture, censored and suppressed pro-Trump views and news stories that could be harmful to Biden.

It was little wonder that millions of Americans concluded that the election was a farce.

If the progressives’ cultural revolution is successful, Victor David Hansen predicted, “[t]he special targets will be the self-employed successful business class… those

…who run local insurance agencies, the store owners, salespeople, the successful medical practices, car dealerships, large family farms, the millions who keep the country competitive, innovative, and prosperous. All of them lack the romance of the poor and the cultural tastes of the rich, but for the most part, they are just too damn informed and stubborn to be tolerated.”

These were precisely the folks that Hillary Clinton called “the basket of deplorables.”

All year, these deplorables have been told: “Keep your heads down, your mouths shut, and obey the designated experts.”

Their New Year’s Resolution for 2021 must be to respond loudly and forcefully:

“No. Not anymore.”

You can follow Nicholas J. Kaster on Twitter.

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