I wrote this a week ago and have been sitting on it, unsure whether I should share it or not. My husband has convinced me I should. Turns out, I'm not the only one feeling this way.
A retrospective, although why anyone would want to look back and reflect on this year is…confusing.
A year of extremes. From the wildfires in Australia in January to the wildfires on the west coast of the US in August and September. A hurricane season that ran out of names and had to go to the Greek alphabet. Social uprising long overdue, a virus that defied analysis, a divided political system that then divided the country – if I believed in a vengeful God, I’d think he had it out for the human race.
Except that the human race is stupid enough, self-centered enough, and just plain stubborn enough to make its own set of trouble. No need to blame it on God. We did this to ourselves.
I used to be an optimist. Still am, at the core. We will get through this time of trouble just as we (i.e. the human race) have gotten through tough times before. It might take a few years, but we usually come out having learned something and progressed as a society. I believe we will do the same this time.
But damn, living through the mess is hard. Steven and I have it easy right now. We have money coming in via my pension and our teaching. Going online to teach, while a little stressful, isn’t all that bad, especially because everyone’s thinking this is temporary. Buckle up and teach/take the courses this way for now and in a year we’ll be back to in-person, on-campus classes.
We also have a house that’s paid for, so our bills are low. I have good health insurance (that will change in a year when I have to go on Medicare – one bridge at a time, thank you very much). We are not sick and have begun to carefully open our social circle (not something I’m keen to do, honestly. I kinda like the solitude. A chance to read!).
And still, I find my jaw clenching for no reason. I broke a tooth – probably from grinding my teeth. I’ve gained weight because I tend to eat my anxieties. And every day there’s a new idiocy from the White House or at the Walmart. I look around and wonder, “Is this how it happens? We fall as a nation, as a society, as a people, because people truly just don’t care about each other?”
In the old days (last year – heck, last February), one didn’t know who you met on the street was stupid and who was a brainiac. It didn’t matter. You saw a stranger and smiled politely, nodded, perhaps exchanged a pleasant greeting, and moved on. No judgment, no negativity. Simplicity.
Now, however, there is a visible sign of not only their lack of understanding, but increasingly, of their political affiliation and, by extension, their morality. You see a stranger and he/she/they is not wearing a mask as you approach. I immediately know they don’t care about me – or anyone, really. They care only about their own comfort/beliefs/ideology. The rest of us can die. Literally.
And that’s the heart of 2020. What Mother Nature is throwing at us (murder hornets? Really, Mother?) is to be expected after years of ignoring warnings about the damage we’re doing to the climate. No, Mother Nature is pissed off and I get that.
But I don’t get willful stupidity. And that’s exactly what I see in those who are choosing to say, “Screw you. My rights are more valuable than yours.” I don’t get those who don’t understand there’s a people who have been systematically oppressed for generations and who are mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore. I don’t understand those who would rather kill their neighbor than have a conversation that – gasp!- might lead to understanding – on both sides.
So yeah, my optimism has taken a hit this year. I still hold out hope for the future, but if I had a genie and only one wish? I’d wish that I could have a peek at how this all turns out. A little certainty in this uncertain world would set my mind at ease.