Dave Barry’s 2020 Year in Review: “Put on your face mask and don a hazmat suit.”

From Dave Barry’s 2020 Year in Review in the Miami Herald:

We’re trying to think of something nice to say about 2020.

OK, here goes: Nobody got killed by the murder hornets. As far as we know.

That’s pretty much it.

In the past, writing these annual reviews, we have said harsh things about previous years. We owe those years an apology. Compared to 2020, all previous years, even the Disco Era, were the golden age of human existence. . . .

We sincerely don’t want to relive this year. But our job is to review it. If you would prefer to skip this exercise in masochism, we completely understand.

If, however, you wish, for some sick reason, to re-experience 2020, now is the time to put on your face mask, douse your entire body with hand sanitizer and then — to be safe — don a hazmat suit, as we look back at the unrelenting insanity of this hideous year, starting with…

JANUARY

…which begins with all of Washington, as well as parts of Virginia and Maryland, gripped by the gripping historic drama of the impeachment of Donald Trump. Remember that? How gripped we were?

To set the stage: Back in mid-December, the House of Representatives passed two articles of impeachment, after which Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in accordance with the U.S. Constitution, handed out souvenir signing pens. Everyone expected that Pelosi would then send the articles to the Senate. But as of early January the Senate has not received them. People are wondering if Pelosi, what with her various official duties and hairdresser appointments, simply forgot to send the articles. . . .

Eventually, however, the articles arrive at the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch “The Undertaker” McConnell promises that the impeachment issue will receive full and fair consideration. He is of course joking, but this is not obvious, because even when Mitch is in a jovial mood he looks like a man passing a kidney stone the size of the Hope Diamond. . . .

In sports, Major League Baseball is rocked by scandal with the release of a report concluding that the Houston Astros engaged in an elaborate multi-year cheating scheme, which critics charge enabled the team to win the 2017 World Series as well as six congressional seats in the 2018 midterm elections. By way of punishment, the league — sending a clear message to future would-be cheaters — rules that all players involved in the scheme will continue to play baseball in exchange for enormous amounts of money.

Speaking of scandal, in…

FEBRUARY

…Washington and its immediate suburbs remain gripped by the U.S. Senate’s historic impeachment trial of President Trump, with Democratic prosecutors arguing that Trump illegally pressured Ukrainian leaders to benefit himself politically, while the Republican defense team, employing an alibi strategy, claims that Trump was playing golf at the time. Under the watchful eye of Chief Justice John Roberts, who is kept from nodding off by a law clerk armed with a pellet gun, everyone, in accordance with Senate rules, repeats everything 127 times, after which the Republican majority, to the surprise of anyone who has the IQ of sponge cake, acquits the Republican president. Washington and its suburbs immediately start looking around for a new historic thing to be gripped by.

In the midst of the impeachment drama, Trump delivers the State of the Union address, an awkward affair that begins with Speaker Pelosi refusing to use the traditional “high privilege and distinct honor” introduction; then Trump refusing to shake Pelosi’s hand; then Pelosi tearing up her copy of Trump’s speech. . . . .

As February draws to a close, 2020 seems to be shaping up as a typical election year, in which the political-media complex is repeatedly engulfed by raging apocalyptic dramas that the regular human public pretty much ignores.

And then, unfortunately, comes…

MARPRIL

…which starts off calmly enough, as the Democratic party, desperate to find an alternative to 132-year-old white guy Bernie Sanders, settles on 132-year-old white guy Joe Biden, who cruises to a series of primary victories after replacing “No Malarkey” with a bold new campaign slogan: “Somewhat Alert At Times.” Biden is endorsed by most of his Democratic opponents, including “Mike” Bloomberg, who spent more than $500 million on his campaign, which seems like a lot of money until you consider that he won the American Samoa Caucus, narrowly edging out Tulsi Gabbard, who spent $13.50.

And then, sprinkled in amid all the political coverage, we begin to see reports that this coronavirus thing might be worse than we have been led to believe, although at first the authorities still seem to be saying that it’s basically the flu and there is no reason to panic. . . .

Dr. Birx Dr. Fauci when will we have a vaccine when will we have herd immunity when can we go outside when can we go back to work what is the “new normal” good lord what did Trump say about disinfectants DON’T INJECT CLOROX YOU IDIOTS what about the food chain what about reinfection what about the second wave hey they’re showing the NFL draft and Georgia is opening the tattoo parlors and holy crap now it’s…

MAY

…and we are, as a nation, exhausted. We are literally sick and tired of the pandemic. But amid all the gloom, there is a ray of sunshine: As we go through this harrowing experience — affecting all Americans, in both red states and blue states — we are starting to realize that our common humanity is more important than our political differences.

