A Brief History
On January 1, 2020, a new year and the beginning of a new decade, we take a look back at the year we have just completed and examine some of the biggest stories of that year, including politics, war, crime, personalities, sports and whatever we feel like addressing! You are welcome to feel like addressing whatever topics you believe we should have included in this article and share that information with your fellow readers and us. (Note: Some comment is about the decade, 2010-2019, that just concluded. Our articles are not long enough to cover every single notable event, so if you want to discuss a particular event we neglected, please feel free to do so.) For those that keep track of such things, neither a Dachshund nor a Basset Hound won Best in Show at the major dog shows. What the heck?
To be honest, who won the Super Bowl, College Football Championship and World Series is not that big of a deal. Nothing spectacularly different there. On the other hand, it is notable that LeBron James was named Male Athlete of the Decade and Serena Williams was named Female Athlete of the Decade (both by the Associated Press). Lebron won NBA championships with the Cleveland Cavaliers and twice with the Miami Heat, while going to the NBA finals a remarkable 8 times in the decade! Who besides LeBron James could bring a major league sports championship to Cleveland? Topping off his terrific decade, LeBron ends 2019 as the Assists leader in the NBA during the current season, and has become the ONLY player in NBA history to score at least 30,000 points while snagging 9,000 rebounds and dishing out 9000 assists, an indication of the complete and dominating player he is. Also during this decade, he won 3 NBA Finals MVP awards and 3 NBA MVP awards. (Quarterback Tom Brady was a distant second.) Serena Williams is perhaps the best female tennis player in history and earned her award in dominating fashion. She won 12 Grand Slam Singles titles this past decade, while no other woman won more than 3 during the decade. Along the way she remained #1 in Women’s Tennis rankings for 3+ years during the 2010’s, tying the record for being on top (Steffi Graf). Of her all time record 23 Grand Slam wins, 12 came in this decade alone, a real feat when you consider her age (currently 38) and that she also gave birth in 2018! These 2 fantastic athletes deserve their accolades, although some other excellent athletes also provided tremendous thrills during the past decade and the past year, notably basketballer Steph Curry and gymnast Simone Biles. Unfortunately, 2019 just did not provide the momentous sports moments such as the Jesse Owens, Mark Spitz, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt Olympic performances or the Miracle Mets World Series victory in 1969.
(Note: On December 30, 2019, the grandson of this author, 12 year old Jim, won all 5 of his wrestling matches at 122 pounds class in a middle school 16 team tournament, a pretty darn good accomplishment if I so say so! He posted 4 pins and a 7-0 victory.)
The election of Donald Trump as President of the United States in 2016 has to be the top political story of the past decade, and much of what he has said and done since certainly competes for the top billing! Only his subsequent impeachment in 2019 can overshadow his unlikely election in the first place. For 2019, there is nothing that compares to the House of Representatives voting to impeach President Trump, making The Donald only the third US President ever to be impeached. (Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton being the other 2, neither of which was convicted by the Senate.) Of course, the trial of Trump in the Senate will not occur until 2020, so the results of that trial will probably be the big story for that year. Virtually all other political stories, election results, scandals, etc., pale in comparison to the impeachment vote. In 2019 World Politics, Britain still did not resolve “Brexit” and Israel reelected Benjamin Netanyahu despite allegations of corruption. (How boring!) The ongoing Trump initiated trade war with China seemed to be coming to an end as 2019 wrapped up, with announcement of a new trade deal (part 1) that will be signed in January of 2020. The news in Presidential election politics for the 2020 campaign were less than scintillating, with no real Republican challengers to Donald Trump for their party’s nomination and an enormous field of Democratic candidates led by the old school elderly same old same old politicians, former Senator and Vice President Joe Biden (currently 77 years old), Senator Bernie Sanders (currently 78 years old) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (a comparatively spritely 70 years old).
