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Dave Barry's Year in Review: Wait, wasn’t 2021 supposed to be better than 2020?

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Is there anything positive we can say about 2021?

Yes. We can say that it was marginally better than 2020.

Granted, this is not high praise. It’s like saying that somebody is marginally nicer than Hitler. But it’s something.

What was better about 2021? For one thing, people finally emerged from their isolated pandemic cocoons and started connecting with others. Granted, the vast majority of the people who connected with us this year wanted to discuss our car’s extended warranty. But still.

Another improvement was that most stores got rid of those one-way anti-COVID arrows on the floor. Remember those, from 2020? You’d be halfway down a supermarket aisle, and you’d realize that you’d gone past the Cheez-Its, but you couldn’t turn around and go back because you’d be going AGAINST THE ARROWS, which meant YOU WOULD GET COVID.

Anyway, our point is not that 2021 was massively better than 2020. Our point is that at least it was different. A variant, so to speak. And like any year, it had both highs and lows.

No, we take that back. It was pretty much all lows, as we will see when we review the key events of 2021, starting in ...


... which dawns with all eyes on Washington, D.C., where President Donald Trump, as chief executive of the most powerful nation on Earth, is trying to get somebody to answer the intercom. This is difficult because pretty much everybody in his administration except Melania has bailed.

The only people still in contact with Trump are the members of his inner circle of trusted wackjobs, who are counseling the president in his ongoing effort to prove that the presidential election was RIGGED in a massive conspiracy that — although too complex and sophisticated for the so-called “courts of law” to understand — is transparently obvious to the My Pillow guy.

On Jan. 6, Congress meets to certify the votes of the so-called “Electoral College.” Meanwhile Trump gives a lengthy speech to a Stop the Steal rally, declaring repeatedly that the election was a fraud and somebody needs to do something about it. He concludes by telling the fired-up crowd to “walk down Pennsylvania Avenue and get violent.”

OK, he didn’t say those last words out loud. But soon afterward the Capitol is invaded by thousands of people who are fiercely loyal to Trump and determined to ensure that his enduring legacy, as president, will be that he inspired a tragic, futile and utterly stupid riot at the U.S. Capitol.

OK, that wasn’t their goal. But it is what they accomplished.

The Capitol riot is widely condemned, with much of the blame falling on Trump. He swiftly receives the harshest punishment allowed under the Constitution: He is permanently banned from Twitter, the first sitting president to suffer this fate since Chester A. Arthur.

Also he is impeached again. Two weeks later Trump leaves the White House for good, with only quick action by the Secret Service preventing him from being hit by the screen door on his way out.

The spotlight now shifts to incoming President Joe Biden, who takes the oath of office in front of a festive throng of 25,000 National Guard troops. The national healing begins quickly as Americans, exhausted from years of division and strife, join together in exchanging memes of Bernie Sanders attending the inauguration wearing distinctive mittens and the facial expression of a man having his prostate examined by a hostile sea urchin.

Speaking of politics, ...


... with many difficult challenges facing the nation, Congress finally sets aside the bitter bipartisan wrangling of 2020 and moves forward to the pressing business of holding another impeachment trial for Donald Trump.

In a scathing indictment of his involvement in the Capitol riot, the House Democratic impeachment managers charge that Trump, by feeding the Jan. 6 Stop the Steal rally “wild falsehoods” about the election, “is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day.”

No, wait, those aren’t the scathing words of the House managers: Those are the scathing words of Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Who then votes to... acquit.

McConnell is part of a broad ideological coalition consisting of 42 Republican and zero Democratic senators, which means Trump joins the distinguished list of U.S. presidents, including Abraham Lincoln, who technically were not convicted of anything. And thus our political and media classes, after literally years of obsessing about Donald Trump, are finally free to continue obsessing about Donald Trump for the foreseeable future.

