As the earth shifts underfoot, as the “givens” of our lives unravel and the standards for decent behavior soften, how do we stand our ground?
The past weeks have felt particularly destabilizing as summer officially launched, travelers swarmed the roads and airports, Covid continued its spread, and the Jan. 6 congressional committee began in earnest to drop a net on the former president. Then, of course, there’s monkeypox.
But I’m not here to sound more alarms. On this post-Fourth, early-summer week I offer some thoughts on saving our sanity in this season, and finding higher ground from which to survey our lives. Perhaps sanity is a reach. Perhaps we can connect with one another in meaningful ways, and accept our current communal stress as a survivable and transitory experience.
On June 28, a senior aide to Donald Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, swore to tell the truth at a surprise convening of the Jan. 6 committee, which is investigating the attempted coup at the Capitol. (It still shocks me to write those words). The aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, testified about the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. She seemed forthright, and her testimony about Trump’s rages and his desire to storm the Capitol along with his gun-toting supporters was disturbing. No, disturbing doesn’t adequately describe the feeling of knowing that a president was running riot with the law, historic precedent, and basic human decency. We knew this, but it was astonishing to hear the words.
Hutchinson said he threw food at the wall. She described a cesspool of foul-mouthed American politicians running the government in a frenzy of self-interest and a unique lust for power.
Ordinary people like me must wait and see, now, if her testimony holds up, if others testify, if the Justice Department steps in, if Trump, in a moment of contrition (and fear of indictment) steps back from public life.
That would not discourage his millions of followers, but it would be a start on the road to political equilibrium. It won’t happen, but maybe it will. That’s how things roll these days.
Hutchinson was Tuesday. Then, on Friday, the Fourth of July weekend launched, and travel-hungry Americans hit the road. Planes flew, and many were canceled. The roads were jammed. No way of knowing if the person sitting next to you in the roadside diner had tested positive for Covid that morning.
If you sat in a field, or near a harbor, or even in front of your TV as the fireworks burst in air, what did you feel?
Will the red, white and blue always signal a love of democracy?
Will this political rancor subside? Will justice prevail, or are those just words we have come to believe in our lifetime? My thought is that we have reserves of greatness yet to tap. My thought is that reason will win the day. I think that, but I’m not as sure as I once was.
The other stuff unsettling us, the delays and the indifferent service and the absent employees and the supply shortages and the alarming inflation and the continuing concern about getting sick in the wrong place or the wrong time, these are all real, but they will resolve in time.
Every newspaper and magazine I pick up has articles about easing anxiety. Start meditating. Walk 30 minutes a day, try hot yoga, have a bedtime routine. Whatever you do, don’t look at any screens in bed. Ha!
Don’t watch disturbing television, like Don Winslow’s action movies, before sleep. Ha!
Eat healthy. Ha!
Wear a mask. Well, I do, but nobody else does.
It’s just going to be a slog, and we can do it. I have kids down with Covid and grandkids rafting someplace called the River of No Return. We have tickets for a flight that is unlikely to go. You know, we must deal with all of it as best we can, and not burden ourselves with guilt if we don’t meditate and are freaking out and want to just let it rip.
The greatest concern is that we, as Americans, find our way back together again. Other generations have had crises of faith. This is our moment.
I don’t pray, but if I did — and I might — I would pray for peace of mind, for you, for me, and for our fellow and sister travelers.
Copyright 2022 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.