The big stories of 2019 were the mass attacks by hateful shooters at places regular people gathered, such as stores, schools, churches and parties. While tremendous media coverage would lead the casual observer to believe the US is descending into chaos, the facts are that in 2018 the US murder rate was 4.7 per 100,000 people, less than half of what it was in 1980! Among the mass shootings (and mass stabbings), the use of “assault weapons” was played up by politicians and the media to seem as though the country was under attack, though the percent of rifles (of any type) used in murders is incredibly small, and the so called “assault weapons” (semi-automatic military looking rifles and carbines) accounted for an even smaller percentage of murders. (In 2016, of the 15, 070 murders in the US, only 374 were committed by rifles of any type, meaning even fewer than that were cases where “assault weapons” were used by murderers. No change in this trend is evident for 2019.) Hate crimes committed against people because of their race, religion, nationality or ethnicity took center stage in 2019, with some highly publicized events including an attack on a Jewish Chanukah celebration by a machete wielding hate monger on December 28, 2019. Yet another church attack occurred on December 29, 2019, in which a man wearing a wig and fake beard shot and killed 2 armed security parishioners that were about to confront him, before the shooter was shot and killed by another armed parishioner! As with the Dayton, Ohio, mass shooting in August of 2019, the gunman being quickly gunned down saved numerous other lives, once again showing that the only real defense against a murderous killer is an armed citizen. A notable trial watched by much of the country in 2019 was that of Dallas police officer who was convicted of murder for shooting and killing a man when the off duty cop mistakenly entered the man’s apartment thinking it was her own. The shooting had occurred in 2018 and the convicted officer was given a sentence of 10 years. While police chases leading to fatal crashes and police shootings also often provided the leading story during 2019 newscasts, the shocking reports of police officers committing suicide poured in, with 9 New York City police having killed themselves by August of 2019! By August of 2019, an incredible 114 American police officers had committed suicide, compared to only 92 in the same period of 2018. (We believe the incessant slamming of police officers in the media and by politicians is to blame. What do you think?) The past 3 or 4 years in a row has seen increased numbers of police suicides. In 2019, 131 officers were killed in the line of duty in the United States (as of December 30). India continued to experience a wave of crimes against women and girls, such as gang rape and murder, and attempts to outlaw “open defecation” (going to the bathroom in public streets, etc.) resulted in some fatal attacks on offenders! While the number of murders in Chicago continued to fall for the third straight year, the murder tally in Baltimore once again rose to a near record level in 2019, with the city recording 348 murders. Sadly, on top of the terrible toll, the depressing statistic of only a 40% closure rate of murders solved serve as a chilling omen of things to come as murderers walk free. (Note: In 2015, after the Freddie Gray incident in which police officers were “thrown under the bus” by city officials, police in Baltimore stopped “noticing” crimes, and enforcement went way down while murders went up to the massive number of 342, an increase of over 60% over the previous year, a massive number before being eclipsed in 2019. The city record number of murders in a single year is 353, back in 1993. Why Baltimore should have assumed the mantle of “Murder Capital” requires more research. While St. Louis, Missouri, has a similar murder rate, that city recorded “only” 194 murders in 2019.)
War and terror.
As far as the United States is concerned, the biggest story of 2019 concerning our endless wars in the Middle East was the sudden evacuation of American troops from (some) positions in Syria, leaving our Kurdish allies to the mercy of the Turks, Russians and Syrian government troops. This shocking development shook the world and cast doubt on the fealty of the Untied States toward its commitment to alliances. Events in Iraq continued to deteriorate, with mobs attacking the US embassy in Baghdad on December 30-31, 2019. While the US rushes US Marines to reinforce the embassy security staff, it remains to be seen how this scenario will play out. Will the embassy have to be abandoned? Will we increase our presence in Iraq and initiate increased fighting involving US troops? The embassy attack came on the heels of US air strikes against Iranian backed irregulars in Syria and Iraq that had targeted US and allied forces in Syria. Meanwhile, much of the Islamic world continued to experience constant terror attacks of all types, in Africa, the Middle East and Pakistan, with Muslims and non-Muslims as targets.
