By Leah S. Dunaief
That was the message a friend in California texted me yesterday. And she certainly summed up perfectly these days of our lives. Let us together count the ways we have gone off the rails. For starters, can you imagine a time when you had to decline a visit from your children at Thanksgiving in order to ensure your health and theirs?
I suspect the same for you; gathering around the table at Thanksgiving and appreciating our lives with our family and close friends has been a tradition for us as long as I can remember. After my children married and joined their wives’ families with ours, we have even traded off other holidays for Thanksgiving at our home every year. I guess we can include thanks this time for and via Zoom.
Could you imagine a political stalemate over the election at the presidential level like the one playing out in the courts in different states across the country? Yes, the 2000 vote was a handwringer, but it pales in drama when compared with this election. Back then, the decision hung on 537 votes. This time, with vital information withheld and with a pandemic raging, more is at stake than the outcome of the election. We are vulnerable to attack as a nation.
And as for that pandemic, as direly predicted this past spring, it is rearing its ugly head now that the weather has cooled and we are living more indoors and closer together. We have learned some things since the affliction started. Masks make a difference in protecting others and also ourselves from the spread of the virus. Fresh air, social distancing and hand washing continue to be vital. HEPA filters are powerful allies. And broad scale testing, followed by tracing, matter. Still, people are hospitalized, emergency rooms and ICU beds fill up and even some patients die, as we wait to be rescued by science. Incredible progress has been made developing a vaccine, and by more than one laboratory, but distribution to and acceptance by the general public of the vaccines will not happen during this imminent winter.
Weather has also been a villain. Violent storms and hurricanes, the ferocity of which has been unleashed, we are told, by climate change, have disrupted life for many in the United States and across the globe, even in the midst of desperate efforts to fight the pandemic. And further complicating rescue are the unprecedented fires burning in California and the far west. Then throw in assorted mudslides and tornados for good measure. Tragic!
The economy continues to worsen for many as it excels for the few businesses that benefit from the consequences of the virus. Restaurants, hotels, travel, transportation, formal entertainment, cultural events, retail, health care, child care, education — all have suffered huge financial blows. And the effects are not, curiously, shared equally among men and women. Most of the jobs in those industries are filled by women, who now have no jobs because of shutdowns, or have jobs they cannot get to because of child care responsibilities. This one issue is being viewed as a significant setback for women in the workplace, and for society as a whole, for years to come. Meanwhile construction, renovation, manufacturing and high tech, that makes Zoom and countless other products now deemed a necessity possible, are mushrooming.
The tenor of watershed events in people’s lives is tarnished. Weddings, graduations, significant and not-so-significant birthday parties, reunions, baptisms, funerals — all are put on hold or otherwise unwillingly altered in timing and attendance. Even an entitlement as innocent as looking forward to a thrilling freshman year in college has now morphed into a two-dimensional, remote experience. And returning college students are considered risks for households and communities.
There is no point in complaining. It will not alter this bizarre year and the troubles it has brought. The one thought I could offer my friend on a return text: “We will be able to say, as we someday will tell the tale, that we lived through it.”