by Rick Thompson/originally appeared in The Rolling Paper November 2020
It’s the time of year where the colors turn, the air grows colder and the autumn sports are in full swing.
Well, that’s how a regular year works. This is 2020. Our autumn sports are delayed or a disaster. The air has turned and the tree colors are changing but the human colors of choice are far from fading. We have Team Red and Team Blue battling it out on an imaginary football field, where the stands are filled with inhuman cardboard cutouts acting as spokesperson surrogates. Instead of a booming halftime marching band we have coughing and bickering and gunshots.
Few things are normal in this, our most turbulent year in American modern history. Kids are not back in school. Parents are yelling at their kids to spend more time on the computer instead of less, as online learning turns bedrooms into classrooms. A fight between those who want maximum safety and those who want normalized life has brought families to blows and made enemies of neighbors.
For some, life can’t get back to normal fast enough. For others life can never be normal again. Losing a loved one to illness is a hard thing but when there is a tangible reason to blame authority for allowing the disease to spread, that loss comes with bitterness and resentment. America is creating a lot of people who do not believe in government any more.
But, just like ice cream, there’s always room for hope. The air is turning colder and the leaves change color on the world’s schedule, not on an election year calendar. Kids are growing up; no virus can stop that. We still need each other, although we may be more selective about whom we express a need for. The elderly need attention, respect, dignity and care. The sun rises and the sun sets. No human problems can change the nature of nature.
So we fight among ourselves and we allow ourselves to say and do things which would have embarrassed us 12 months ago. So what? Election years are always full of grim forecasts and fear tactics. But what lies on the other side of an election is healing, renewed friendships, holiday celebrations and lots and lots of work. The celebrations may not have big family gatherings this year. The Black Friday sales may not be as crowded this year. The work will be different, and even more difficult to perform.
So here’s the lesson of 2020: all things shall pass. But when they do, will you still be welcome at the house of your neighbor? Will your relatives invite you over for dinner? WIll you have lost some of your dearest friends because you refused to allow others to have their own beliefs and wallow in their own fears?
Be careful to preserve relationships, even while disagreeing over life-and-death issues like quarantine or seemingly important issues like politics. Let kindness creep back into your dialog. Let courtesy for others supersede your opinion about their bumper sticker or tee shirt logo. On the other side of the virus and the election, we’re still going to need each other. Let’s start acting like it already.