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Numb and Number
If you’re like me, you find it easy to make an emotional connection with a letter. They do mirror our words and thoughts, after all — almost as if they were a part of us. If one of them is going through a rough patch, we automatically feel their pain. They are almost living things — like beloved family pets.

Take the letter Q, for instance. You would have to be pretty cold inside not to feel some kind of compassion for this hapless glyph. For starters, it can hardly go anywhere without U tagging along. It’s not as if U needs the work; it’s a vowel, for gosh sake. But there it is, crowding into the picture almost every time Q gets a chance to shine. And on the rare occasion when Q does appear on its own, it is almost always as a pathetic attempt by our alphabet to mimic a sound from another, foreign, set of letters — like the Hebrew letter qoph. Or qajaq, a Scrabble word with no meaning at all. Sad.

It is also a bit of an afterthought as a letter, looking, as it does, like an O that has left its pants unzipped. It all seems so unfair. But at least Q is a letter. In its alphabet-universe there are only 26 such characters. Even Q can think of itself as something special is such elite company.

When it comes to integers, though, it is quite a different matter. There are an infinite number of numbers, so no one would blame you if you felt nothing at all for any one of them and whatever tough circumstances they might find themselves in. Having feelings for a number is less like caring about an old and beloved dog approaching its last days and more like sympathizing with your laptop when it crashes. It’s that hard to relate to a number.

There are, however, exceptions to this rule. Recently, I have been experiencing profound surges of empathy for 2020.

Think of 2020 before the year began. It held a position of representing almost unparalleled excellence as a measure of eyesight. 20/20 vision is not perfect, but it is the ideal level of visual acuity to which we all aspire. To many of us, 20/20 is an unattainable goal even with corrective lenses or surgery. How many numerals have a credit like that on their resumes?

Apart from that association, 2020 was also on its way to an achievement of numerical niftyness that would have been rare indeed among other dates on the calendar. It would have gone into the books along with 1010 and (someday) 3030. The coolness of such dates easily outstrips years like 1818 and 1919 or any other every-101-years occurrences.

All of that, of course, came before the actual transpiration of the year 2020. You don’t need me to tell you what it’s been like, but I will anyway: COVID, job loss, eviction, schools under threat…okay, I’m getting tired of it already. Except one last thing: corrupt and uncaring governance. Oh yeah, and now a giant, killer heat wave in the West, which has now been followed by the historically awful and destructive fires currently afflicting the entire Pacific Coast of America.

Whatever 2020 might have had going for it on January 1, it’s all gone now. In my opinion, it is in the running for the worst year ever, and maybe even the worst number ever. That is a long fall for any symbolic character. There is only one thing that could make it worse.

Please, don’t forget to vote.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon