In April 2020, I published the following:
Last night for the first time I remembered to turn off the tv at 8 pm and listen. Sure enough, I thought I heard a distant howl. But not certain, I got up and opened the back door. Yep, there were definitely a few distant howls out there. Not dogs or sirens but people. People Howling for Healthcare Workers or Clapping Because We Care or just making some noise.
I listened for a few seconds and then, feeling really silly but emboldened by the darkness, I howled. No laughs or snickers came back at me. Just more distant howls. So I howled again, louder and longer. Standing on a covered deck, I thought it sounded pretty good. And I was pleasantly surprised when a howl came out of the darkness just half a block away.
It was fun. It was cathartic. And it felt good to be connecting with others in the neighborhood. So I’m going to try to remember to do it every night. Besides, it has special meaning for me. My daughter-in-law is an EMT, doing ambulance runs all over the Denver metro. I worry every day that she’s going to get the virus, and then inevitably my son and grandkids will get it.
I apologize for not knowing how to rotate this one:
Out here in a distant bedroom community, without a bunch of high-rise buildings, we aren’t making nearly this much noise. But maybe it will get better as more people learn about it.
Are you howling in your hometown?
What on earth has happened to us since then? Any howling we do now is at each other, and it’s not friendly. The health care workers we once cheered and supported are now despised by many, jeered, cursed, physically attacked. Some carry guns for protection. Many have quit. Those still on the job are exhausted, burned out, frustrated, and fed up.
How did it come to this? Why?
For the most part, I blame Donald Trump and his four years spent determinedly driving a wedge into our society, dividing us into science believers and disbelievers, Trumpers and anti-Trumpers, authoritarians and liberals. In itself destructive to our democratic society. But then came Covid and the often confusing messages from government health agencies. Of course they were confusing. Those agencies could only work with the information they had on hand at any given time — and it kept changing. Fear, confusion, rumors, misinformation. And people dying. By the thousands.
Meanwhile, Trump was — and still is — a lying, rabble-rousing, narcissistic provocateur who whipped his followers into the frenzy that became the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol. To this day he insists the election was stolen and he is the rightful president.
Galvanized and enabled by him were those individuals who believe vaccinations and masks somehow violate their constitutional rights and are some kind of evil conspiracy concocted by liberals and, subsequently, the Biden administration. And apparently they are determined to re-elect Trump in 2024.
The truly tragic and deeply disturbing result of all this is a nation so deeply divided as to be dangerously vulnerable to the civil disturbances we’ve been seeing and possibly to foreign operations.
If that weren’t enough, our health care system has been strained to the breaking point. This week Colorado, one of the most vaccinated states, has only 6% of its ICU beds available in the entire state. Eighty percent of the current occupants of ICU beds are unvaccinated Covid patients.
Our hospitals have moved to an emergency state that authorizes them to move less severely ill patients to other hospitals — anywhere in the state — regardless of the patient’s wishes, to make more room for the Covid patients. (Supposedly the government will pay the additional costs.)
How would you like to be told that due to all the incoming unvaccinated Covid patients, you were being moved from your hospital bed near your home and family to a bed 200 miles away — and you had no say in the matter?
The problem, of course, is not only a shortage of beds but a shortage of qualified, trained hospital staff. (Insanely, some of them remain unvaccinated.) And all this comes before the usual winter influx of illnesses. I am fed up with the one-third of US adults who remain unvaccinated. They are endangering their own children, their children’s classmates, their other family members, their friends and coworkers, the population at large … and me!
A few days ago I went to pick up a prescription, with no concerns about once again going through the pharmacy’s drive-thru. But they were short staffed and the drive-thru was closed. That forced me to park and go into the large grocery store and walk the length of the store to get to the pharmacy. (I haven’t been in that store for 18 months due to the pandemic.) It was crowded, as usual, and although all the employees were masked, most of the shoppers were not. I had a strong desire to grab those people by their lapels, get right in their faces, and demand they put on masks. But grocery store workers have been doing that for months and accomplishing nothing pleasant.
I’m sorry, but this has been building for months. I don’t understand the anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers. Except for the very few who have serious allergies or other relevant medical problems, they are ignorant, dangerous, selfish, and stupid. And we all know you can’t cure stupid.
(By now you must have heard about the unmasked, unvaccinated man who went to a large public gathering, deliberately exposing himself to Covid so that he could get infected and develop the antibodies that would protect him from Covid.)
So there. I’ve joined the tribalism. “They,” not “we,” are the problem. If only “they” would be more reasonable, less extreme, the nation could pull back from the brink, back from the extremism that “we” fear will destroy us.
Speaking more rationally, I agree with what Andrew Sullivan said tonight on 60 Minutes. There is a difference between hope and optimism. I still hope the nation I’ve known most of my life will survive all this, but I am not optimistic.
Maybe, subconsciously, both Sullivan and I are channeling Cornel West:
“I cannot be an optimist but I am a prisoner of hope.”