Randi Kreiss

Season of fire and flood slips into September

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It has been a season of extremes, but after the floods and the fires and the winds and the Covid surges and the ICUs getting slammed and the little ones getting sick, and the heat waves searing the country, north, south, east and west, one drumbeat persists:
Get the vaccine. Wear a mask. Take a booster. It’s easy and necessary.
I can’t offer wiser words than these. If everyone who could have gotten the Covid-19 vaccine had done so, thousands of lives would have been saved. Families would have avoided devastating illness and loss and broken businesses. But there being no percentage in looking back, there is still opportunity for people who have been reluctant to step up now and make themselves and their families safer from the virus.
As autumn spins into view, we are clearly in the crosshairs of various unprecedented forces, meteorological, medical, political and cultural. I don’t know anyone who isn’t feeling anxious. Please, if you are among the sanguine and secure, let me know your secret.
The meteorological stressors seem an apt metaphor for the general distress of observing our country in the clutches of destructive forces: a defeated president who won’t go away, a clutch of sycophants who will sell their souls for another year in office and, unbelievably, millions of folks who feel so angry and disenfranchised that they would rather risk a tussle with Covid — or possibly a fatal encounter with Covid — than get an inoculation that will keep them safe. The difference is that, unlike the random violence of tornadoes and floods that have plagued us this summer, the political disturbances in the field have intentionality.

The past administration targeted climate change initiatives and women’s rights and diversity. For four years we suffered a vacuum of moral leadership; the center frayed, and we haven’t yet repaired the damage that was inflicted on our departments of justice and state and housing and health.
President Biden, love him, hate him or ignore him, is pushing against a tide of irrational vitriol that would overturn a legal election and let chaos reign. In the name of “freedom,” people are rejecting a vaccine that can save the lives of the children they love.
Somehow this all intertwines with the catastrophic weather we have endured this summer. When nature goes wild, some part of us knows to hunker down and ride it out, because when the storm passes, the sun will shine again. Order will be restored. But on the political front, there is no such guarantee.
We are not done with hurricanes this season. As The Weather Channel warns: “We may still expect storms bringing exceptionally high waves . . . The sea may be white with driving spray; visibility very seriously affected . . .” It goes on to say that even large vessels may disappear for long periods of time in the deep troughs between the heaving seas.
A fearsome description. But such storms can be survived. More frightening is our current political and pandemic cyclone. Our ship of state is also disappearing into deep troughs, and who knows if it can rise again?
We must not take our eyes off this prize. Everything, including the actual weather, is conspiring to distract us from monitoring the attacks on voting rights and women’s rights. We need energy and focus to stay vigilant.
We cannot do any of the important work that needs to be done unless we get the vaccine available throughout the country. Our hospitals and medical teams need relief, and we can help return to some normalcy if we get inoculated. If we get our kids inoculated.
On the weather front, how many 500-year storms do we need to survive before the anti-science refuseniks realize it is still within our power to curb the emissions and toxins that affect our climate?
The storms, the pandemic and the politics seem pulled into a tightening vortex, playing out here and now. My sense is that our time, this particular time and place, autumn 2021, will stand out in history. It will be important, someday, to have the story of these troubling days set in print. What we can’t know, or even surmise, is how this unsettling season will evolve.
The hurricanes will eventually blow out to sea. We will pick up the pieces. But after this season of political madness, who will remain standing? Each of us can do something: get the vaccine, wear a mask and, when it’s time, vote as if our democracy depended on it. 

Copyright 2021 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.

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