In the month’s most positive news, the NASA rover “Perseverance,” after traveling 293 million miles through space, lands safely on the surface of Mars. Technically it was supposed to land on Venus, but as a NASA spokesperson observes, “a planet is a planet.” The rover sends back breathtaking video revealing that Mars has an environment consisting — as scientists have long suspected — of dirt.

In sports, the ageless Tom Brady leads the Tampa Bay Tom Bradys to victory in the Tom Brady Bowl, with the MVP trophy going to Tom Brady, who celebrates with his supermodel wife, Mrs. Tom Brady.

Bite us, Tom Brady.

Speaking of victories, in ...


... Congressional Democrats pass the Biden administration’s COVID-19 relief package, which will cost $1.9 trillion, which the United States will pay for by selling baked goods to foreign nations. In a prime-time address after signing the bill, President Biden says there is “a good chance” that Americans will be able to gather together “by July the Fourth.” He does not specify which one.

Meanwhile, as millions more Americans are being vaccinated every day, medical experts on cable TV unanimously agree on the following facts:

• The situation is definitely getting better.

• Or not! There are all these “variants.”

• If you are vaccinated, you may resume leading a normal life.


• At least we can stop wearing these masks pretty soon.

• Or maybe we should keep them on! For years!

• Although nobody knows why, since — to quote the CDC — “most of you morons are wearing them wrong anyway.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose leadership during the COVID-19 crisis has been (Just ask him!) so excellent that he was able to publish a book about how superbly he handled the crisis way before the crisis was anywhere near over, comes under intensified scrutiny over allegations of sexual harassment and under-reporting of nursing-home deaths.

Cuomo resists calls for his resignation, but puts a temporary hold on development of a “Hamilton”-style musical based on his life (working title: “Cuomo”).

Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, in their ongoing effort to escape the unbearable scrutiny resulting from their association with the British royal family, spend two hours on national TV talking with Oprah Winfrey about the British royal family on March 7. Plans are announced for a concert to benefit the beleaguered couple, headlined by Willie Nelson.

On the wokeness front, Dr. Seuss joins the lengthening list of individuals who are deemed to be Problematic, which also includes George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Pepe LePew and Mr. Potato Head. Also people are starting to take a hard look at the Very Hungry Caterpillar, and if you have to ask why YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

But as winter turns to spring, the national mood begins to shift, and in ...


... a new spirit of racial harmony spreads across the land, a spirit that is best described by the words “April Fool.”

But seriously, the national mood remains racially tense. A major issue is Georgia’s new voting law, which critics say targets minorities, and which prompts Major League Baseball to move the All-Star Game out of Atlanta. There is no comparable effort to move the Masters golf tournament, which by longstanding tradition is held in 1958.

Meanwhile in a Minneapolis courtroom: Whew.

There is some welcome news on the COVID-19 front as the CDC declares that it is not necessary to wear a face mask “provided that you are fully vaccinated, and you are outdoors, and you are part of a small gathering, and everybody in this gathering has also been fully vaccinated, and all of you periodically, as a precaution, emit little whimpers of terror.”

The CDC adds that “we, personally, plan to spend the next five to 10 years locked in our bedroom.”

President Biden, in his first speech to Congress, promotes his infrastructure plan, which would cost $2.3 trillion, and his American Families plan, which would cost $1.8 trillion, with both plans to be funded by what the president describes as a “really big car wash.”

In space news, the NASA Mars rover “Perseverance” deploys “Ingenuity,” an $80 million mini-helicopter that becomes the first aircraft to make a flight on another planet, ascending to an altitude of nearly 10 feet, from which vantage point scientists on Earth are able to determine that the Martian environment consists of what a NASA spokesperson describes as “even more dirt than we originally thought.”

Speaking of scientific developments, in ...


... the CDC further relaxes its COVID-19 guidelines in response to new scientific data showing that a lot of people have stopped paying attention to CDC guidelines. At this point these are the known facts about the pandemic in America:

• Many Americans have been vaccinated but continue to act as though they have not.

