Can we exhale now? Can we release the breath we have collectively been holding? The tension and fear that have marked the last four years of being an American? Can we ‘retreat’ to ethics, civility, manners, respect and kindness?
Yesterday, the 14th day of December 2020, the Electoral College pledged the votes of their respective states, and awarded 306 votes to Joe Biden & Kamala Harris and 232 for Donald Trump and Mike Pence. After a series of lawsuits spawned by Donald Trump and The Republican Campaign, futile attempts to undermine our democracy and faith in the electoral process, the final tally was recorded, and those of us who had held our breath, exhaled. At least I did.
Air was the central issue of a long and arduous summer, followed by the first gusts of fall. Inhale at the wrong moment, next to the wrong person, and sickness might overtake you. A pandemic, an invisible viral infection, brought us and the world to our knees. Secure in our belief that our technology and wisdom could conquer anything, we were stunned to discover, that what we could not see or feel could wreck such damage.
Masks became a bothersome fashion statement. Protection for others. Protection for ourselves.
A political landmine was born between those who claimed that being asked to wear a mask was tantamount to a loss of their personal freedom. Our President, the man who was supposed to lead us, guide us, challenge us to be our best as one country, did the opposite. He tore us apart by his own ego-driven belief that he would be seen as somehow less than a man if he wore a mask. Ignoring the science and the facts, he set on fire a viral bloom that now, in December, has killed over 300,000 Americans. A total exceeding the number of those who died fighting for our freedom in World War II.
It didn’t have to be. The most basic and simple solution to limit viral exposure has become a surreal fight between the left and the right. The virus didn’t care, doesn’t care, about politics. It kills without party affiliation. It preys most efficiently on elderly, people of color, and those with pre-existing conditions. Young are often asymptomatic carriers, who unknowingly spread the virus through gatherings and celebrations.
It’s been the most tragic of years. Along with people dying in unbearable numbers, small businesses are falling by the wayside. Unable to stay afloat due to closures and health restrictions, an estimated 800 are closing on a daily basis. The toll on the owners, their employees and associated families is unfathomable. Our congress seems unable to agree on temporary financial assistance, and food banks are overrun with the most vulnerable. Americans are hungry. Americans are forced by this disease to choose, in many instances, between food and shelter.
Children, students – the foundation of our future – have been adversely affected. Driven to on-line learning from the confines of their homes, some have held their own. Others, either without access, or without the tools to fully utilize the systems which were rapidly developed, have fallen behind in ways that will affect them for years to come. Physical activity – sports – truncated. So many things that build strong and resilient adults have been denied to them this year. It’s going to be a game of catch-up that is going to beg the best of teachers and school systems.
This week, the first Americans have received the Pfizer/Astra-Zeneca vaccine. This is the brightest spot on our collective horizon, and yet the amount of available drug, is well out-stripped by the needs. Moderna is set to go on-line with their own vaccine this week, which should hopefully shorten the wait time. First responders, health-care workers, and those in nursing homes are receiving the first batches. Behind them should be those with pre-existing conditions and the elderly. There will be deniers – those who are afraid of the vaccine. As for me, I already have my arm outstretched, desperate I am, to get my life back.
During the summer, while holding my breath through the storm, I kept hoping for miracles. The deposing of President Trump and the arrival of the vaccine are exactly those miracles. I feel as if I have passed through darkness of the storm to the golden glimmer of hope shining through.
These are the blessings I carry though this holiday season. This long-awaited exhale.