Environment and health.
Climate change being blamed for increases in the number and severity of storms and the number and severity of wildfires dominated environmental news in 2019, as it had the previous couple years. Brazil and Australia joined the US in experiencing enormous, catastrophic fires. The other big health stories concerned the continued battle over vaccinations, with outbreaks of measles and other diseases being blamed on people refusing to get their children vaccinated. Epidemiologists warn of catastrophic consequences of failure to insist on mass vaccination. Time Magazine’s Person of the Year was Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, a climate change activist that had addressed the United Nations in a scathing critique of the miserable job that the leaders of countries and businesses had done of coping with the environment and climate change. Thunberg even drew the attention and ire of President Trump, who reached a new low by attacking the teen on Twitter.
The big fire at Notre Dame in Paris, France, took the biggest religious related headlines in 2019, as the April fire threatened to destroy the entire old church. When the fire was finally stopped, incredible sums of money were quickly donated to rebuild the church, which generated virulent dissent by people demanding that such largess be apportioned to starving and homeless people and refugees instead of for a religious building. Other big religious stories in 2019 include the increasing amount of attacks on people of Jewish faith in the United States and the condemnation of President Trump by a leading Evangelical Christian magazine, Christianity Today, a publication founded by the famous preacher Billy Graham. The article condemning President Trump’s moral failings generated fierce debate among Christians about the morality of supporting the President.
Notable Deaths of 2019.
No year ever passes without the loss of one or more famous people, whether notorious or beloved, that go wherever their religion says they go. Among those that died in 2019 include: Carol Channing (actress, singer, comedian), John Dingell (US politician), Frank Robinson (Hall of Fame baseballer, first African American major league manager, Triple Crown Winner), Andre Previn (conductor, composer), Luke Perry (actor), Nipsey Hussle (Rap singer, songwriter, murder victim), John Havlicek (Hall of Fame basketballer), Peter Mayhew (actor, played Chewbacca in Star Wars movies), Doris Day (singer, actress, #1 female singer of the 1950’s), Herman Wouk (author, age 103), Bart Starr (Hall of Fame footballer), Leon Redbone and Dr. John (singers, 2 of this author’s favorites), Gloria Vanderbilt (socialite and fashion designer), Lee Iacocca (auto executive), Ross Perot (business billionaire and Presidential candidate), Pernell Whitaker (boxing champion, hit by car while crossing street), John Paul Stevens (US Supreme Court Justice), Rutger Hauer (actor), Rip Torn (actor), Kip Addotta (comedian performed “Wet Dream,” a most hysterically funny routine involving double entendres concerning maritime themes), Peter Fonda (actor), Valerie Harper (actress), Carol Lynley (actress), Ric Ocasek (rocker, The Cars), Eddie Money (rocker), Sid Haig (actor, notably horror movies), Cokie Roberts (journalist and writer, daughter of 2 US Representatives to Congress), Dihann Carroll (singer, actress), Elijah Cummings (US politician), Rip Taylor (actor, comedian), Michael J. Pollard (Oscar winning actor), Carroll Spinney (puppeteer, played Big Bird on Sesame Street), Danny Aiello (actor), Don Imus (radio personality). Yes, for the purpose of brevity we neglected to mention many other actors, singers and otherwise famous people in order to concentrate on those we think are the most noteworthy. Feel free to name those we should have included.
Question for students (and subscribers): What story do you believe is the biggest of 2019? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Lasser, JK. J.K. Lasser’s Your Income Tax 2020: For Preparing Your 2019 Tax Return. Wiley, 2019.
Thunberg, Greta. No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference. Penguin Books, 2019.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by ulricaloeb of Greta Thunberg at Mynttorget, Stockhom, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. This image was originally posted to Flickr by ulricaloeb at https://flickr.com/photos/28935188@N07/46668665014. It was reviewed on by FlickreviewR 2 and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.