Don Rogers: The great gift of grit
Oh these are cruel times, aren’t they?
Gratitude is the soul of Thanksgiving, but what is there to be grateful for? Many are asking or seem to be asking. Or maybe it’s not asking so much directly as plain in their disgruntlement of the moment, the set of the face, the timbre of the voice, the clenched jaw or maybe only the eyes above a mask peeled for mandate breakers.
The pandemic grinds on after that false dawn in June before the Delta variant frosted tender hopes and darkened into yet another surge. This one mostly afflicts the unvaccinated who to this day are seven times more likely to catch the disease and a whopping 17 times more likely to die from it.
Even so, the breakthroughs among the vaccinated have grown common enough and dangerous enough to bring on the boosters and suggest that the coronavirus will follow the path of influenza. That is, a virulence like the Spanish flu that never entirely disappears. There’s a sobering thought.
This is the germ infecting everything else in our lives right now — our economy, education, health, politics, cultural differences, the justice system, social lives, mental health, our spirits, every daily irritation. Absent the pandemic, we’d be, like, happy. Right?
The rich only got richer, and inflation erased those raises for the rest. Delivery of just about everything stalled, starting right offshore, and staff is running critically short for everything from long-haul trucking to the mail to the morning newspaper.
Employers can’t fill positions, while everyone’s quitting for better or riding for now on savings or investments. Gas is through the roof, along with dinner out when an open restaurant can be found.
More neighbors than ever need a helping hand, something to eat. The Interfaith Food Ministry and the Food Bank may never have been busier.
It’s a great time to sell a home, and a bad time to buy. The office is less fun, if maybe safer, with everyone working from home.
Auto dealer lots are empty on account of no microchips, rental car lines long and so, so slow. Car crashes are way up, like we forgot how to drive.
Drug overdose fatalities in 2020 approached 100,000, the most ever, thanks in part to opioids laced with fentanyl. Consider that COVID-19 accounted for 350,000 deaths last year.
For further grim comparison, heart disease killed 690,000 and cancer took 600,000 Americans in 2020. The flu killed about 55,000, if you’re wondering, about average in a year when total deaths (3.4 million) in the United States rose 18% over 2019.
We’re on track to nudge 600,000 COVID-19 deaths in 2021 alone, vying with cancer this year for No. 2 killer of Americans.
That’s a lot of grief.
Meantime, holy rollers are chanting pro-choice slogans at anti-vax rallies, and while at least some essential workers quit rather than comply with a government mandate, they leap for their shots if it means they can fly to Hawaii or Europe.
But never mind all that, the burning question of the moment is whether an obscure grad school course is taking over the K-12 history curriculum across the country.
No joke and not funny with the fury over the birth of a fresh wedge issue Republicans everywhere recognize as a key to reclaiming majorities in the U.S. House and Senate. If nothing more than the usual political bait, well, liberals everywhere have risen in force to take it.
It’s all one big aggravating mess, but think of the, ahem, wonderful family discussions around the turkey this year, bigger doozies than ever, and that’s saying something. This year, everyone can pick their own favorite train wreck of a presidency to pin all of this on.
Maybe next year we’ll get around to doing something about that drinking habit we seem to have picked up. Unsurprisingly, our alcohol consumption has risen across the country some 15% from before all this. For now, cheers!
But look, our wars are cold, we’re not stuck in Kabul, the next Civil War is not really imminent. We contain our battles mainly to a few sharp words, typed furiously. Our ballot boxes are remarkably secure. Even the Cyber Ninjas agreed Biden won.
The kids are back in the classroom as yes, hindsight suggests strongly they should always have been. Between booster shots and an eventual saturation of unvaccinated dummies who catch and survive COVID-19 — as the overwhelming number will — the pandemic will pass even if the disease hangs on like the Spanish flu. To me, that’s cause for optimism. Pandemics end. They always do.
Mostly, though, the unrelenting sharp blades of the moment won’t be dulled. They’ll have to cut as they will, and we’ll have to carry on anyway.
So I think of crueler, less certain times for our country and for humanity. There are many. What did the people enduring them think then? How did they get through and even prevail?
One quote that’s always stayed with me is this: “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger.” President John F. Kennedy said that at a prayer breakfast in 1963, referencing the Rev. Phillips Brooks.
And so I do. What is there to be thankful for? Why, grit. Here’s the very pearl of our lives, if we live them fully and “embrace the suck,” as Brene Brown likes to put it. She’s not wrong.
Don Rogers is the publisher of The Union, Lake Wildwood Independent, and Sierra Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4299
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“It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble; it’s what you know that ain’t so.” — Will Rogers and others