So, what did we learn
As 2020 began many of us turned to the 1920’s for inspiration for costumes and motifs to bring in a new year.
Hey, new year, new you!
We made our resolutions.
We made our plans.
We looked to a future that looked like it could still yet gleam if polished, the rust not set deep yet.
Then slowly there came a stranger that crawled across the world, its long black robes touching every nation, every country, every life.
Once upon a time, humans could rise, separately and together, against a common foe.
Genocide, famine, catastrophe, and even zealots, we could come together, many of us, and say ‘No’ and come together to beat back the darkness that was trying to spread around us.
There was a time when Americas took great pride that we had risen, reluctantly, when called upon to fight the Nazis and Japanese war machines. It became a national badge of honor and something people some of us used to beat our chests about and brag over.
“You called and WE CAME!”
We minimized the work allies like Russia had done and cast ourselves in the roles of heroes of the world.
And that’s fine.
When you face an evil such as Nazism and survived the brutal battles in the South Pacific, taking Hell home with you in your nightmares, you get to peacock around a bit.
But our wars got uglier and less honorable and more frequent.
Our clear reasons and consciences got muddied.
Politics and party drove the war machine and whether it was an elephant or a donkey that drove the machine, it was still rolling over bodies and grinding them into money.
So when the black cloaked stranger spread across the world it can’t be surprising that as the truth of what was happening, that a new sort of plague was spreading, moved from rumor to fact that our leaders scoffed and went about the business of war and money.
Proof was wanted.
Proof was needed.
And when it came dressed in its body bag best still more was needed.
‘That’s over THERE’ we were told.
It won’t come here.
Humans though, like the occasional pests we can be, are nothing if not charming in our arrogance and ignorance.
We flew about, back and forth and to and fro and dipped into the viral pool and the stranger smiled with its skeletal grin as its job was done.
We’d do the rest.
And as the virus spread there was no escaping it.
America, as great as she may be, does not have an invisible wall to keep out famine, poverty, horror, greed, death, nor disease.
And truly, how do you stop from spreading something you may not even know you have?
So, the virus came here and bit its fangs deep and filled us with its poison.
From the top of our government we were told –
This will never come here.
This is nothing.
It’ll barely do any harm.
Well, it may do a little harm, but we got this.
OK, it may be worse than we think but it’s fine.
Only the markets knew better.
They smelled the bodies.
It was too late when our government shrugged sheepishly and decided, oh yes, we should talk about the virus.
The poison was already spread across the nation.
The bodies were already piling up.
Our governors were forced to make unprecedented and costly decisions.
They were forced to scatter their ambitions to the winds in order to save the lives of their people.
Well, some did.
Some sort of did.
A virus is like a ghost though and some will believe, and some will not. Some can see a sheet floating before them and if admitting it is real means they may appear ‘weak’ or malleable then they will deny it.
They would rather drive the bulldozer that pushes the bodies in the hole than have to admit that there may be a problem.
So, some states closed.
The economy slowed to a crawl.
Offices, business, shops, most of the nation closed and its workers were put into the position of not knowing what came next.
The stranger laughed as this was an unconsidered benefit of its sweet death’s kiss – human weakness was being shown in full.
It’s job was done.
Now the stranger could sit back and smile as it took it all in.
People ran out of money, out of food, out of hope.
And our government looked at its feet and shrugged and told us, boy, this isn’t really as bad as it seems, this is fine.
This is fine.
Many states did their best.
But unemployment systems were quickly overwhelmed.
Programs to help businesses could never be broad enough in scope or depth to patch the gutted side of this ship and some places were going to drown.
Some businesses would never return.
And there in is the hell of this horror – that at every turn we could save ourselves but wouldn’t.
We could take government money away from a military fund that is obscene and from a wall project that would never work, and businesses and people could be given rafts to survive this storm.
Instead we mortgaged more of our collective future with the assumption that someone would pick up that bill someday.
We loaned ourselves money that we’ll have to pay back with blood interest.
We were told – please, stay home, stay safe.
We could go out to get groceries and medicine but please, stay away from one another, be safe, and stay home.
And the idea that we were being punished sunk in.
We were adults, we didn’t need someone to look after us.
We were ADULTS!
Only we didn’t act like it.
We acted like children.
