Clearing my head

On a warm day in December, the grandkids can play outside. They know how close they can get now.

I haven’t written much of anything in months. I’ve tried, but the attempts are half-hearted, unfocused, lost in COVID brain fog. This effort already feels doomed.

But it seems that I should document something about this historic year. At least we can see a light ahead now. In fact, the first COVID vaccines were administered in the U.S. this week, and some day down the road I will line up for one too. Of course, even this scientific achievement is either seen as a miracle or a mandate by the citizens of this great big pot of boiling water.

Every state, every person has handled this global pandemic differently. Some people are still traveling without a care in the world. Others haven’t seen members of their own families since the initial shutdown in March. I suppose if we were all in this together, it would feel a little differently. But we aren’t, and so our experiences with this historic pandemic are not universal. In some parts of the country, you are ridiculed for wearing a mask. In others, you can be fined for not wearing one. What happened to these united states, this one nation, our “grand” experiment in democracy? Even trying to answer that question becomes contentious.

And yet, life goes on. We all keep muddling through as best we can. Yes, the rules have changed since the early days—we’ve learned so much about this virus. And yes, the state quarantine regulations don’t always make sense—there’s still so much to learn about this virus. Some businesses are thriving, while others slide into the abyss. Wall Street is humming right along, while the newly unemployed, through no fault of their own, stand in long food lines for the first time in their lives. And through it all, our politicians seem even more out of step with reality as they blindly fight to hold on to power and control at all cost.

No doubt, we are forever changed by this year. We have seen evil. And we have seen hope. We have felt division. And we have felt hope. We have held loss, more than 300,000-plus deaths. And we have held on to hope.

As a grandmother of four grandchildren, I don’t know what the future will look like, but I want to believe it will be an inclusive-diverse-kind-supportive-thoughtful-respectful-resourceful-global-green-challenging-safe-accepting-educated-exciting-exploratory-competitive-talented-innovative-optimistic-creative-bighearted-heartbreaking-healthy place for everyone’s grandchildren.

Until recently, I thought most people desired a future like this. I now realize many don’t. Today, I saw a photo of a man who was identified as a member of a far-right hate group. Four years ago, I had little experience with these groups. They lurked in the shadows. But today, they are acknowledged, even mainstream. He was standing on a street in our nation’s capital in broad daylight, proudly wearing a t-shirt with the saying, “6MWE.” I didn’t know what it meant, so I googled it. It means “6 million wasn’t enough.” It refers to the Jewish men, women, and children murdered by Hitler’s Nazis in the 1930s. And the shirts were sold on Amazon until the site was recently taken down.

Horrifying.

So, here we are in 2020, living next door to people with these values; people who see a future, a present, much different from mine. And you may say, it’s always been that way. However, in the past, that man wore a white hood in the middle of the night with groups of like-minded, small-minded people. Today, they walk streets with shirts that flaunt and glorify their hate for others. This, as the last of the WWII veterans who liberated those death camps are now in their 90s. I can’t imagine explaining a t-shirt like that to a young Jewish child—to my grandchild—to anyone’s child.

I can’t imagine.

I can’t.