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Seeing my notebook as a word cloud for 2020

And so begins the last month of 2020, a fraught, interminable year, a year about which I still have many more questions than answers.

Leafing through my notebook, I realize that I have written thousands of words over the past 12 months about Donald Trump. I acknowledge that since his campaign began in 2015 I haven’t been able to look away. He has been the equivalent of driving past a traffic accident on the freeway, a collage of crunched fenders and shards of glass. An elderly man with a red tie stands leaning against a car, staring at the passing traffic, his presence dominating the scene.

And if I were to create a series of word clouds with Trump’s name centered, along with countless other words, small and large, they would comprise a potpourri of topics. Certainly, one word map would focus on his still-inexplicable, willful failure to respond to this once-in-a-century virus. Words such as China, MAGICAL THINKING, hydroxy, and RECKLESS DISREGARD would appear, as would the words MASK and maskless, HERD IMMUNITY, and Fox News’ grossly irresponsible “FREEDOM NOT FEAR” — as was Trump’s “LIBERATE!” Of course, the words SUPERSPREADER RALLIES, anti-science, denigration of the experts, burn down Obamacare while ignoring the COVID-19 long-haulers must be included. Near the border of this word map would be the rising case count and the chilling daily death toll, as well as a cluster of words such as EXHAUSTED FRONT-LINE HEALTH CARE WORKERS, ICUs, ventilators, spiking graphs, hospitals filled beyond capacity, and our health care system leveled. Plus no COVID relief bill. The word TRAGEDY, in thin, stark letters, would define all that surrounds it.

Of course, there would be a cloud map with the words 2020 ELECTION dead center. FRAUDULENT mail-in ballots, two debates, a RIGGED election, STOLEN by the Dems, VICTORY declared at 2 a.m. Nov. 4, followed by Giuliani fetishizing DEEP STATE conspiracies, a cohort of Trump lawyers dedicated to overturning the vote and lionizing STOP THE STEAL. Clearly NO CONCESSION will ever be forthcoming, nor will an invite for the Bidens to the White House ever be tendered, all while undermining the nation’s confidence in democracy’s cornerstone. TRANSITION OBSTRUCTION, VINDICTIVE in the extreme, the presidency of Joe Biden delegitimized. The GOP stands SILENT.

Certainly word clouds linking TRUMP to IMMIGRATION and the SUMMER OF GEORGE FLOYD would be easily constructed. Regarding the former, start with ZERO TOLERANCE, SEPARATING CHILDREN FROM FAMILIES, Jeff Sessions, KIDS IN CAGES, DETERRENCE. Include the 666 CHILDREN who cannot be reunited with their DEPORTED PARENTS, DAMAGE to the innocent, caravans and, of course, THE WALL. Regarding the graphic and stunning death of GEORGE FLOYD, PROTESTS followed, rippling across the nation. RACE and SYSTEMIC RACISM became part of the national dialogue. As were calls for POLICE REFORM, often followed by the word “defund,” misheard by many as “abolish.” Destructive looters were just what they appeared to be: criminals, cynically using the moment.

Of course it would be easy to craft a word cloud with TRUMP-RUSSIA at its center, while puzzling over that familiar question regarding Trump’s strange, OPAQUE relationship with PUTIN. But then, Trump’s autocratic tenure in the White House has been replete with DISINFORMATION, truthiness, witch hunts, hoaxes, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and payoffs to two women by INDIVIDUAL 1.

To conclude, an interesting word cloud might focus on our sense of TIME DURING THE PANDEMIC. It seems DISTORTED, SURREAL, defined by waiting. Like Thanksgiving, CHRISTMAS is to be survived. Meanwhile, we wait for JAN. 20. We wait for SCHOOLS TO OPEN, then they close. Rinse and repeat. We wait for VACCINE lines in front of pharmacies, signaling the end of something and the beginning of something else. We wait. For NORMAL.

Chris Honoré is an Ashland Tidings columnist.