Has History Repeated Itself? A look at the 1980s.

Sylvie Clowes, Staff Writer

My world at the moment reminds me of the way my parents’ generation describes the ’80s. In many ways, it is filled with potential and passionate fighting for change. There are moments of brightness, but looming over them are fears of COVID-19, climate change, political unrest, and more. The ’80s were filled with fears of nuclear war, the dawning reality of the AIDS crisis, and politicians who may not have had the people’s best interests at heart. At the same time, especially in 1989, there was the sense that social unrest could bring real change. Will the coming decade have a similar type of shift in politics? 

The comparisons between the AIDS crisis and COVID are numerous. Dr. Anthony Fauci played the same part then as he does now. He has been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases beginning in 1984 and has been an advisor to every President since Reagan. In both these crises, the information changes so often that it’s hard to know what is true. Both COVID and AIDS disproportionately affect already marginalized communities, and both viruses have brought out the worst in some people, especially those who seek to place blame on a particular group or nation. Some still don’t believe that COVID is a problem; in fact, nurses throughout the country report their patients doubting the diagnosis even as they are hooked to a ventilator. At the same time, fear runs through the papers and news. Almost every piece has at least a mention of COVID, the daily catastrophic uptick in deaths, and how people are dealing. Almost every conversation I have with someone outside of my family involves COVID. My friends are talking about it instead of gossiping or talking about more frivolous things. We still text about the same things as always, but COVID and politics are omnipresent. 

It’s bittersweet to look back to last year, when I thought the main parallel to the ’80s was the resurgence of the scrunchie. It seems to me now that there’s something we can learn from the mood of that time. For me, the ’80s are an example that the world is chaotic, but out of that chaos comes creativity. When I listen to the music of the ’80s, the songs are familiar to my generation. We grew up hearing them on our parents’ playlists, but they speak to us, too. They are often more honest than the songs coming out now, and have an exuberance that reminds me that we can still be happy even with the mess that the world is right now. Don’t forget about the problems, but allow yourself to enjoy the little things. Who knows what will happen in the next six months? Certainly not me. One of the things that 2020 has taught me is that I do not have control over what is happening, that the plans and charts that I make cannot account for everything. Instead, I look to the past. The hundreds of correlations between history and the present help me make sense of what is happening now.