2020 is one for the ages.
In the decades and centuries of mankind's history, there have been years where nothing much occurs in the grand scheme of things. While a great battle or disaster might be legendary for a brief moment, the sands of time weather away all, until only a few select years of note are left in the collective consciousness of mankind. But while that argument might be convincing to make in the face of all of this year's strife (after all, how convenient would it be to simply regard 2020 as a minor aberration that will be forgotten in 10 generations), I think that there are three core reasons as to why 2020 will remain in the books for quite some time to come, if not by virtue of itself, but as a landmark for many painful years to come.
Note: In these reasons, I've tried to focus on issues that are global in nature, rather than limited to the United States. Overall, Americentrism is a rather narrow way of viewing history, current affairs, and life in general.
The obvious elephant in the room. An absolute failure of governments that has left almost 2 million dead globally. An international recession. Massive lockdowns of businesses, schools, and all facets of public life. Struggles between popular demands and scientific mandates. Anti-maskers. I think this one is quite obvious and could frankly go on forever, so I'll leave this to the future History of 2020 Ph.D. students to dissect in their final theses.
2. Social Media
It's no secret that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like have played a played a massive role in engorging the suffering and division of the coronavirus. But this monster was around before COVID-19 and it will be here after the vaccines have been fully distributed. The absolute power that a select few opaque moderation policies wield over public discourse is maddening and frightening. Instead of having honest discussions about what should and should not have a platform online, freedom of speech and its appropriate regulations are left to the whims of our new data czars. There's some indication that the EU and the US are interested in pursuing restrictions on these companies, but the impacts of social media, from ethnic conflicts in India and Myanmar to chaos in Venezuela, will be felt for ages to come. I'm not sure there really is a good answer to this one, unlike #1. China seems to have their solution. What will be ours?
3. The Climate Crisis
Surprise! Average global temperatures are still rising! The Great Barrier Reef continue to die. While the pandemic briefly gave Mother Earth some respite, the desire to come back roaring has meant that mankind is back on track to roasting ourselves alive. This issue, of all three, is frankly going to be the most difficult to tackle. When you don't have a job, are afraid of a deathly plague, and are faced with uncertain and incompetent governments, the polar bears and penguins seem to diminish in importance. All the more importance to Build Back Better with clean infrastructure so that the world's leading governments can pave the way for an end to massive consumptions. Right?
Bonus US Issue: BLM
Breaking from my own self imposed rule, I as an American have a duty to acknowledge and support the efforts of activists who have painstakingly fought for the continued fight for equality. The pandemic has created a massive surge of inequality that only widens the gap between America's many and few. Social media has become both a tool to spread awareness and a weapon to organize movements. Environmental failures continue to wreak havoc on poorer neighborhoods. And this is certainly global as well.
It's been tough. It is tough. It will be tough. Let's become better. Onwards to 2021, and good riddance to a year for the ages.