Spoiled, selfish children.
And the thing is that fear is understandable.
Fear is earned.
What do we do?
But that fear was weaponized by the same bad actors we have had since our President took office. As he shrugged his way through press conferences and covefed the country with indecision, late decision, and no decision, worried more about how he looked to the fanbase than he was about the body pits being dug.
And in our anger and fear and frustration we took off our masks of civility we wear, and many showed who they were.
As our first responders, and nurses, and doctors, and other healthcare workers risked their lives to protect us, to cure us, and to save us we made them monsters.
Over and over we heard the familiar refrain from the familiar cheap seats that tend to be overseas.
This wasn’t that bad.
This wasn’t even real.
It was fake.
It was – and you could choose from any number of things – Democrat conspiracy, 5G, a weapon from the East, and on and on and on.
All that mattered was that this was all fake.
We didn’t need masks.
We didn’t need to stay in place.
And we shouted that to the sky as we fell into the grave.
And even the stranger wondered if it had gone too far as our brave patriots put on their makeup, got dressed up in their Halloween best, and took their guns off the dining room table and marched for peace.
PEACE they cried, or we’ll shoot you!
Down with tyrants!
Down with lies!
Screamed to the tune of a re-election campaign with dancing pre-teen girls in the background.
We couldn’t disagree anymore.
We couldn’t work to find a better way.
There was only THIS way.
The ‘American’ way.
Not a way of sacrifice and cooperation, no, but the way of the gun, and of the rope, and of the scream.
The Karen and Bart army amassed to scream and threaten and shout and stomp!
By god, they’d show what patriots they were as they worse their masks and raised their weapons of war.
And what had begun as a global pandemic was suddenly just a burden they were stuck with, the white burden of having to stay inside, collect unemployment and government money, watch television, and not go out wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted, and with whomever we wanted.
I’ll do what I want.
And this is what we are now.
A barber breaking the law to cut hairs unsafely, looking to generate press to sell his ridiculous books, is cast in the role of All American Hero and masses of money is raised for him as if we forgot what true heroism looked like.
Give me haircuts or give me death!
Let me get swole!
We have been dancing to the funerary beat of the high clown in charge, who shrugged and bullied his way through an American tragedy, eyes always on his ratings and his re-election. A man who probably didn’t even want to be President until he was told he couldn’t have it.
The ultimate infant, self-obsessed and glorifying and no one will ever tell him ‘no.
And that he is heralded as a man of god perhaps shows that that particular god truly is dead.
God lives in the heart, and if the heart is so dead as to wall off the afterlife like a country club then yes, maybe it is dead.
Or it just walked away, fed up and off to get a pack of smokes.
And as we exit this first stage of the end of the world we’ll act as if this was all overblown, as if the nearly 100,000 lives lost were fake.
That’s what we’ll start to hear.
Just like at every mass shooting.
The trolls will paint themselves in the war paint of the dead and dance to the beat of the re-election beat as monsters breed best in darkness, and this era has been so very dark.
We will see the narrative change over these next months as the heroic governors that did their best to save lives will be cast as tyrants and monsters and the trolls will light the torches.
They will say.
SEE, this was the fault of the East and the bad actors who made this a big deal when it was just a glorified flu!
And too many will rally to that call, having lost livelihood, or loved ones.
They will blame SOMEONE for what happened because you can’t blame a virus.
You have to have a villain, and we love to mis-cast this role in America.
And what will we have learned?
We will have learned that some will sacrifice everything to save our lives.
Some will do their best to do their best.
Some of us can follow directions in order to save ourselves and the ones we love.
But we will have learned that we are doomed when a danger and tragedy and horror comes knocking.
Many of us can’t sacrifice.
Many of us won’t sacrifice.
That’s Un-American, where the way of the gun is law.
Some of us want a return to the days when women and people of color and foreigners knew their place.
Too many of us want a white future.
What will we have learned, nothing good, friends.
We have seen ourselves in the mirror at 4AM and it was an ugly sight.
We have a lot of things to fix.
We have a long way to go to get back to whatever goodness we had.
In the end the stranger and its virus were bad…but we were worse.
And whether we want to believe it or not, this isn’t the last we’ll see of this stranger and its venomous pet.
The worst is yet to come.
Maybe we may yet surprise ourselves.