All my life, I have wanted to see the good in others. I have bent over backwards trying to understand the reasons people in my life have done horrible things. I have looked for excuses and explanations, anything other than shitty people doing shitty things.
I have lived by the belief that most people are innately good. That at the end of the day, most would come together to do right by others if given the chance.
Then, 2020 happened.
In so many ways, this year has felt like a culmination of the last four, watching people I have previously respected behaving in ways I never would have fathomed.
Not just making poor choices for their own health in the midst of a global pandemic, but intentionally making choices that put others at risk.
Fighting against wearing masks.
Demanding youth sports continue, even at the risk of the community at large. Even as most schools remain closed.
Not even seeming to recognize the abuse of privilege in that.
Calling anyone who disagrees with them vile names.
Refusing to even consider points of view that might call into question their own opinions.
Waving banners dedicated to a man who has repeatedly degraded women, veterans, minorities, lower socioeconomic classes, people with disabilities, and anyone who doesn’t step in line behind him. A man who toys with people’s lives purely to boost his own ego. A man who denied science and delayed relief efforts as a novel virus took over 300,000 American lives.
I keep saying that I at least half-get those who voted for him with their noses plugged because they are lifelong conservatives or because there are specific issues they care passionately about. I don’t agree with it, but I can accept it.
What I don’t understand, what I will never understand—no matter how much mental gymnastics I put into that effort—is those who are seemingly proud of this man. Proud of his behavior.
Proud enough to wave his flag and wallpaper the outside of their homes in his signs.
Seventy-four million people went to the polls this year and voted for this person who has repeatedly behaved in ways I would be horrified to see my child emulate, and I will never understand.
I’ve sat back and watched as both political sides have been reduced to name calling and conspiracy theories and disturbing accusations.
I’ve felt sick as people I know have turned their back on data and science, on their communities and the need to keep others alive, in favor of instead continuing to live their own lives as normally as possible.
Refusing to give anything up as others die and lose their loved ones.
I’ve found myself questioning the integrity of people I care about more times than I even feel comfortable admitting this last year.
And it hurts my heart. As someone who has always believed in the good of others… it kills me to see this side of people.
I recently wrote a piece about Tucker Carlson and the damage he’s done with his self-admitted lies dressed up as entertainment. Within hours of that piece being published, my inbox was filled with disturbing, misogynistic, abusive messages from men who must have had his name on Google Alert, just waiting for the chance to defend his honor.
I received three dick pics among those messages—an attack I didn’t even know how to take. Were they admitting their own penises were repulsive enough to send to someone they don’t know but hate?
Or is that just how men like this feel powerful? By forcing their genitalia on someone who didn’t ask for it?
More and more each day, I am horrified by what we’ve become. And sure, you could call me naïve and blind to what the world’s been all along. I recognize that people of color have had to live with these truths, and so much worse, for far too long.
But I genuinely believed most people were better than this. And it breaks me having to bear witness to just how wrong I was.
When the year began, and signs started to point toward things going downhill, I truly thought that maybe it would be a good thing. That maybe a tragedy, as hard as it would be, would finally bring us back together.
That people faced with the suffering of others would join forces, would make sacrifices, and would do whatever was necessary to take care of one another.
In Anchorage we’ve got a mayor embroiled in a sex scandal, dipping out and costing the state tens of thousands of dollars because he left four months before the next election instead of three, so now we need a special election in addition to the originally scheduled one.
We’ve got people threatening one of the most knowledgeable epidemiologists in the country.
Prioritizing their wants over others’ needs.
Buying into whatever nonsense they are sold, refusing to research beyond headlines that back up what they already want to believe.
When I look around my small but tight-knit circle of friends, I’m thankful to see others as disgusted as I am. And I’m reminded why these are the people I invest my time in. Because we have the same values, the same commitment to doing what’s right, and the same willingness to make sacrifices ourselves for the good of others.
But then I look beyond them and realize… there are a growing number of people who don’t think like that at all. People willing to behave terribly and flaunt it. Just because they can.
And I start to think… maybe most people aren’t actually good.
Maybe they are selfish and weak and easily manipulated and cruel.
And maybe I was wrong all along.
And I’ve got to admit: that may just be one of the most painful things to come out of this year for me.