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We wish we could say this semester is going to be different (read: better). We wish that when the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, we all would have woken up from a “Groundhog Day”-level nightmare. Because that’s been the commentary all of last year, right? 2020 sucked. It so sucked. And we were all ready for it to be over. We were all ready to wake up back in normal life.

But we didn’t. We woke up to a virus that didn’t magic itself away, but in fact developed a strain even more contagious than the last. We woke up to our president—of the United States of America—inciting violence in a rally and on Twitter to the point of being banned across multiple social media platforms (even Pinterest, if you want to keep track).

We woke up to the collateral damage of a violent mob storming our nation’s Capitol (the first invasion of the building since 1814—let that sink in if it hasn’t already) that sent America’s leaders to secure locations, only to continue to have a debate about whether or not the results of a fair and free election were fair and free. By our tally, Joe Biden has won the election five times at least. A

nd there was an underlying issue no one could ignore when rioters started climbing the walls of the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6: The treatment of that mob would have looked a lot different had the crowd been a different color.

That double-standard felt painfully evident watching a white mob walk through the Capitol, destroy property, steal from offices and the Senate floor and walk out escorted by police. The same can’t be said about the response to last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests. The same can’t be said about the response to Standing Rock. Just because we live in Montana, just because we live far away from D.C., we can’t pretend all of this isn’t affecting us, or that we are too far away to care. The debate over U.S. election results isn’t distant—Sen. Steve Daines was one of 13 senators to contest the Arizona election results (after returning to the Senate floor, Sen. Daines reversed his contest of the results of the electoral college, stating his desire to “restore confidence to our electoral process”).

The Capitol riots made their way here, in the form of protests at the Missoula Courthouse, while rioters in D.C. broke into congressional offices.

Of course we couldn’t avoid the spread of COVID-19, and we won’t avoid the long path ahead of us before we can even have the option to be vaccinated.

And we know we’re a student paper. We’ve been trying to decide how best to write about all of this and why it affects us and our readers directly.

And we’ve settled on this: Everyone keeps talking about “returning to normal” after a year we wish we could just forget. And that feels like it would be so much easier, wouldn’t it? It would be so much easier to just focus on our classes, study for our finals and try to graduate college and start our lives.

But the harder thing to do would be to look at what that “old normal” really truly looked like, and decide if it’s time to reject it. We have to make it out of this pandemic, and we will. We have to address our country’s divisions, and we will. But nothing will end overnight. If 2020 was the year that everything went to shit, we can write it off for what it was. We just need to make sure that 2021 is the year we work to actually make the changes.

Like it? Hate it? Wish we were dead? email us your opinions at editor@montanakaimin.com