• Many other Americans have not been vaccinated but act as though they have.

• Many of those who got vaccinated hate Donald Trump, who considers the vaccines to be one of his greatest achievements.

• Many who refuse to get vaccinated love Donald Trump.

What do these facts tell us? They tell us that we, as a nation, are insane. But we knew that.

In sports, the Kentucky Derby is again tarnished by scandal when drug tests reveal that the apparent winner, Medina Spirit, was carrying, instead of a human jockey, what race officials describe as “a highly modified Ken doll.” But the PGA championship has a happier ending when Phil Mickelson, in a feel-good story that inspires older guys everywhere, loses to Tom Brady.

Speaking of older guys, in ...


... President Biden goes to Europe to participate in an important and historic photo opportunity with the other leaders of the G7 economic powers, which are Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Google, Facebook and Mattress Giant.

In a formal joint statement issued after the meeting, the leaders declare that everybody had, quote, “a nice time.” Biden also meets with Queen Elizabeth II, who has met with every U.S. president since we started having them.

Biden then goes to Geneva for a summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which Biden warns Putin that these darned Russian hackers better stop hacking into the U.S. infrastructure, or by golly we are going to call shenanigans.

Putin insists that Russia has nothing to do with the hacking or “any future hacking incidents currently in the planning stages.” Putin offers to help investigate the problem by means of a special investigation app that he helpfully installs on Biden’s phone.

The two leaders then engage in a ceremonial exchange of Social Security numbers. Both sides describe the meeting as “fruitful.”

U.S. intelligence officials release a much-anticipated report on UFOs contradicting speculation that mysterious aerial phenomena observed by military pilots are extraterrestrial spacecraft. “In fact,” concludes the report, “it’s dragons.”

In other space news, the rover “Perseverance” celebrates its fourth month on Mars by deploying “Fortitude,” a $279 million rotating multifaceted reflective sphere believed to be the first fully operational disco ball on another planet.

But the news turns grim again in ...


... as COVID-19, which we thought was almost over — this is like the eighth or ninth time we have thought this — appears to be surging again in certain areas because of the “Delta Variant,” which gets its name from the fact that it is spread primarily by fraternities.

The problem is that many Americans have declined to be vaccinated, despite the efforts of pro-vaccine voices to change the minds of the skeptics by informing them that they are stupid idiots, which is usually a persuasive argument.

In response to the surge, the CDC issues new guidelines urging Americans to “do the opposite of whatever we said in our previous guidelines, not that anyone is paying attention.”

In the month’s most upbeat story, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos pioneer a new era in billionaire leisure travel by going up in private suborbital spacecraft. The two flights are radically different: Branson’s takes off in New Mexico and returns to earth in New Mexico; whereas Bezos takes off in Texas and comes down in Texas.

Space enthusiasts say these missions will pave the way toward a future in which ordinary people with millions of spare dollars will be able to travel from one part of a state to a completely different part of that state while wearing matching outfits.

In Tokyo, the pandemic-delayed 2020 Olympic games (motto: “Later, Smaller, Sadder”) finally get under way with the majestic Nasal Swab of Nations. This is followed by the ceremonial lighting of the Olympic Torch, which for safety reasons is a small vanilla-scented bath candle that is immediately extinguished to prevent it from attracting crowds. Let the games begin!

Also overseas ...


... is the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan, a country that, thanks to 20 years of our involvement, has been transformed — at a cost of many lives and more than $2 trillion — from a brutal, primitive undemocratic society into a brutal, primitive undemocratic society with a whole lot of abandoned American military hardware lying around.

Most Americans agree that we have accomplished our mission, which is the same mission that the Russians had in Afghanistan before us, and the British had before them; namely, to get the hell out of Afghanistan.

The Biden administration, noting that the president has more than 140 years of experience reading Teleprompter statements about foreign policy, assures everyone that it has a Sound Exit Plan allowing for Every Possible Contingency, and insists that the withdrawal is going well.