Ha ha! Seriously, we hate each other more than ever. We disagree about everything — when to reopen the economy, whether to wear masks, whether to go to the beach, whether it’s OK to say “China” — everything. Each side believes that it is motivated purely by reason, facts and compassion, and that the other side is evil and stupid and sincerely wants people to die. Every issue is binary: my side good, other side bad. There is no nuance, no open-mindedness, no discussion. . . .

Meanwhile, in a basement somewhere in Delaware, Joe Biden and his campaign team have managed to procure a “webcam,” which they intend to use to “log on” to the “Internet” so that Joe’s campaign message can go “viral,” just as soon as Joe decides what it is. . . .

Toward the end of the month the economy is starting to open up, the virus numbers in many places seem to be improving and people are starting to venture out of their homes. For a few minutes, the nation seems to be groping its way, an inch at a time, toward relative calm. And then…

WHAM, 2020 strikes again, this time in Minneapolis, where the horrendous killing of George Floyd at the hands of police ignites a protest movement that quickly spreads across the nation, sometimes mutating into violence. In the past, such movements tended to lose energy, smothered under a thick cloud of politicians’ platitudes, but this one has legs, and as we enter…

JUNE

…the protest movement grows in size and passion with frankly not a whole lot of social distancing. In Washington, D.C., large crowds gather in front of the White House. President Trump, angered by reports that at one point he retreated to an underground bunker, states that in fact he was merely inspecting the bunker, this being a responsibility explicitly assigned to the president by the Constitution, right after where it says he’s in charge of foreign policy

To demonstrate that he is not the kind of leader who hides in bunkers, the president courageously goes outside (after the protesters have been cleared away) and personally walks several hundred feet to historic St. John’s Church, where he holds up a Bible. Or possibly it is a thesaurus. The important thing is that it is a serious-looking book and a strong visual, at a time when what this wounded and divided nation needs, more than ever, is strong visuals. . . .

During this period the Biden campaign focuses its energies primarily on being in Delaware. . . .

JULY

…COVID19 cases continue to rise sharply in some southern states, accompanied by what the World Health Organization describes as an “alarming” spike in smugness in some northern states, notably New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveils a poster, for sale at $11.50, commemorating, in a cartoony manner, New York’s pandemic experience. Really. It is as if the White Star Line sold whimsical souvenirs of the Titanic. . . .

In a decision that outrages Democrats, President Trump commutes the federal prison sentence of his longtime friend and political operative Roger Stone. The White House states that imprisoning the 67-year-old Stone would be inhumane because he has a medical condition that requires him “to roam free at night seeking fresh human blood.”

Meanwhile in Delaware, Joe Biden’s team continues to ponder the question of who should be Joe’s running mate, the goal being to find somebody who (a) is a woman and (b) has a name that Joe can remember. . . .

On the diplomatic front, the Trump administration announces that, after tense high-level negotiations, it has reached a peace agreement under which U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Portland, Ore., where for many weeks protestors have been seeking social justice via a combination of peaceful demonstrations and arson. . . .

In sports, the Washington Redskins, bowing to mounting public pressure, announce that they are changing their name, which critics say is insensitive. They will henceforth be known as the Pittsburgh Redskins. In Major League Baseball, the teams begin a shortened season with stadium seats occupied by cardboard cutouts representing fans, except in the case of the Houston Astros, who use live human snipers.

Speaking of threats, in…

AUGUST

…President Trump escalates his attacks on TikTok, a Chinese-owned social-media app that threatens our national security by causing millions of Americans to learn stupid dances while Chinese people are making useful products to sell to Americans. The president wants to force TikTok to be sold to Microsoft, apparently in the hope that Microsoft will render it unusable by means of “updates.”

In other foreign-policy action, Trump brokers a historic Middle East peace agreement, which, along with the estimated 45 previous historic Middle East peace agreements, brings the Middle East one step closer to potentially being on the verge of reaching the brink of what could some day become a stepping stone to lasting peace, although you should not hold your breath. . . .

Meanwhile at home the nation’s mood is increasingly tense and angry as Americans are bombarded all day, every day, with a constant stream of news about protests, boycotts, disruption, despair and rage. And that’s just on SportsCenter. . . .

