Wouldn’t it be nice if world events followed a calendar? Like if COVID-19 was all “I sure enjoyed ruining 2020, but once Jan. 1 rolls around, I’m outta here!” Sigh…we all know that’s not the case. This pandemic isn’t ending just because the year is. We’re lucky if things go back to “normal” by summertime.
And yet we can all still definitively say “Screw 2020.” That’s not to diminish the possibility of 2021 also being a shit sandwich, but in a world full of disinformation and fake news, at least we can all agree that 2020 was horrible. Despite all that, I’d like to dwell on the few positive things I experienced during the year of our lord (please make it stop) 2020.
The biggest and most obvious is that Donald Trump lost the election. No matter how much he lies, cheats and tweets, Joe Biden won and we narrowly avoided a full-on authoritarian takeover. And the day it was announced…do remember how glorious it was? The crowds of people in the streets wearing masks, socially distancing, and dancing was one of the sweetest moments I’ve felt in many years.
We also witnessed the mainstreaming of the Black Lives Matter movement. Not since the 1960s have so many people been engaged in protesting systemic inequality and injustice. Even elderly white grandmas were marching in the streets holding signs and joining in solidarity with communities of color unfairly terrorized by the police. The beauty of so many people of different ages, ethnicities, and financial backgrounds coming together to fight for justice was staggering. Or rather, IS staggering, since we can’t stop and won’t stop.
There were even some bright spots in our personal lives as well. While the amount of time we spent at home sometimes felt like an oppressive weight, it allowed us strengthen bonds and learn about ourselves. I can only imagine how disruptive it’s been for people to have their kids not going to school, but once this is all over, those same folks will look back and cherish all the extra time they got to spend with their little ones.
This deepening of relationships happened with grownups, too. Not being able to run into casual friends at bars or parties made us realize who actually mattered in our lives and allowed us to prioritize those friendships. And assuming things didn’t blow up with our partners or roommates, this pandemic gave us the opportunity to appreciate them in completely new ways. My quarantine crew and I created an incredible space full of love, support and weird kitchen costume parties. Before the pandemic we would occasionally hang out but had very separate lives. Quarantine made us into a true community. Plus, my fiancé and I realized that if we can spend 24 hours a day with each other and not murder one another, we can do anything! For real, though, it’s incredible how much time we spend together and still get along.
Seeing people look out for each other throughout this whole thing has been nothing short of inspiring. As our government spent months fellating themselves instead of getting money to folks who needed it, people stood up and took care of one another. From donating food and money, to volunteering time and expertise, mutual aid has saved countless people on the brink. I could go on at length about the cruelty of living in the richest nation in the history of the world while still having to rely on GoFundMe campaigns to survive, but this is article is supposed to be about positive things, so I’ll save it for another time.
I can tell you though that the community stepped up and saved me. When the pandemic hit, over 50% of our revenue at BrokeAssStuart.com dried up overnight. I had to let go a number of my team members and was honestly worried if the publication (and my main source of income) would survive at all. But amazingly, the Broke-Ass Stuart Patreon has doubled since last year. Patreon is a platform that allows folks to help support their favorite creators on monthly level, and the inpouring of new Patrons has literally been the thing that’s allowed us to continue bringing you the best arts, culture and activism in the Bay Area and beyond. I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done without it. (If you’re reading this in print, you can google “Broke-Ass Stuart Patreon” to learn more about it).
Most importantly, though, it’s been exhilarating to see how people have adapted during this terribly harrowing year and used it to create brilliant and beautiful things. From photo series of quarantine pods to podcasts to web TV shows, folks have been taking the old adage “Trying times are times for trying” to heart and surprising the world with their creativity. I was lucky enough to be on the receiving end of this a few weeks ago. On Dec. 16, I turned 40 and to celebrate I was roasted by an incredible list of Bay Area notables like Peaches Christ, Nato Green, Sister Roma and Supervisor Matt Haney.
If it had been left up to me, I would’ve made a dinky little Zoom thing that people would’ve got bored of. But my friend Jenn Stokes of Stokes Live Entertainment (who produced SF Pride and Folsom Street Fair online this year) turned it into a live, interactive, online experience that I never could’ve fathomed existing before COVID. She and her team created such a memorable thing, people will be talking about it until we can finally congregate in person again.
This year has sucked. It’s been heartbreaking, infuriating and has exposed the multifold cracks in our broken system. But there have been some good things, too. And as we begin a new year, it’s important to cherish those things and bring them with us into whatever 2021 has instore for us.
What were your shining moments and victories of 2020? Leave them in the comments below.
Stuart Schuffman is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com and join his mailing list at http://bit.ly/BrokeAssList. His column appears every other Thursday. He is a guest columnist and his point of view is not necessarily that of the Examiner.