By: Sid Salter
The pandemic, the presidential election, the constant discord and meanness of social media and the endless blame game for all facets of the aforementioned troubles – aren’t you tired of it?
The Christmas holidays are significantly impacted by COVID-19, even with the emergence of promising news on the vaccine front. People are agonizing over decisions about visiting older relatives, young children, and other loves ones.
Most families did Thanksgiving gatherings outside so they could salve their fears with the façade of extra distancing. With the surges brought on by Thanksgiving travel, the rules have tightened again, and the demons of loneliness and separation threaten Christmas, our most sacred of religious holidays.
The approach of New Year’s celebrations is divided between those who want to fight for their right to party and those who realize that such gatherings can be lethal this time around. We whistle through the rhetorical graveyards about getting past the struggles of 2020 – while quietly realizing that COVID will continue to plague us for at least another six months to a year.
Even the promise of effective COVID vaccines divides us. Conspiracy theories abound. The same knuckleheads who refuse to protect themselves and others by merely wearing masks give us the same old “freedom and liberty” shuck and jive about taking the vaccine.
And, of course, in a perverse way, they are right. In America, we cherish our right to be dead wrong just because we can. Ain’t nobody gonna tell ME what to do, they say with gleams in their eyes.
We talk about 2020 as the worst year ever and the problems we faced this year as “unprecedented.” Not true. Our parents and grandparents survived the first major influenza pandemic, the Great Depression, two world wars, yellow fever, polio, and the other indignities of abject rural poverty in the Deep South without Netflix or Amazon deliveries.
The families of the dead and those suffering in ICUs have real problems deserving of our compassion, respect, and assistance. The doctors and nurses, the researchers, the public transportation workers, the person who checks your groceries and fills your prescriptions are heroes volunteering to endure real problems.
The rest of us, frankly, are merely bored and inconvenienced. Reading social media, no small number of us are cranky and angry about it and itching to find someone to blame. If that blame fits our partisan political agendas, all the better.
Our nation is as divided as at any time in our history, fair enough. But more divided than at any time in our history, no. And we don’t have to go back to the Civil War to illustrate that fact.
Take a look at 1968. North Vietnam launched the Tet Offensive. Assassins murdered both Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.
The fight for civil rights and opposition to the continuation of the war in Vietnam brought violent, deadly protests in major cities and on university campuses across the nation. More than a half-century before the Black Lives Matter movement, Black American Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their gloved fists on the reviewing stand in Mexico City.
Republican Richard Nixon won a narrow plurality of the popular vote but won the Electoral College by a landslide in the 1968 presidential campaign. The nation’s youth despised Nixon in the way many young people today detest President Trump.
By the way, Trump, in 1968, was 21 and pursuing an Ivy League degree. President-elect Joe Biden was 25 that year and earning a law degree at Syracuse University.
The division in our country as we observe Christmas in 2020 is in many ways more toxic and dangerous than the virus. Neither political party has the high ground right now in the minds of American voters.
History teaches us that the virus will be cured. That’s not our biggest problem. Mistrust, racism, class warfare, and systemic exclusion of a fair shot at an equal place at the starting line of opportunity – those are problems that can tear a nation apart.
The new Biden Administration will soon own the problems that plague the Trump Administration daily. If our country can’t heal itself and begin to work together as Americans, we will assuredly drag the ball and chain of 2020 well into our shared future.
Our children and grandchildren deserve better. May you and yours find the joy of Christmas.