California, as it traditionally does at this time of year, bursts into flames. Adding to the citizens’ misery are rolling electrical blackouts, possibly related to the fact that the state legislature has banned all sources of electricity except windmills and 9-volt batteries. . . .

In election news, Joe Biden makes history by choosing Kamala Harris as his running mate; if elected, she would become the first U.S. vice president whose name can be rearranged to spell “I Alarm A Shark.” During the Democratic debates Harris leveled some harsh criticisms at Biden, but a Biden campaign source says that “Joe has forgotten all about that. Literally.”

For his part, Trump dismisses rumors that he might change running mates, telling reporters “I’m very happy with whatshisname.”

Because of the pandemic, both parties hold their conventions virtually, which means that instead of endless hours of repetitious blather, the TV broadcasts consist of endless hours of repetitious blather but without the entertaining visuals of delegates in stupid hats. The Democrats adopt a sweeping platform filled with bold policy initiatives that nobody will ever look at again. The Republican platform consists of, quote, “whatever was in the president’s most recent tweet.”

Speaking of principles, in…

SEPTEMBER

…the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg triggers a classic display of Washington-style ethical consistency as both political parties, addressing the issue of when the vacancy should be filled, passionately embrace positions diametrically opposite the ones they passionately embraced in 2016. Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat, arguing that she is “perfectly qualified” for the high court because she is “a woman, but not like super hot.”. . .

In other political news, the New York Times, in a politically devastating career-ending bombshell report, reveals that an analysis of Trump’s tax records shows that pretty much his only major success, as a businessman, has been playing the part of a successful businessman on a TV show. Coming on the heels of two politically devastating bombshell reports earlier in the month — one alleging that Trump mocked the military, and one that he lied about the seriousness of the coronavirus— this brings to an even 500 the total number of times Trump has been devastated by bombshell media reports.

Joe Biden leaves Delaware briefly to give a campaign speech in Philadelphia, where he makes the following statement: “If Donald Trump has his way, the complications from COVID-19, which are well beyond what they should be — it’s estimated that 200 million people have died — probably by the time I finish this talk.” Then it’s back to Delaware for Joe.

The biggest political event of the month is the much-anticipated Trump-Biden debate, a lively affair featuring a frank and open exchange of sentence fragments highlighted by a heroic but ultimately unsuccessful attempt on the part of moderator Chris Wallace to silence the president with a taser. Biden inspires his supporters by appearing, most of the time, to be fully aware that he is participating in a debate. For his part, Trump displays presidential leadership by firmly yet calmly reassuring an anxious nation that the election will be a complete fraud. When it’s over both sides declare victory as Chris Wallace retreats to his dressing room to ingest Xanax pills through a funnel. . . .

The pandemic continues to dominate the news in…

OCTOBER

…when the White House announces that President Trump is infected with the coronavirus, as are the first lady, White House staffers and others who have been near the president at events where many people did not wear masks or observe social distancing. This seems to suggest, crazy as it sounds, that the virus — Who could possibly have known this? — is an infectious disease that you can catch from other people. . . .

While hundreds of certified Twitter users without medical degrees offer their insights on this situation, the president begins a course of treatment at Walter Reed that includes an antibody cocktail, an antiviral drug, a steroid and — this really happened — a motorcade ride around the hospital. Trump’s doctors describe the motorcade as “a totally standard medical treatment that is not insanely irresponsible at all.”. . .

The Senate confirms Amy Coney Barrett after she successfully completes the traditional Judiciary Committee hazing ritual, in which she must answer questions for three consecutive days without saying anything.

Joe Biden enters the final stretch of the campaign with a schedule that sometimes has him doing as many as one appearance per day. Also taking a brutal toll on the former vice president is the fact that he must repeatedly, day after day, deal with the grueling physical strain of not telling reporters what he thinks about packing the Supreme Court. At one appearance, when asked about this, Biden says (this is an actual quote): “the moment I answer that question, the headline in every one of your papers will be on the answer to that question.” While reporters wrestle with the Confucian profundity of this statement, Joe is whisked back to Delaware.

In other political action, vice-presidential candidates Mike Pence and Kamala Harris square off in a debate, and the only thing anybody remembers about it ten minutes later is that a fly landed on Pence’s head. Two weeks later Trump and Biden have their second debate, during which Trump accuses Biden of wanting to force Americans to have “little, tiny, small windows” and Biden says “Come on!” roughly 200 times. They say many other things as well, but at this point none of it makes any difference. . . .

