It’s only halftime for the tumultuous year that we wish had never started

Whoever’s in charge of writing the script for 2020 is dumping all their ideas in at once, as if they know there’s not going to be enough money left in the budget for a 2021.

Remember how happy and relieved we were when 2019 ended? From this disastrous remove—precisely halfway through 2020—the previous year has a suddenly nostalgic warm and cozy feel to it. No big surprises, just the usual scriptwriter’s tropes of hurricanes, wildfires, plane crashes, terrorist attacks, cyclones and tornadoes along with a bad winter and a non-shocking impeachment of Donald Trump that wasn’t exactly a cliffhanger because anyone could see how that would end.

And the Senate’s vote in early February to keep him in office was one of the early signs that things were going to go seriously hay-wire with 2020.

The year started with a continuation of wildfires raging like mad in Australia, killing more than a billion animals and destroying an area the size of Portugal and more than 14 times the area that burned in California in 2018, another year everyone was glad to be shut off when it mercifully ended. Now, we’d gladly take back 2018, too. Just pick any year that didn’t have the Black Plague or Spanish Inquisitions in it.

If anyone had had 20/20 foresight last year, they wouldn’t have shown up this year, in which the coronavirus and protests over the killings by police of George Floyd and other Black people, marked with occasional riots and other violence, have been viciously battling one another for the front-page headlines, though other subjects that would’ve ruined plenty of other years managed to sneak into the news when they had a chance.

COVID-19 came early, with the World Health Organization christening it with its name on Feb. 11, a month that saw Trump do pretty much nothing at all to prevent its spread in the U.S. In fact, the day before the coronavirus got its name, Trump waved it away by assuring Americans that by April, “you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.”

If you’re just now joining us, it didn’t go away, nor did things get any better in America, which has led the world in the number of cases and deaths for much of the second quarter of this year.

If we can brush coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths blithely aside for a moment, the outbreak forced schools to close, from major universities to tiny tot day care centers. It’s ruined the economy, probably for years to come, it’s shuttered businesses, closed down travel, resulted in the banishment of the still-fledgling “LA hug,” left millions jobless, ruined restaurants and bars, separated families (though just as bad sometimes, forced families to lock themselves together in the house).

The good news: With factories closed and cars off the road, it helped clean up the air worldwide.

The bad news returns: The virus created thousands of tons of additional plastic waste. We’ll generously call it a push for the environment.

The half-year has seen the tragic and sad death of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.

In the past six months there’s been a pair of dams burst in Michigan covering Midland under 9 feet of water and causing the evacuation of 10,000 people.

Harvey Weinstein got tossed in prison where he quickly contracted COVID en route to serving a 23-year term for criminal assault and rape.

A couple of words: Murder hornets.

And now, this: Swarms and swarms of Old Testament-style locusts have already totally devoured crops in East Africa and the Red Sea region, a plague made worse by atypical weather patterns made further worse  by climate change. And now, those swarms’ offspring are continuing the work of their forebears in Kenya’s poorest region. The fledgling locusts are eating everything in sight, and when their wings mature the swarms will be able to travel up to 80 miles in a day in a region where 20 million people struggle for food.

And as we embark on 2020 Part II, the confluence of the young year’s disasters and woes have prompted many conversationalists to wonder, while knocking madly on wood, what calamity can next get thrown into the mix.

Without pausing for a breath, 2020 has now unleashed a nice “Godzilla dust storm.” Ah, that hits the spot. NASA gave it the soothing nickname of Godzilla and said it was the worst Saharan dust storm in 50 years. It’s traveled over the Atlantic and hit some Southern states on its way across our continent, bringing glorious sunsets and a bit of hacking Southerners along the way. We’re not that worried about it. Godzilla picked the wrong year to try to make headlines.

So, now we’re girding up for the second half of the year. Optimists will say 2020 is already half empty. Pessimists will counter with, “yeah, but we’ve still got six more months of the year to go.”

There’s already a glimmer of hope for Part II. Trump on Wednesday repeated the prediction he made back in February, telling Fox News, “I think we’re gonna be very good with the coronavirus. I think that at some point that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope.”

Let’s talk again at Christmas, unless it’s canceled.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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