I don’t know if this is the beginning of the literal end of the world. But it does appear to be a new normal — and one that at any time could, and almost certainly will, be supplanted by another that’s even worse. Together with the other apocalyptic signs surrounding us, it serves as an important and deeply troubling revelation about our country.

If the United States is incapable of holding an election the outcome of which can be definitively known and trusted, does our government really deserve to be described as democratic? If our public health system can’t lead the world in halting the spread of the worst pandemic in a hundred years, are we really as worthy of admiration and emulation as we like to suppose? If we respond to irrefutable evidence of climate change by continuing to deny the obvious as the consequences grow graver and more costly, is there any reason to suppose we’re up to the task of saving ourselves?

What has been revealed these past few years — and this year most of all — is that we are not the country many of us supposed we were. However unedifying it is, that’s a truth we desperately need to face — and somehow learn to live with.