With October finally over, a divided, weary nation trudges into the crucial month of…

NOVEMBER

…when finally, after all the politics and the platitudes, the debates and the demagoguery, the rallies and the riots, the allegations and the alliteration, it’s time for the American people to do what they have done since the founding of the republic: Eat all their leftover Halloween candy. There’s a lot of it this year because there were few trick-or-treaters, leaving many Americans with no choice but to snork down the weight of an adult male cocker spaniel in mini-Snickers. But we do it, because we are Americans, dammit.

Then, at last, it’s Election Day. Millions of voters lurch to the polls, unless they already voted, in which case they remain on the sofa, burping up chocolate fumes and anxiously watching the cable-TV network of their choice.

Political experts are confidently predicting an easy Biden win, possibly a landslide, based on input from professional pollsters armed with conclusions derived from sophisticated statistical analysis of data obtained via surveys of the seven Americans still willing to answer the telephone.

But the actual race turns out to be much closer, and several days pass without a clear winner as the various states count ballots via their individual methods under our quirky, zany Electoral College system. Florida, which has totally screwed up in previous elections, surprises everybody by reporting the vote count almost immediately, thanks to an executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis to “just go ahead and re-use the results from 2016, since we counted those already.” But the process is much slower in states such as Pennsylvania, which uses the base 17 numbering system, and Arizona, where by law votes must be tabulated on cowhides.

It is not until Saturday that the news media call the election for Biden. President Trump accepts the defeat with the calm, mature grace and dignity that have become his trademark as leader of some imaginary nation that we are fantasizing about in this sentence.

In reality Trump claims that he won the election BY A LOT, but it is being stolen from him via a vast, sophisticated, malignant and purely hypothetical vote-fraud scheme. To combat this fraud, the president forms a crack legal team headed by former sane person Rudy “Rudy Three i’s” Giuliani. . . .

Joe Biden, preparing for a historically difficult transition to a presidency that will be confronted with a daunting array of critical challenges both at home and abroad, fractures his foot playing with a dog.

As the month draws to a close, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving as the Pilgrims did, by gathering with their loved ones for a communal meal in the basement with the lights off so as to avoid detection by the authorities.

And then, at last, the finish line of this wretched year looms ahead as we stagger into…

DECEMBER

…which begins with good news and bad news on the economy:

  • The good news is, holiday retail sales are strong.
  • The bad news is, most of these sales are online purchases of Four Seasons Total Landscaping T-shirts

In other national news, President Trump, faced with soaring coronavirus cases and a congressional stalemate over a desperately needed relief package, devotes his energies, as chief executive, to tweeting approximately once per hour that the election was RIGGED. The Trump legal team, alleging that there was a massive organized conspiracy to commit vote fraud, files multiple lawsuits, but achieves basically the same legal outcome as Hamilton Burger, the stupendously ineffective district attorney on the “Perry Mason” TV show, who went to court week after week for many seasons and almost never won a case, WHICH ONLY PROVES HOW MASSIVE AND ORGANIZED THIS CONSPIRACY IS.

While the president continues to insist that he was re-elected, members of his staff quietly prepare for the transition by updating their resumes and conducting a search for the briefcase containing the nuclear launch codes, believed last seen in the back of a golf cart in Bedminster, N.J..

Finally, after 12 nightmarish months, 2020 draws to a close, and…

…and here we must interrupt our narrative to let you, the reader, in on a little secret: Because of newspaper deadlines, we have to turn in our year-in-review in mid-December, before the year is actually over. Normally this doesn’t matter, because the holiday season tends to be a slow news time.

But this is no normal year, and we’re nervous. We worry that something major, by which we mean bad, will happen after our deadline — something involving the election, or the virus, or some awful thing we cannot even imagine. Like for example, maybe astronomers will announce that because of the human race snacking at historically high levels during the pandemic lockdown, the Earth has gained a huge amount of mass, which has slowed the planet down in its orbit around the Sun, and as a result, to make the calendar work out, we have to add an ENTIRE MONTH to 2020. This month would of course be called…

PANDEMBER

…which you probably think can’t possibly happen, right? What a crazy idea!

As crazy as masked Americans fighting over toilet paper.

Our point is, we don’t know what else will happen this year, including when it will end. We’re just hoping that it eventually does, and that next year is nothing like it. In that spirit, we’ll close with the wish we always offer at the end of our annual review, although this time it’s more of a prayer:

Happy New Year.
Dave Barry has been at the Miami Herald since 1983. A Pulitzer Prize winner for commentary, he writes about everything from the international economy to exploding toilets.

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