#COVID19Chronicles-297: January 29, 2021-Another year passed; interesting times for a birthday

A year ago, I was planning to take a short vacation to England, in mid-February, just because, but also to get a personal sense of how Brexit was rolling in. Now, after it rolled in, I’d have much less desire to make the trip. The pandemic, which was declared as my vacation was ending, is being managed badly there and Brexit is turning out to be the ‘pig in a poke’ that the supporters lied it wouldn’t be. With COVID restrictions, I’d be able to leave Jamaica but would not be able to return from the UK!

A year ago, I had anticipated my daughter returning from school for Spring break in March and my mother-in-law and her sister coming to spend a few weeks while my wife and I headed off on work travel to Colombia. I didn’t anticipate they’d be still here in July and later. That’s life during a pandemic!

A year ago, as I turned 65, I was happy to be retired and enjoying my life as a mainly home-bound person. I didn’t anticipate that the bulk of the country and likewise in many countries would be living their lives as work-at-home or stay-in-place people. That’s life during a pandemic.

Once the pandemic rolled through the world, eyes turned to scientists for solutions; a vaccine was hoped for but would be far off, we thought. Yet, here we are and vaccines have been developed and are being dispensed in several countries; richer ones are better placed than poorer ones. Ironically, the UK is better placed than its EU neighbours, because it had decided to order 3 months ahead of them.

I was keeping an eye on the US presidential elections, due to end in November 2020, and as the Democrats fought over who would carry their torch, my hope was that it would be a strong contender against the incumbent President Trump. Then, the election over, I looked forward to the transition. I did not expect a simple handover—Donald Trump doesn’t do losing well; I recalled his threat in 2015 that he would not commit to accepting any result but his victory. He had warned during 2020 well before the election that he thought the election was rigged. So, when he started digging in his heels and vacillating about accepting results, I knew we were in for a struggle.

On election night, the contest was compelling watching and it was a nail biter than looked like a win for the Democrat candidate, Joe Biden. Waking to that confirmation was frankly delightful.

I did not anticipate a string of efforts to overturn the results. I did not expect the overt efforts to do that! The law suits did not seem too out of line, though it was clear that with nothing inside the paper bags that were being used as briefs for the courts, made it clear that the claims of fraud would go nowhere. I didn’t anticipate that this effort would go on so fruitlessly for so long. I expected some of the lying on the stump but it was clear that the truth had to be told in courts. I had doubts about whether the courts would hold the line, especially as many of them and the Supreme Court had been stuffed with Trump nominees. That they did was an amazing surprise.

As we went through what were usually pro forma events to confirm the election results, I was really nervous about where the presidential resistance efforts would lead. I heard words about “peaceful transition”, but in my mind I could see that was not a given, by a long shot, The level of divided opinions, with nearly 3/4 of Republican supporters believing the propaganda that the election was stolen and Trump had won, by a “landslide”, in his words.

The State certifications became dramas. Normal snooze-fests were now must-watch. After that, the wait for Congressional confirmation turned from being ‘who cares?’ to must-watch. As many turned in to see this dull as dishwater piece of political theatre, it was not part of the popcorn eating to watch an insurrection unfolding in front of our eyes. (As a grim reminder, it was like watching the disaster of the 1986 Challenger launch.)

January 6, 2021 is now seared into our memories as the day when the US democratic system was pushed to the brink.

It appeared to survive on the day, and the institutional finalization of the election, the Inauguration on January 20, again became its usual must-watch event. But who could have anticipated that, in addition, to the COVID protocols that forced fewer people and more distance, we would see Washington DC in lock down and thousands of the National Guard lining the streets and ringing the US Capitol, itself ringed with high fencing? The eerie sight of the Washington Mall filled with flags and free of people will remain a deeply strange image.

The security policy failure has still be fully explained and now proposals may include permanent fencing around the Capitol complex and a ready-response force stationed nearby.

The sight of the sourpuss departing president determined to not accept the election results by not publicly uttering the name of the new president and refusing to attend the Inauguration was in keeping with him, but as distasteful a piece of adult behaviour as one may ever seen.

For me, the fact that his narcissism has extended to letting his Vice President and his family be under siege, maybe in fear of their lives during the siege of the Capitol, was more telling of a moral bankruptcy that is rare in anyone, let alone a politician.

The past 12 months have been dominated by the pandemic. Many wanted to see the back of 2020, but 2021 looks set to be no cake walk.

The physical violence that took place on January 6 now appears to have an underpinning of political connivance and planning that is really worrying as it suggests a serious plot to subvert elected government. The fact that Congressional politicians should be openly expressing fear of some of their colleagues is mind boggling. But, these are indeed interesting times.

As I turn 66, I have the mixed emotions that come as the prospect of a vaccine comes closer. Then, I read yesterday that one of the vaccine manufacturers stating that its vaccine should not be given to those over 64. That’s not the kind of present that I want to look forward to.

A year ago, I did not anticipate not spending Christmas with my family, but home alone for 2020 was how it went, while they went to Grandma’s house.

The end of the pandemic is not in sight, and while we can think that a year from now the situation of lockdowns, quarantines, and other restrictions on what was normal life, it’s not a given. New waves keep occurring in various countries. New highs keep occurring in terms of cases and deaths.

We’ve seen a new president, in his first week, return the office to a welcome state of normality, including important things like a daily press conference where the press are encouraged to ask questions and answers are willingly given. What a time to be alive!

The desire for more-open communications from the White House includes having scientists and other specialists speak directly to the public and media from the White House. Having sign language interpreters is an important step.

We got a quick ‘read out’ of President Biden’s call to Russia’s President Putin, before the Russians issued theirs, and it differed. We also got to see and hear a call with the NATO Secretary General:

In coming weeks, we have the first ever second impeachment trial of a president, albeit now a former president. In coming months, we may see law suits that have sedition charges laid against people in the US and even against the former president, in addition to other legal risks he was facing before. Some of those charged already point towards Trump was their inspiration to riot, as ‘patriots’ whom he’d called to Washington DC. It will be interesting.

What a time to be alive!

My wife baked a cake with bourbon, whose smell wafted up to be as I headed to bed. I’ll look forward to that, at least. One day at a time.

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)

One thought on “#COVID19Chronicles-297: January 29, 2021-Another year passed; interesting times for a birthday”

  1. Happy Birthday, Dennis. Enjoy that bourbon cake! We all need something to make us smile in these too-interesting times.
    I wish your description of them was not quite so accurate!

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