2021 to 2020: ‘You Think You’re Tough? Watch This!’

Street view of Washington, D.C.'s National Mall, Dec. 31, 2021.

By John Zmirak Published on January 3, 2021

I often find myself forced to repeat an old observation. (The year 2020 made it more pertinent than ever.) We appear to be living not in the real world at all. We’ve been trapped inside a badly done end-times novel, typed single-spaced in a double-wide, then sold only at gun shows. I’ve created a scholarly metric for measuring the depth of our entrapment, the Gunshow Apocalyptic Novel Insanity (GANI) Coefficient.

We can use it trace how the frenzied emotions and implausible events of 2017, 2018, 2019, and finally 2020 have increased not arithmetically but geometrically. That is, they didn’t double, but they were squared. If 2018 was only twice as crazy as 2017, 2019 was four times more insane than 2018, and (double this one) 2020 16 times more deranged than 2019. By that math 2021 will be 64 times worse than 2020.

I know that seems to hard to imagine, but math doesn’t lie. Read my predictions for 2020, issued at this time last year. I was wrong on all the specifics, but not about the rate of escalating madness. It was indeed 2019, squared.

So hold onto your britches, ladies and gents. We’re in for a bumpy ride.

Fire and Brimstone, or Mold and Moss?

Why, you might ask, are things getting so much worse so quickly? Is this some direct divine judgment on the West in general and America in particular, on the lines of Sodom and Gomorrah? Should we expect fire and brimstone to rain from the sky on Seattle, New York, and Washington, D.C. on Easter Sunday morning? Don’t get your hopes up, folks.

I’ve always thought conspiracy theorists were hopeless optimists. These Pollyannas imagine sending one drone strike to hit the right cabin at Bohemian Grove, or the right conference table in Davos, would erase most of our evils. Likewise starry-eyed are millenarians, who take each fresh dose of hell dumped on our plate as proof that Our Lord is coming to shake the Etch-A-Sketch and start over from scratch. If only.

I think we’re seeing instead the predictable outcome when people reject their dependence on God, en masse. Millions imitate their neighbors and make default decisions to do the safe, easy thing, hoping no one will notice. They see that the sky doesn’t fall immediately, and soon the deadly sin of Sloth becomes a way of life. They decide that they can do pretty well without God’s help, and that even if they fail He will simply lower His standards out of compassion. 

How’s that working for us? The year 2020 gives us a preview. No society can long survive the mass adoption of Sloth as a governing principle. America is especially fragile, because ordered liberty demands some modicum of society-wide virtue and vigilance. When we can’t even get election officials to honestly count the votes, reporters to tell the truth, or leaders to show some courage … the engine fails. Systems collapse. And tyrants step forward with their “pragmatic, realistic” shortcuts. These always involve taking huge swathes of freedom and burning them for fuel. We won’t get them back.  

If only the millions of innocent citizens were spared the ugly outcome. But that’s not how any of this works, as Jesus reminded us. If you happen to be standing between the Gadarene swine and the sea, you’re going to get your hair wet. You might even drown. 

A Fallen World Full of Landmines and Booby Traps

Saint Augustine said something interesting about the Fall, by the way. God made us of matter, whose nature is passing and changing, and tends toward decay. He granted Adam and Eve special protection, which would have shielded them from destruction. They forfeited that not only for themselves but also on our behalf (thanks, guys!) when they chose sin. Then God as a mercy, to keep us from walking the earth as immortal quasi-demons, withdrew that protection. When Christ came, He didn’t restore it to us. Yet. That awaits the New Jerusalem. That’s why in the meantime we must live in but not of the world, which is still full of landmines and booby traps.

When we decide that relying on God, instead of ourselves, is an oppressive superstition, we’re like rogue soldiers. We turn off our GPS, smash our radios, and use our maps as rolling paper. We’ve “got this,” because we’re so much wiser than our pious ancestors. If they were so smart, why didn’t they have penicillin or Novocaine, amirite?

Losing Our Earthly Attachments

I will say, to use the language of mystics, that 2020 has stripped me of many earthly attachments. I no longer expect my own Catholic church to exist again in recognizable form by the time I die. Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI did not cure its doctrinal and moral rot. In their key decisions — the bishops they picked — they listened to the same corrupt old guard. That is, the bishops who bungled things through the 1960s and 70s. So those popes picked mostly time-serving, and surprisingly lavender, bishops. These bishops treated the sex abuse crisis as a chance to hone their cover-up skills. They mostly let their seminaries keep on admitting soft-minded homosexuals, and turning away young men whose faith seemed “rigid” (i.e., supernatural).

Pope Francis has stacked the College of Cardinals with faded Xeroxes of himself, so we have no human reason to expect things to get better. At least not in my lifetime — not one year of which has seen the church properly governed. The only real hope I can think of for the institutional church is that it goes bankrupt. Perhaps by one means or another, governments like Germany’s and ours, which pour tens of billions into the bloated, politicized institutions these bad bishops manage, will cut off the flow.

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Once the gravy train stalls, things will change. Becoming a priest will cease to be a cushy option for young gay men without the IQ to scheme for the Democrats or the talent to dance on Broadway. Being a bishop will no longer be the route for dim-bulb Disney princesses to end up in a palace. Because we won’t have any. (I pray that our gorgeous historic churches will still be saved from demolition, and put to respectful use.) The few men who sign up for the thankless, low-paying task of saying Mass in rented basements, and hearing confessions at Cracker Barrel? They’ll be like the men who built the church in the first place — the monks who cut down sacred oaks in Germany, opened hermitages in the Orkneys, and tried to restrain the Conquistadors in the jungles of Central America. “Rigid.”

A World Without America? 

Perhaps of more general interest is what I expect to happen to our beloved country. I do not think it will return in any recognizable form, either, by the time I shuffle off this mortal coil. I hope I’m wrong, that some miracle grows spines inside the jellied forms of Republicans, before the Democrats steal enough elections to render reform impossible. But that’s what it would take at this point: a miracle. And I don’t know how many miracles our country still has left, with five decades of legal abortion on our conscience.

We had a pretty good run. Two hundred and fifty years of expanding freedom and widespread, growing prosperity is a miracle in itself. Not many other vast countries can boast such a track record. The Roman Empire was orderly and wealthy (though never free) for about that many years, before things started falling apart. You can’t count on a golden age to last forever.

That’s cold comfort now to those of us who love America and our fellow Americans. It’s even colder to those in foreign countries who’ve looked to us a beacon and ally. The plight of freedom-lovers in Hong Kong and Uyghur slave camps will get even more hopeless. The persecuted Christians of many countries will lose their most powerful natural ally (albeit one that only really started helping them under Trump).

A world without a strong, unified, and democratic America would be a much darker place. If our light winks out under a bushel, however, and our city burns down on its hill, the Lord will still provide. He will relight the lamp of freedom, perhaps in Brazil or Nigeria. It will come in a form that surprises the world, as our founding in 1776 certainly did. The Church will soldier on  in nooks and crannies as it did under the Caesars. There will be golden ages again. Let’s pray we’re in heaven looking down on them, immune to nostalgia or mourning.


John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream, and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”


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