The Armageddon Election of 2020

An animation depiction of the flyby of small asteroid (2012 TC4 ) as it passes under Earth.  Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Read into this in whatever way suits your philosophy: an asteroid is due to come close to Earth on the day before the November Presidential election.

2020 is the year of the pandemic and civil unrest and a very divisive U.S. election season. And now an asteroid is headed toward us and the timing seems symbolic.

Celestial object 2018VP1 is projected to come close to Earth on November 2, according to the Center for Near Earth Objects Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The object was first identified at Palomar Observatory in California in 2018.

You’ll be hearing about this asteroid in the popular media a lot more in the lead-up to the election. But this is not a disaster film scenario as in Deep Impact or Armageddon.

Asteroid 2018VP1 is small. It’s approximately 6.5 feet, so it poses no real threat to Earth. If it did enter our planet’s atmosphere, it would disintegrate. It’s too small to do more than creating a bolide (fireball) and it won’t make an impact and create the strewn field that appears in every asteroid disaster film.

But here is a political angle. NASA has been directed by Congress to discover 90% of the near-Earth asteroids larger than 140 meters (459 feet) in size and report on asteroids of any size.

When Julius Caesar died, a comet appeared. Many Romans thought that this was a sign that Caesar had become a god.

Into the 1700s, Europeans thought that comets meant that crops would be good and grapes would yield excellent wine.

But generally, comets have been seen as harbingers of bad news.

Here’s a historical example: At the Battle of Hastings in 1066, a comet was sighted. The Bayeux Tapestry shows people looking up at what we now know was an appearance of Halley’s Comet. The inscription there says that it foretold that there would be a change in the kingdom, and William the Conqueror took over control of England from the Anglo-Saxons.

Our reactions to these celestial events have still been unscientific even into the 20th century. There was a mass panic when Halley’s Comet appeared in 1910 and articles then put forward the idea that poison gas in the comet’s tail would kill off humanity when the Earth passed through the tail.

So, what does the appearance of a comet the day before our election foretell to you?

The Season That Wasn’t

snowdrops

March 2020 was a strange month globally due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic. Most of us were indoors and might not have taken much notice of the weather and the arrival of spring. I got to know my backyard and garden better. I walked my neighborhood and some local parklands until they were closed. Many people commented that they were losing track of the days. But for me, it was like the world is just skipping spring.

The proverb says that the month of March comes “In like a lion, out like a lamb.” It’s not unusual to expect that March weather begins in typical winter fashion but leaves in spring conditions. But the weather is unpredictable and the opposite can be true.

I don’t really remember the weather for the month very well. It wasn’t great. Lots of rain and gray skies. With COVID-19 and sheltering in place, March came in like a lion and went out like an angrier lion

“April showers bring May flowers” is another proverb about the weather. April was also rainy here. And for the first time in more than 80 years, we didn’t have a single day that was 70 degrees or more.

I have been journaling since I was a teenager. My journaling has been less regular in the past years. Now I am more likely catching up on the week or the month rather than doing a daily diary kind of writing.

I started a new journal in January 2020. Unfortunately, it began with my older sister taking a fall in the care facility where she lives. She was hospitalized and then put into a rehab center for six weeks. She returned to her assisted living facility on Valentine’s Day. A week later we were told that a resident had died of COVID-19 and they were locking down the building, keeping residents in their rooms including bringing meals in instead of using the dining room. A week later, their head of nursing died of the virus. there have been 13 coronavirus deaths and this facility is actually doing much better than others in our area.

I left four blank pages in my new journal to put a timeline of the pandemic. It certainly is something I will want to review in the future. I hope four pages will be enough room.

baby fingers

The best thing about 2020 for me was the arrival of my first grandchild in April. She is the hopeful part of the month, the season, and the year.

I bought my new granddaughter, Remi, a New York Times and a local paper on the day she was born knowing that one day she might also be interested to read about this strange time in which she appeared in the world. I joked with her parents that I may need to explain newspapers to her too.

I expect the weather to improve a lot this month. In New Jersey, summer unofficially begins with Memorial Day weekend, and for many of us that means a trip “down the shore.” But now, beaches and boardwalks are closed. Our Governor Murphy has been wisely cautious and has already extended the state’s emergency order by another 30 days to June 6. No Memorial Day weekend on the beach.

Spring 2020 was the season that wasn’t. I hope that some of you were productive at home, spent quality time with family, were able to maintain your income and were untouched by the deaths from the virus. That is what I hope, but I know that for some of you some of those things are not true.