The year 2020 was just a preview.

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Photo by Andre Benz on Unsplash

My brother-in-law wants to visit for Thanksgiving. We had to tell him no, twice, then defend our decision over video chat.

He gave us a condescending smile. “I understand.” He’s still planning to see elderly relatives, then return home for dinner with his parents, both in their 60s now. “I’m not that worried,” he says. “I’ve got a killer immune system. I’ve been taking elderberry. You should try it.”

He’ll be driving across multiple states, with no choice but to pull over for gas and bathroom breaks.

You’d think my brother-in-law is some gun toting heathen. …


He’s teaching us how to care about it again.

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Trump in Wisconsin, Sept 2020

It looked like American democracy was falling apart for most of this year, but it wasn’t. It was being tested. It was being stretched.

It was evolving.

When we say things like “the collapse of democracy,” we’re lying to ourselves. The truth is, democracy has always been a bit of a fairy tale in the land of opportunity. …


Accept the randomness, and stop overthinking.

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Diana Indiana

She cringed when he touched her. “Is that a bad sign?” He also wore a wind suit to their first date. Both things were concerning, but the cringing part was probably a deal breaker.

“Usually,” I said, “you shouldn’t cringe.”

That wasn’t the biggest problem, though. …


How you live is up to you.

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Marco Ossino

There’s never been a single way to be happy in this universe. Some of us pretend there is. It’s a problem.

Too often, happiness is a prison. We use the idea of happiness to dictate to everyone else — and ourselves — how to live. Exhibit A: That person you always run into at just the wrong time. They find your lack of cheer disturbing. “Smile,” they tell you.

It’s not just them.

The Internet drowns us in books and articles on how to be happy. Gurus feed us factoids, like “smiling releases dopamine.” Truth is, you can’t force happiness. Fake-smiling can make you miserable, just like spiritual bypassing. The standard formula for happiness ignores anyone whose brain is wired differently. It only dumps a bunch of expectations on us, which we then punish ourselves trying to live up to. …


Fascists use women to make themselves palatable.

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Chanel Rion with Rudy Giuliani and Christianne Allen

It’s a simple idea. Get women dolled up, put them in front of a camera, let them spout all kinds of lies. And to think, men used to say women were “too squeaky” to be news anchors.

Then some rich guys, like Roger Ailes, realized you could use attractive ones as tools to promote right-wing propaganda.

It’s brilliant. After all, Barbie sold toxic beauty standards for a century. Women like her are ideally positioned to market all kinds of bad ideas.

This strategy has worked extremely well. I know guys whose brains shut off entirely when they see someone like Kayleigh McEnany or Tomi Lahren. Bros on the right frequently compare them to the “fat angry feminist” trope, as evidence that somehow having skinny blond women on your side equates to unquestionable moral superiority. …


He’s the true enemy of change.

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Christopher Halloran

I’ve got friends in Kentucky. They tell me Mitch McConnell can’t even walk through an airport in his own state. His plane stops on the tarmac before it reaches the gate, where he sneaks off.

So…

McConnell knows how much everyone hates him.

He doesn’t care.

Instead he proudly calls himself “The Grim Reaper,” a nickname he picked up from House Democrats. Americans have plenty of their own nicknames for the man who’s blocked 400 different bills, many of which are bipartisan and have broad support among the public.

It’s a hard thing to imagine. Most of us have some shred of empathy or conscience. If we couldn’t even walk through an airport without getting accosted or threatened by ordinary people, we might check our behavior. …


Stubborn ideology is always a problem.

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D.C. Protest/BGRocker

The left is already pointing fingers at moderates. They say Biden was too mild. He didn’t go far enough. He and other Democrats didn’t adopt the progressive platform they wanted. For them it explains the disappointing election results across the country, and the great blue fizzle.

Oh, I’m not sure about that.

True, we barely won the presidency. We didn’t overtake the Senate like we hoped. We lost seats in the House. Overall, it’s not a great outlook. Without Biden, we would’ve done even worse.

There’s some evidence that Biden outperformed progressives who followed in the footsteps of Bernie Sanders. Where they lost districts and states, Biden won with comfortable margins. …


We’re not ready to unite just yet.

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Years ago, it was raining hard. My friend was shuffling into a Starbucks when she saw a man behind her. She held the door for him. He saw her and stopped, grinning as the rain drenched her clothes.

“Are you coming in?” she said.

The man just stood there, chuckling. “No, I’m going to watch you get soaked for being so stupid.” He spent the rest of the time in line, mocking her. “I bet you’re one of those bleeding heart liberals,” he kept saying. She ignored him. What else could she do?

These kinds of little moments stick in my memory over the years, because they shed so much light on America. This one’s a perfect metaphor for the 2020 election, and its aftermath. …


This election showed us the real America (again).

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Evan El-Amin

My brother-in-law leaves his keys in the ignition at night. “Who in the world would want to steal my car?” I tell him, “Someone who doesn’t have one? Someone who would chop it up and sell the parts for cash?”

He laughs.

This is my family in a nutshell. It tells you a lot about America, and especially white people. It doesn’t matter what our politics are. A lot of us just can’t imagine anything bad ever happening.

Half my family can’t be bothered to think about current events at all. They don’t recycle. The rest of them definitely voted for Trump. I did my best to convince them, and it wasn’t enough. Some of them don’t even understand why we’re staying home for Christmas this year, instead of driving 12 hours across a pandemic-stricken country. …


Vocational awe is killing essential workers.

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Photo by Étienne Godiard on Unsplash

My spouse quit his job last month. He was tired of it. All of it.

He was tired of watching his coworkers let their masks slide right down to the tip of their nose while talking. He was tired of students coming in with masks down around their necks. He was tired of being treated like a paranoid lunatic when he asked for social distancing protocols, or an upgrade to their ancient ventilation system. Finally, he asked to work from home part-time, because we have a toddler and no daycare.

“Can’t you find another option?” they said. “Can’t your spouse take care of your child, so you can come in? You do such an important job. We can’t afford to have you working from home right now.” …

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