If I had written a fictional story with a plot identical to what has actually happened in 2020 I suspect that people would have laughed at the ridiculousness of the tale. It might have ended up sounding a bit too much like a bad version of Outbreak. What seemed to be a promising new year in January has morphed into a living nightmare from which we don’t seem to have either the will or the capability of escaping. There are days and weeks that seem overwhelming and yet we somehow manage to keep drag ourselves out of bed each morning to face who knows what.
I keep seeing memes on Facebook that ask why this or that is not the most important story of the week and I have to laugh at the ridiculousness of that question because on any given day there seem to be so many historically significant stories that we go into overload just attempting to keep up with them. We are now having to decide what matters most to us or we would end up feeling anxious all the time. Sadly we have people who spend a great deal of time attempting to frighten us either because it makes for a great story or because they think it will help them gain power. We would do better to spend time trying to really understand how each of us is being affected by events. A big dose of mutual empathy would be a positive cure for our problems.
Last week served as a perfect example of how we are enduring more challenges than it seems possible to handle at once. Those of us living along the coast of Texas and Louisiana spent most of our days preparing for the possible landfall of both a tropical storm and a hurricane. Sadly Louisiana bore the brunt of nature’s fury sustaining incredible damage. Because we have almost become numb to tragedy the horror of what happened along the hurricane’s path was almost a footnote in the nightly news. We want to go help but worry that we might get sick if we do. We send money or supplies when what we really want to do is lend a helping hand with our labor.
In California and Colorado wildfires continue to ravage forests and homes. We watch in horror for a few seconds and then move on to the next big thing forgetting that those most personally connected to that tragedy are dealing with the two horrors at the same time. California has been at the epicenter of the virus for months and now the citizens are literally watching lifetimes of hard work burn to the ground. Meanwhile critics lay blame rather than providing constructive support simply because it is politically expedient. We sound petulant and selfish when we spend more time criticizing than do good.
There is still unrest as our nation’s Black Americans plead with all citizens to care about the injustices that they continue to endure.. They ask us to hear their pleas for justice even as they know that their message has been distorted by misunderstanding and purposeful indifference. Their plight is being wrongly used as political fodder and to promulgate unwarranted fear. In truth they are not against all police officers but against a system that allows rogue or racist law officers to harass and murder them. Hundreds of thousands of citizens have protested peacefully only to have their efforts grossly misinterpreted. Their peaceful marches are too often hijacked by the actions of a small percent of individuals who are criminals or outside agitators from right and left extremist organizations. Black Americans want to live peacefully and without fear. The point of kneeling and boycotting, is not to dishonor the flag or veterans but to exercise a right guaranteed to us by our Founding Fathers. Sadly even when the protests are entirely without violence there are those who hate them. Our nation has yet to take the time to really hear and understand what our Black citizens have to say.
People continue to die from the virus, from murder, and from natural causes. Each of us is grieving for someone that we love who has not made it through this most horrific year. Our rituals for saying our final farewells have been paused. We send condolences from afar. We watch funerals on the screens of our computers. We can’t even embrace the sorrowing with a hug. It all feels so very wrong.
Our teachers and our students are attempting to begin a new school year. That annual tradition is proving to be more difficult than ever before. Nothing about it is routine or normal. Some flaunt safety measures as though they care more about individual rights than they do about the good of community. Teachers and students are ridiculed for expressing concern and sorrow for those who have been sick or have died from the virus. People sarcastically continue to call Covid 19 the “China” flu even as Asian parents and students ask them not to be so tone deaf.
We are in the middle of a national election that has become so divisive that we seem unable to deal with any of the issues that we face without devolving into ugly pointless debates. The noise of anger and division is not just unbearable, it is preventing us from finding calm rational solutions to our multitude of problems. We seem only capable of wagging our fingers and our tongues at one another as we sling mud and accomplish nothing.
As we drag our weary hearts from one day to the next we sometimes miss the quiet people who rarely make the headlines, the protestors who are making “good trouble” with earnest hearts, the medical community that carries on even as we doubt and ignore their advice, the teachers who listen to their students with compassion, the police officers who want to rid their ranks of the bad actors among them, the firefighters who are tamping out blazes and carrying the sick and injured to safety, the workers who rush to repair the destruction of a hurricane, the everyday people who attempt to bring kindness into each of their interactions with the world. There is indeed a silent majority that continually rises up to spread the goodness of love and peace rather than anger and fear. They are why I know that we will be fine. They are why I have hope. They are why I rise to greet another day. Theirs are the stories I want to hear.