This assessment is confirmed by observers on the ground, particularly Jen Psaki, with the ground in her case being the White House Press Briefing Room. Observers who are actually in Kabul paint a somewhat darker picture of the withdrawal, more along the lines of what would have happened if the Hindenburg had crashed into the Titanic during a soccer riot.

In more positive news, the FDA grants full approval to the Pfizer vaccine, a move that opens the door, at last, for millions of unvaccinated people to come up with a new excuse not to get it.

Meanwhile the Delta variant continues to surge, especially in the South. Among the worst-hit states is Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis, faced with skyrocketing case numbers, focuses, laser-like, on the root problem: local school boards flagrantly attempting to make decisions about local schools.

In other state news, Andrew Cuomo announces that he is resigning as governor of New York because he is a warm and loving human being who did absolutely nothing wrong.

Meanwhile global climate change continues to be a big concern as scientists release disturbing satellite images showing that the Antarctic ice sheet, for the first time in thousands of years, has developed a Dairy Queen.

Speaking of disturbing, in ...


... in the ongoing 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump — who insists that there was MASSIVE FRAUD in Arizona and he actually beat Joe Biden — is finally vindicated when a company hired by the Republican-controlled state senate to review the ballots concludes that …

OK, it concludes that Trump did, in fact, lose; in fact he lost by even more votes than originally reported. Trump, reacting to this finding, declares that it proves there was MASSIVE FRAUD in Arizona and he actually beat Joe Biden. And thus the healing begins.

In other state news, voters in California, which operates under the Perpetual Recall system of government, decide that for the time being they will keep Gov. Gavin Newsom, who campaigned on the slogan “The Other Candidates Are Even Worse.”

The month ends with major drama in Washington, where Democrats are locked in a vicious ideological battle with... OK, basically with themselves, over how to pass two spending bills, one for infrastructure costing $1 trillion and one for miscellaneous items costing $3.5 trillion, which sounds like a lot of money until you understand that the entire amount will be funded by leprechauns.

It’s an exciting time to be alive if you’re the kind of person who enjoys — And who doesn’t? — interminable slogs through an incomprehensible legislative process.

The excitement continues to build in ...


... as the Democrats spend the entire month engaged in increasingly frantic efforts to reach some kind of budget agreement with themselves, even going so far as to consider reducing the $3.5 trillion to only $1.75 trillion, which in Washington is viewed as barely enough for gratuities.

Meanwhile the Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, sit around getting pedicures. President Biden, for his part, takes several trips to Delaware. Vice President Harris also engages in important activities.

But the big story is the worsening economy, which is showing a number of disturbing trends:

• Inflation continues to be a pesky problem, with food prices soaring and gasoline approaching $4 per gallon everywhere in the nation except California, where, for environmental reasons, it is $137.50.

• The labor shortage has become so severe that for the first time since it began keeping records, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which produces a monthly report on the nation’s employment situation, does not have enough workers to produce the monthly report.

• U.S. consumers are seeing more and more empty store shelves caused by disruptions in the supply chain from China, which despite being our global arch-enemy currently manufactures every product consumed by Americans except Zippo lighters. Economists warn that the supply-chain problems threaten to put a damper on the holidays, a time when Americans traditionally gather together in big-box stores to fight over TV sets.

Speaking of threats: American military and intelligence officials express concern over reports that China has tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile, although a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson states that it was “probably a bat.”

But there is also inspiring news in October, provided by 90-year-old actor William Shatner, who boards a Blue Origin suborbital capsule and successfully travels from one part of Texas to another part of Texas in a subhistoric mission lasting 10 minutes, including two bathroom stops.

In sports the two teams that qualify for the World Series are the Houston Astros, whose players openly carry wads of cash on the field so they can bribe umpires, and the Atlanta Braves, whose home field is in Atlanta, Ga., a location that was morally unacceptable to Major League Baseball in April but is OK now because, to quote an official statement issued by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, “shut up.”

