I sit quietly and meditate every morning. I take long, quiet walks. I close my eyes and think of some of my favorite fishing locations. I think of our grandsons and all the joy they bring to my life. I do all this and more, but no matter what I do or think, I find that I remain very anxious. To quote the Eagles, “But every morning, I wake up and worry, what’s gonna happen today?”
• I am anxious about the upcoming election. No matter what the polls say, I wonder what Trump and his minions here and in Moscow might do to steal an election.
• I am anxious about immigrant children, some as young as one-year old, still being locked in rooms, and being deported to what … or whom.
• I am anxious about the continued spread of COVID-19. Will I stay well? More important, will those whom I love stay well? I weep thinking of the anguish of the families of over 150,000 dead.
• I am anxious wondering if the already abbreviated baseball season will be cut short and if the NFL season will actually begin in September.
• But what most troubles me, next to the worry about the health and wellbeing of my family, is the question, what if, when all this is over, nothing has changed?
As painful, terrifying and sad as these days have been, it has also been a time when much has been revealed that for so long has been denied, hidden or ignored. We have seen a stripping away of many of the lies we tell ourselves and a difficult revealing of what it true. We might truthfully call the COVID-19 crisis an apocalypse because the word in fact means “to unveil” or “to reveal.”
We are seeing many of the injustices of our social and economic system revealed — brought to the forefront where they can no longer be ignored. Perhaps with greater clarity than at any time in recent history, we are seeing the devastating and destructive effects of systemic racism, how “essential” workers remain grossly underpaid and underappreciated, how a pandemic can destroy poor communities, again often communities of color, where people do not have the luxury of working from home. We can no longer pretend that the way we treat the most vulnerable among us doesn’t affect the rest of us as well.
In response to all this and more, many voices are being raised that insist, “We will be different after all this. We will be stronger, more united. No human life will be expendable. We will no longer be bound to the ’hamster wheel’ of productivity and economic growth that disregards the human or environmental cost.”
I hear all this and try not to be cynical. After all, we have heard it before — after 9/11, after Sandy Hook, after other slayings of unarmed black men by police. “We will be different,” we insist and then, too soon, it is back to business as usual.
But I am trying hard to set aside my cynicism and dare to hope. Perhaps this is a time when we can look with fresh and critical eyes at the ways our communities are structured, at how familiar patterns of life, while helpful to me, may be harmful to others, at the devastating effects of white privilege on people we never even see, and at the value of labor and laborers whom we have too often taken for granted and overlooked. In the words of one colleague, “Our hope is that we won’t be bound by the lies forever; truth and transformation will be made visible and possible. When this pandemic is finally lifted, the worst thing we could do in response is just go back, unchanged, to our normal lives.”