Does it seem to you that all the easy answers have gone away? We live in a complicated time, a complicated world.
Covid-19 upends our lives with its invisible, omnipresent death-threat. The American West is burning. Women’s progress in the workplace has turned into eroding sand beneath our feet. Relentless inequities, laid bare by the Covid-19 recession, have thrown our social order into chaos.
It is terrifying. Infuriating. And exhausting.
If only things were easier
Remember the ad campaign with the “Easy” Button™ you supposedly could press to solve all your office supply needs? I wasn’t the only person who really wanted an Easy Button™ in 2005 (for me, that also was a rough year).
I plan to dig mine out and display it prominently, after we finish renovating the Library and my new home office there (Yes, I have a library room in my house, yes, it’s normally full of books, and yes, it’s awesome when it’s in good shape). But the joke only amuses for a little while.
We can make cracks about easy solutions, but the truth remains stubbornly complicated. Very few easy answers stand up to an objective, critical interrogation.
This hasn’t been the year for “Easy”
Seems like this year we just can’t catch a break. Many of our most popular slogans turn out to easier said than done.
Defund the Police
But the movement isn’t (yet?) popular. Polling tells us the proponents of “defund and reallocate” have a long way to go before a majority of Americans agree enough to act.
Donald Trump’s “Law and Order” message seeks the exact opposite of defunding. His opponent Joe Biden went on the record against defunding, too, although he agrees Federal funding should be tied to “basic standards of decency.” Whatever those turn out to be in practice.
When you consider the history of policing, however, and the baked-in practices and attitudes that have persisted for decades, it’s clear that reforms of existing agencies pose a challenge.
Black Lives Matter
Remember “Black Lives Matter”? That seemed pretty basic. Black people’s lives should be considered to be as important and valuable as everyone else’s. Easy, right?
Then came the inevitable pushback, as if somehow the movement was intended to shove everybody else aside. The unfortunate truth of how our society devalues Black civil rights blazes through in a drumbeat of daily headlines.
Climate Change is real
Can we at least agree that the forests in the American West are burning up for the same reason that we’re several letters into the Greek alphabet on named tropical storms this year? That climate change not only drives these forces, but it stems from human recklessness?
Not if you think the “Climate Arsonist”-in-Chief is right. He says “science really doesn’t know” why it’s such a bad year for wildfires. On the tropical storms, it’s not what he said. It’s what he didn’t say.
Covid-19 is dangerous
Another pesky “science thing” is the Covid-19 pandemic. Administration efforts to contain worries about the novel virus started at the beginning of the pandemic, in contrast to actual disease-containment efforts.
Yet all year long, people have perversely continued to get sick and die.
As I’m writing this, deaths in the world have risen past one million, and in the USA we’ve topped 210,000. The only certainty seems to be that these numbers will continue to rise.
Yet mask-wearing in the United States continues to rouse partisan ire. Flouting or following basic health guidelines remains a partisan issue. This video dates to last June, but the flaring tempers and divisions persist.
Controversy over the timing of a vaccine rollout provides another instance of science at odds with politics. So do efforts to end the ACA (“Obamacare”) in the middle of the pandemic. And of course, many want to force schools to open for in-person classes, although transmission rates in many areas remain well above recommended guidelines.
Easy answers remain hard to find
This year, more than ever, the “low-hanging fruit,” the easy answers, elude us. Yet I do think I’ve found a few, pretty basic ones, while on preventive lockdown for seven-months-going-on-eternity.
Seek your guidance and information from scientists, physicians, climatologists, and other experts trained and seasoned in their field.
Don’t share or retweet shocking things until you check the story with a factual source.
Give thanks for the wondrous devices that allow us to connect with each other, even when it’s only virtually.
Listen to others. Grieve with those in mourning. Rejoice with those who’ve found joy, and remind yourself and others that bad times eventually pass.
Wear a mask, socially distance (looks as if 6 feet isn’t enough), and vary your list of 20-second songs, so you don’t get bored and shorten your hand-washing.
Be gentle with yourself, and with others. Everyone has a heavy load, right now. Friends and family should try to nurture one another.
That’s Jan’s list. What’s yours?
Many thanks to SixDay Science for the warning sign image, and to Mykola Lytvynenko via 123RF, for the “warning stripes” background on the header. I appreciate Staples® for the “Easy Button™” image. Many thanks to Peacock and YouTube for the Amber Ruffin “White Forgiveness Countdown Clock” video. I’m grateful to Wiley Miller, Go Comics/Non Sequitur, and Judith Curry’s “Climate Etc.” blog, for the “Answers” cartoon. I appreciate the New York Times for the World Covid-19 map, and I hope you took a moment to look at the interactive one at the link.