The nonstop action continues not stopping in ...


... Washington, where Congress finally passes the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, intended to repair the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges through the acquisition and deployment of 48 billion rolls of duct tape.

This is the first big legislative win for Biden, who travels to New Hampshire to promote the new law by making a speech on a bridge constructed in 1939, which immediately thereafter collapses into the Pemigewasset River. (“Pemigewasset” comes from the Abenaki word “bemijijoasek,” meaning “Washington Redskins.”)

During this time Vice President Harris also is very involved in various things that she is doing.

In a stunning political upset, Terry McAuliffe, the heavily favored Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia, is defeated by Republican Glenn Youngkin, a political novice. Exit polls show that the deciding issue, especially among independent voters, was the fact that the letters in “Glenn Youngkin” can be rearranged to spell “Nun Lying On Keg,” whereas “Terry McAuliffe” gives you “A Firefly Rectum.”

As the busy holiday travel season gets underway, millions of travelers flock to the nation’s major airports. This comes as a big shock to some of the nation’s major airlines, which apparently had not been informed that the holidays can be a busy travel time.

As one distraught airline executive put it: “Suddenly all these people just showed up with tickets they apparently purchased from us. How in God’s name is anybody supposed to plan for THAT?”

On the economic front, the Biden administration, seeking to counteract the steep rise in gasoline prices, orders the Energy Department to release 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Within minutes a dozen towns in east Texas are flattened by an oil wave estimated to be 200 feet high.

”Apparently,” states a red-faced department spokesperson, “you’re supposed to release the oil into a pipeline.”

As the month draws to a close, anxiety mounts worldwide over yet another coronavirus variant, called “omicron,” which we are pretty sure is also the name of one of the lesser villains in “Avengers: Endgame.”

Everyone — government officials, medical authorities and the news media — assures the public that while the new variant is a cause for concern, there is no reason to panic because OHMIGOD THEY’RE BANNING TRAVEL FROM AFRICA THE STOCK MARKET IS CRASHING THE VACCINES MIGHT NOT WORK WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE POSSIBLY AS SOON AS THE MONTH OF ...


... which begins with the nations of the world united in a heartwarming humanitarian effort to make sure that omicron stays in the other nations of the world.

The U.S. government considers tough new restrictions on international travelers, including requiring their planes to circle the airport for seven days before landing, but eventually settles on a compromise under which the planes will be allowed to land, but the passengers must remain in the airport eating prepackaged kiosk sandwiches until, in the words of a CDC spokesperson, “all of their germs are dead.”

President Biden, in a reassuring address to the nation on his strategy for dealing with a potential winter coronavirus surge, urges Americans to “do what it says on the teleprompter.”

In holiday-season news, travel in the Midwest is snarled when the U.S. Department of Agriculture, seeking to alleviate a shortage of Christmas hams, releases 17 million head of pig from the Strategic Pork Reserve, blocking every major road into and out of Iowa and causing the region to smell, in the words of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, “even worse than usual.”

Finally, mercifully, the troubled year nears its conclusion. As the nation prepares to celebrate New Year’s Eve, the mood is subdued and thoughtful. People are still getting drunk and throwing up, but they’re doing this in a subdued and thoughtful manner.

Because nobody knows what 2022 will bring. Will it suck as much as this year? Will it suck more? Or will it suck a LOT more? These appear to be our choices.

Perhaps, as we face the new year, we should look beyond the confines of our troubled planet for reasons to hope. Perhaps we can turn for inspiration to the plucky NASA rover Perseverance, which, as 2021 draws to a close, sends a message back to Earth across millions of miles of space. It’s a simple message, but one that resonates deeply with all of humanity: Perseverance has detected omicron on Mars.

OK, so that’s not very hopeful. But don’t let it stop you from ringing in 2022 on a festive note. For one night, forget about the bad things. Be festive, party hard, and, in the words of Dr. Anthony Fauci, “lower your mask before you throw up.”

Happy new year.


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