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Raise Your Fist to 2020

January 1st, 2021 by dk

To anyone who heard “Happy New Year” from me 12 months ago, I apologize for getting your hopes up. We should have seen at least some of its dismality coming. A presidential election year began with an impeachment trial. We knew it could get worse from January’s lowlight. We just didn’t know how much worse.

Even if we had known, what could we have done about it? The year was like a 366-day roller coaster ride with a wobbly front wheel that looks like it could fall off any minute. Stopping at the top of a scaffolded peak would make no sense. It would make even less sense to slow the coaster before one of its harrowing loop-de-loops.

Those moments of being upside down and helpless, hoping only for continued momentum may summarize the year. Unemployed workers hoped for rent or mortgage forgiveness. Landlords hoped for relief from the state. States begged Congress to help. Senators responded by confirming judges and bickering at cameras.

And the voters didn’t punish them. Because everything has to keep moving or it all falls apart.

We had no choice but to live through it, grateful only to be one of those who did. More than one out of every thousand Americans died from COVID-19 in 2020. Imagine a full house at Matthew Knight Arena cheering a basketball game. Then all ten players on the court and both referees die, and the announcer doesn’t sound too good. That was 2020.

Not that any of us can remember what it was like to cheer at the Matt. Or do they call it MKA? I can’t remember, because now they only call it “empty.” We’re stuck at home instead, watching TV and gaining weight. We’d like to be one of those cardboard cutouts they’ve put into seats, if only to regain good posture and a slender profile.

Gyms and yoga centers have been closed, not that it was any fun exercising behind a mask with hand-sanitizer dripping from the ceiling sprinkler systems. So instead we walked — around the block, to visit a neighbor who can’t invite us in, or past favorite stores that have closed.

The only outdoor activity that wasn’t expressly limited in 2020 was protest marches. This became the year when we could raise our fists but not see our toes. And now it’s too cold to stand outside and listen to fiery speeches. Lighting things on actual fire was frowned upon. Tell that to Mother Nature.

Oregon endured several wildfires followed by freakish ash-storms, proving that not every 2020 conflagration was metaphorical. Losing a home in a 2020 disaster has given me new sympathy for children with late December birthdays. Others can’t feel much for you — they’re too busy feeling something similar for themselves.

Is anything better than it was a year ago? I learned cilantro and parsley will keep longer propped into a Tom Collins glass like a bud vase. And I have new shoes that feel to all the world like slippers. I will step into the new year with one of the only comforts I’ll remember from homebound 2020. I’ll show them to you sometime in 2021. Please tell my toes hello for me.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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