'2021' will always be a four-letter word
On January 6 of this year, a shirtless, tattooed man wearing blue and white face paint and a horned headdress stood at a rostrum where the U.S. Senate had been meeting just minutes before.
And then the year got weird.
Many of those same senators whose lives were threatened by the “QAnon Shaman,” armed with a sharp spike affixed to the top of a pole affixed to an American flag, took great pains to downplay the dangerous insurrection meant to override the results of the presidential election held in November.
Republicans like Missouri’s Josh Hawley and Texas’ Ted Cruz, each of whom who fed the delusion that Donald Trump could be re-installed as president if only Vice President Mike Pence had the testicular fortitude to carry out a deranged procedural coup, later served as jurors in an impeachment trial that found Trump - and therefore themselves - innocent of fomenting the deadly insurrection in which police officers were beaten with “back the blue” flags.
Trump’s November loss served as an electoral trebuchet with which Republicans rained laughable election conspiracies on the public. Trump, claiming he had secretly won, accused the entire electoral system of corruption, prompting his own voters in Georgia to stay home and costing the GOP control of the U.S. Senate.
Sycophantic Republican elected officials echoed Trump’s charges of a stolen election, believing Democrats were conniving enough to deny Trump a victory, but clearly not competent enough to steal their seat from them during the same election using the same ballots. Meanwhile, courts across America rejected dozens of election challenges by Trump loyalists, throwing them out of court with written opinions legally mimicking a jerking off motion.
Not content to follow a former president that lost control of the House, Senate, and presidency during his tenure, Republicans went the extra mile to ensconce their minority status by killing off their own voters. Eschewing the chance to give Trump credit for the miraculous COVID-19 vaccines that began hitting pale shoulders early in the year, Senators like Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson instead promoted “alternative” (read “imaginary”) therapies such as a pill often used to de-worm horses to combat the virus. At one point, Johnson promoted using mouthwash to combat a virus that had killed nearly 800,000 Americans, which solved one important crisis - cadavers have notoriously bad breath.
(Of the impeachment effort following the insurrection, Johnson would say, “The trial itself was incitement.”)
To Trump, however, the true catastrophe took place when he was banned from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, and every other app that became uncool the second Trump joined it. This led Republicans - who once believed in a smaller, less intrusive government - to bleat in favor of new federal regulations telling private social media companies what they must allow on their platforms.
These self-described free speech experts, who earned their First Amendment degrees by watching five minutes’ worth of Turning Point USA videos, were undeterred by the fact the federal government that would now be micromanaging online speech was entirely controlled by Democrats, who would be making the rules deciding who could speak about what, and when. (The free speech imbroglio provoked erstwhile British royal Prince Harry to call America’s First Amendment “bonkers,” a statement for which he was notably not imprisoned.)
Needing only to remain sane to become a two-thirds majority in America, Democrats nonetheless behaved as if they had been celebrating Trump’s loss by eating bath salts. Led by a man who was elected to the presidency merely because he refused to ever go away, Democrats nonetheless decided to govern if they had large majorities in the House and Senate. They proposed trillions of dollars in new spending upon trillions of dollars in new spending, as inflation spiked and supply chains ground to a halt.
(White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki justified the spending by saying Republicans had “spent like drunken sailors” during Trump’s administration, a calumny against drunken sailors, who famously cannot spend trillions of dollars they don’t have.)
Even as their legislative priorities flopped, Democrats kept pressing divisive culture war issues. Biden confusingly attacked Georgia Republicans for more or less returning to pre-COVID voting procedures, saying the new laws made “Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle,” thus sparking an ornithological debate over which bird one would actually want to meet in a dark alley.
Buckling to pressure by Democrats and voting groups, Major League Baseball moved its All-Star game out of Atlanta, where it could have paid tribute to recently deceased legend Hank Aaron, to Colorado, which has…stricter voting requirements than were proposed in Georgia.
In August, Biden’s favorability among the public took a major hit when he abruptly pulled American troops out of Afghanistan, leaving the country free for the Taliban to take over. Scenes of chaos as American forces tried to rescue refugees from Bagram Airfield beamed back to the U.S. as White House sources misled the public about just how many refugees remained. Explosions rocked the airport, with one killing 13 soldiers and 100 refugees - some Afghans attempting to escape fell from the sky as they clung to the outside of planes.
Biden not only made the decision to lose a war, he gave the Taliban a timeline for when the U.S. planned to lose it. As a result, Biden’s approval dropped into the low-40 percent range, or as Trump supporters call it, “an all-time high.”
Debates over the meaning of “cancel culture” were rampant, with Republicans like Josh Hawley complaining he had been “canceled” because his impending book deal fell through following his support of violent insurrectionists. (He quickly found a new publisher.) Democratic New York Governor similarly claimed he had been “canceled” when he was accused of sexually harassing aides and forced to resign.
