How will the history books remember 2021?


Despite its pathetic fatuity, the assault on Capitol Hill vividly highlighted the depths of alienation that afflicted tens of millions of citizens. To a striking degree, Americans had become distrustful, with limited trust in their institutions and waning trust in one another. As these severely disaffected malcontents continued to simmer in their resentments, delusions, and disappointments, they sought increasingly aggressive challenges to the norms, values, and institutions that had sustained the republic for over two centuries. A tribal political culture had emerged, polarizing the electorate and crippling the political system.

And while the successful promotion by the federal government of unprecedented rapidity of vaccine development has impressively demonstrated the modern state’s impressive capacity to mobilize financial, human and scientific resources at scales and at Once unimaginable speeds – when political will could be mustered and concentrated – vaccine refusals nonetheless impressively demonstrated how old outright irrationality could beneficially torpedo even the most enlightened politicians.

Meanwhile, as Americans continued to squander their declining social capital and struggled to maintain an effective government of, by and for the people on the other side of the planet, a rising, repressive but remarkably resilient China demonstrated relentlessly the effectiveness of a radically different social and political order.

Two societies, two systems of governance, two visions of the world to come. What would prevail as the 21st century unfolded was an uncomfortable and urgent question in the knees of the future.

The year we learned that education is infrastructure

Claire Bond Potter is Professor of Historical Studies at the New School for Social Research and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Public Seminar.

In 2021, Americans learned that schools were essential to an economic infrastructure in the United States that was under-prepared and not prepared for a national crisis. Each school – on site or online – has become both a public health project and a political target. School board meetings became politicized and angry, and elections for these bodies suddenly turned into fiery competitions. As instructors, students, parents and school administrators nationwide scoured Covid-19 protocols in person and emergency online learning, school boards, librarians, administrators and teachers were bombarded with renewed demands, often politically motivated, that subversive educational material on race, gender and sexuality be purged from classrooms.

What have the Americans learned? When parents became distant or essential workers, they were also to be teacher assistants, revealing that underfunded schools were a vital part of an equally underfunded and underfunded American child care system. effective. When students appeared erratically in class, often on cell phones, the country learned that there were vast “Internet deserts,” affecting the ability of millions of Americans to participate fully in society. He learned that many public school students, and presumably their parents, were so vaguely attached to the education system that around 3 million simply disappeared. When teachers, already exhausted from 2020, resigned or retired in record numbers (Florida, a state hit by both Covid-19 and the Culture Wars, saw vacancies increase by more than 67% ), the nation learned that school staff were frontline workers, too. In 2021, Americans learned that what was once the best school system in the world had bent and shattered due to a cultural and public health crisis – and that it was critical infrastructure that needed to be systematically rebuilt.

Asian Americans Face Disease and Discrimination

Catherine Ceniza Choy is the most recent author of the forthcoming book Asian American Stories from the United States (2022) and professor of ethnic studies at the University of California at Berkeley.

The racial and medical scapegoat for immigrants and Asian Americans born in the United States, the fastest growing group of all racial and ethnic groups at the start of the 21st century, due to the Covid-pandemic 19 persisted into 2021. According to the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center, between March 19, 2020 and September 30, 2021, nearly one in five Asian and Pacific Islander Americans experienced verbal harassment, avoidance, physical assault and / or civil rights violations. Although Filipino nurses made up only 4% of the U.S. nursing workforce, they accounted for around 25% of Covid-19 cases and deaths among nurses. Sadly, Asian Americans’ contributions to health care have not made them immune to the harassment and violence associated with coronaviruses. The age-old stereotypes of Asians as carriers of disease, perpetual strangers and exotic objects were stubborn and deadly. These heinous incidents and the Atlanta spa shooting on March 16, 2021, which left eight people dead, including six Asian American women, called into question cherished notions of the American dream and its promise of equality and equality. social ascension. Asian Americans have heeded contemporary anti-Asian violence and its long history by organizing to raise awareness of their more than 150-year-old presence and unrecognized contributions. Activists have leaned on and created new ones for the rights of Asian Americans. Artists and academics have documented loss, grief and survival so that we will never forget.

