Patrick Murphy

DATELINE: 2050, a seventh-grade history class, and a teacher talks to her students:

Teacher: “Settled down kids, we have a lot of ground to cover today. We are going to study the year 2020, one of the most important years, not just in the nation’s, but in the world’s history.”

Johnny: “That was a long time ago, what’s so important?”

Teacher: “In 2020 the world suffered through a worldwide pandemic called the coronavirus. Then there was growing racial tensions, and on top of that it was an election year.”

Susie: “What’s the coronavirus?”

Teacher: “The coronavirus, also called COVID-19, was a respiratory illness that spread from person to person. There are many types of human coronaviruses, including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. It was not previously seen in humans.”

Juanita: “Did people die?”

Teacher: “Yes, there were hundreds of thousands around the world who lost their lives.”

Bobby: “How did it end?”

Teacher: “Technically, it hasn’t ended. There are still some cases around the world, but it’s more rare since we developed a vaccine.”

Cindy: “What did people do before the vaccine so they didn’t get it?”

Teacher: “That was the problem. Some didn’t believe it was real, that it was just created to scare people into not voting for the president. Others acted like they would never get it or if they did, it wouldn’t hurt them. The ones who were safest were the ones who took it seriously, wore masks in public, only went outside when they absolutely had to and kept their distance from people.

“Businesses and schools were closed, sports postponed or canceled and some public places, like parks, restaurants and bars, were temporarily closed. People had to work from home or they were layed off. Students had to learn from home, using those old computers you kids laugh at when I show you pictures of them in museums. It was a different world back then.”

Mary: “Why didn’t some people wear masks? Didn’t they care if they got sick or got someone else sick?”

Teacher: “That’s a great question. Some people thought it was all political, that it was an attempt to manipulate the public into panicking and voting for a new president. Others just didn’t care enough to take precautions because they didn’t want to stay home. Still others screamed that their freedoms were being taken away, which wasn’t true. Back then, people didn’t care about each other like we do today.”

Betty: “I’m glad I didn’t live back then.”

Johnny: “How come the races didn’t get along?”

Teacher: “There were still some people who believed skin color mattered, and some people were better than others because of that. We all get along a lot better today, thankfully.”

Bobby: “How can anyone think they are better than anyone else just because they look different?”

Teacher: “Well, it’s hard to say what goes through peoples’ minds, but racism goes back to the history of our country, and it took us way too long to understand we are all equal.”

Susie: “What about the election?”

Teacher: “Well that’s complicated. It happened during a time when other countries interfered with our election, and because of the coronavirus many voted by mail. Politics divided the country back then. Some always voted for candidates belonging to one party or the other instead of voting for who they thought would best serve the country.”

Jesus: “You mean people didn’t even vote for the person they thought would do the best job? They just voted for whatever party they liked? That makes no sense.”

Teacher: “You’re right. That’s why the country was so divided. People stopped listening and respecting each other, and that is one of the reasons they didn’t get along.”

Mark: “How did things change in the country?”

Teacher: “Well, it wasn’t easy, and it didn’t happen overnight. It took several years, but eventually we started electing people who cared more about the country than themselves, including more and more women. Our legislature is now more representative of the population with men and women of different backgrounds, races and ethnicities all working together for our country. In fact, our last three presidents have been women. Hard to believe there was a time when women were not taken seriously, but thankfully times have changed. Our country is not perfect and never will be. There will always be haters living amongst us, but they have been mostly drowned out by the majority who believe in peace, love and understanding.”

Patrick Murphy, editor-publisher of the Humphrey Democrat and Newman Grove Reporter in Nebraska, is a former assistant managing editor at The Telegram.