“I’ve always been a soft guy,” Cuomo told his brother Chris during a CNN “interview” prior to the accusations. “I am the Love Gov. I’m a cool dude in a loose mood. You know that. I just say let it go. Just go with the flow baby,” Cuomo said in what turned out to be the most predictable twist since rapper C-Murder was found guilty of murder.
Other victims of “cancel culture” included Dr. Seuss, whose estate voluntarily pulled some racially outdated books from publication, and Mr. Potato head, who will no longer be presented as a male. (Although he will still have more balls than Ted Cruz.)
Parents around the country, despite not knowing exactly what “Critical Race Theory” is, shoved aside the histrionic anti-maskers at school board meetings and demanded that whatever it is, their school boards better not teach it. This set off a charade in which schools continually narrowed the definition of CRT to prove they weren’t teaching it, while parents continually broadened the definition of what it was to prove their children were being accused of supporting slavery.
As Americans remained trapped in their homes for much of the year, many began to lose touch with reality - in one poll, six percent of respondents said they could beat a grizzly bear in a fight. Equally delusional keyboard activists tried to cancel adorable actress Ellie Kemper because at age 19, she won a beauty contest put on by some old-timey club in her native St. Louis. Outraged comic book fans took to Twitter to protest an interview in which a DC Comics writer Justin Halpern said Batman does not, and would never, perform cunnilingus. (A term most comic book fans, no doubt, had to look up.)
In October, a 28-year old former stripper announced she would be running for Congress. Imagine the embarrassment her parents will feel when they find out she’s a congresswoman.
By the time the Olympics rolled around, Republicans had lost the plot to the point they were actively rooting against U.S. athletes they deemed “woke.” This included the men’s basketball team and women’s soccer team, who Donald Trump castigated in one of his missives from Mar-A-Lago, calling them “a radical group of Leftist Maniacs.”
"Woke means you lose, everything that is woke goes bad, and our soccer team certainly has," said the former president, who notably lost his re-election bid in November.
But the right saved its most vicious enmity for gold medal-winning gymnast Simone Biles, who pulled out of several events because she felt she was not emotionally ready to rearrange the order of the vertebrae of her neck if she were to crash land during a floor routine. This led right-wing pundits to call her a “selfish sociopath” and a “quitter,” which were harsh words from people whose idea of toughness was walking into a Costco without wearing a mask.
It was a rapid heel-turn for the crowd who had previously pleaded with national media to “keep politics out of sports.” But in late summer, these same people were chanting “fuck Joe Biden” at football games and car racing events, leading to a misunderstanding where a television interviewer thought the patrons were actually chanting “let’s go Brandon.”
The phrase became ubiquitous, with Republican politicians who normally tweet Bible verses supplementing their Sunday proselytizing with an invitation for Joe Biden to have intercourse with himself. Before Christmas, a MAGA loyalist called in to an online Biden event and ended his comments with “let’s go Brandon,” which a confused Biden repeated.
The caller was, of course, lionized by “conservatives,” who had spent much of the past several decades appealing to decency and self-discipline. But the right is now engaged in a war of everyone-versus-everyone, fomenting dissent and disagreement from keyboards while safe in their homes. In the blink of an eye, conservatism went from “leave me alone” to “you can’t leave anyone else alone.”
But sometimes these delusions of eternal combat grow deadly, such as when 17-year old Kyle Rittenhouse took an AR-15 rifle to a racially charged riot in Kenosha, Wis. and ended up shooting three men, two of whom ended up dead. Rittenhouse was found not guilty of murder and immediately became a cause célèbre of right wingers who have had dreams of shooting rioting hippies and getting away with it. Within weeks, he was the featured guest at a large conservative conference, earning a standing ovation and his own hype music. There’s no doubt he killed.
Looking back, the whole Trump revolution happened because GOP voters thought politicians were gutless, dishonest, and didn't stand for anything. And yet Trump’s rise has created a whole new army of Republicans who are gutless, dishonest, and don't stand for anything.
Just ask Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who was yanked from Republican leadership after she voted to impeach a president that had provoked an insurrection against her very colleagues that voted her out. Cheney currently sits in a legislative body with colleagues who have held fundraisers with white supremacists, been accused of transporting minors across state lines to have sex, and have accused Democrats of eating babies. Yet agreeing to help Democrats get to the bottom of what happened on January 6 is beyond the pale for the GOP conference.
They say comedy is tragedy plus time, but there may be no amount of time that passes that will uncover the humor in 2021. It was a year of barbarism and vulgarity, with mass deaths cheered on by people “doing their own research.” (Coincidentally, nobody who “conducted their own” research managed to stumble on research proving an airborne disease killed nearly 800,000 Americans and that there was now a vaccine to prevent it.)
Every year since 2015, Americans have looked forward to the next year, believing things will be better. But the last six years have uncovered the reality that things likely will never improve, as the same incentives remain in place for citizens to be as awful as possible to one another. “Brandon” has won.
And for that, 2021 will always be a four-letter word.