The nation collapsed – and ignored the warnings

David W. Blight is Sterling Professor of History at Yale and author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.

“Here I put my words in your mouth … to tear and break
Cut down, destroy and overthrow, build and plant.
Jeremiah 1: 9-10

The year 2021 was most clearly marked by its first month, in which a sitting president and his allies, including in Congress, attempted a coup against the United States government by trying to overturn an election and install the defeated Donald J. Trump in the place of the duly elected Joseph R. Biden. The violent and unprecedented January 6 insurgency resulted in the second impeachment, and eventual partisan acquittal, of Trump. In the long run, however, the coup began to succeed by failing, turning into a powerful lost cause ideology that millions of people clung to as a victory story – a victory over liberalism and pluralism. A right-wing authoritarianism, increasingly prone to violence, yearned for a hopeless utopia without multiculturalism and firmly rooted in local or state control.

2021 will be remembered as the year of a peaceful but blocked Biden presidency, paralyzed by the Covid pandemic, by the withdrawal from Afghanistan and by divisions within his own party embodied by a senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin, who saved his patriotism for his own state. Biden’s presidency has also been thwarted by a virulent new neo-fascism entrenched in a Republican party openly devoted to voter suppression, racism, state rights, tax cuts, improving the portfolio of investment and one of the most pathetic and successful “big lies” in modern history. The 2020 “stolen elections”, Trumpism’s most powerful lie, flourished on his repeated statements on Fox News. The political “polarization” between completely separate information systems organized along ideological lines has transformed by the end of 2021 into what many commentators have begun to call a new type of “civil war”. Americans have gradually lost the very meaning of a “nation,” a compound of many peoples, cultures and regions who all give up something dear to build and preserve the whole.

2021 was not the only moment of the apocalyptic explosion of the American experiment in democracy in the 21st century, but the prelude to less visible but routine coups against the constitutional republic. 2021 revealed the dysfunctional elements of the US constitutional system, particularly the undemocratic US Senate, the Second Amendment, the absurd Electoral College, and a fatally politicized Supreme Court sitting for life and driven by righteous right-wing ideologies. That Republicans practiced voter suppression so overtly led to violent clashes in the election. Supporters of universal suffrage have embraced imprisonment and other acts of civil disobedience to fight electoral restrictions.

The left retaliated the day after 2021 with the tools at its disposal. The Jan. 6 House of Representatives inquiry uncovered crimes against the state and the Constitution committed by former President Trump and his allies, though only a few people were prosecuted and jailed after the right-wing took over. control of Congress in 2022.

Year after year, book prizes and artistic and journalistic awards went to those who served Jeremiah, showing the people the future of their “republic”, still on the brink of political and environmental collapse. The post-Trump era would produce great history, drama, art, and literature as the nation atrophied and at times exploded into the streets. Mass shootings have increasingly given classic “tragedy” a new American meaning. Across the turbulent world ravaged by pandemic and climate change, America was increasingly seen as a failing democracy and often referred to in countries where liberal democracy has survived as “the gun United States.” . The lost Trumpian cause built its monuments into well-funded laws and stories and communication networks, while liberalism rightly and logically fought an enemy with too many guns.

Racism, the other epidemic

Brenda E. Stevenson is the inaugural Hillary Rodham Clinton Chair in Women’s History at St. John’s College, University of Oxford.

2021 was a year filled with hope for a return to a “normal” way of life that had been laid bare by a global pandemic which, by New Years Day 2021, had killed at least three million, more than a tenth. of this number of lives lost in the United States A few weeks before the end of 2020, the first American had received the Covid-19 vaccine. There was (or seemed to be) some light at the end of a long, dark tunnel thanks to the rapid development of several vaccines that have been shown to be widely effective in reducing the number of deaths of those who contracted the disease. As of April, some 200 million vaccines had been administered and Americans were optimistically returning to work, school, places of worship and more. The economy also rebounded, with unemployment falling during the year to just over 4%.


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