Hey, I’m trying to strike a positive note here.
We Americans have come of age in a nation that strived toward tolerance and equality, a country that has stood as an exemplar of democracy and excellence. We pulled together when times were tough.
Then, in successive shock waves, a brutal three-year pandemic, rising political extremism and epidemic gun violence knocked us off kilter. We seem to have forgotten who we are. American competence, credibility and prestige wobbled during the Trump presidency. How did we become this country that doesn’t know facts from fake, that raises a raging fraudster to the presidency and then exalts him as a cult figure?
That’s the view from 30,000 feet. We are struggling with big, unprecedented political, social and humanitarian problems. I visualize a tug of war, east, west, north and south, with ropes pulling in all directions, drawing and quartering the country.
Even here at sea level, post-pandemic life is littered with smaller but devilish provocations that ruffle our daily lives. All the time I hear people saying that nothing works anymore, people aren’t willing to go to an office, businesses are shuttered because they can’t find employees, booking a flight means dealing with airlines that charge $25 to talk to a real person on a phone. Attempting to get a ticket, arrange a refund or use a credit card is often an exercise in frustration.
The plumber sends a trainee; floods ensue. The gas pump doesn’t work. The movie theater is filthy. The pint of ice cream has shrunk. The Wi-Fi is down. The bank has no tellers. The supermarket forces me to ring up my items while the workers, who are about to be replaced, are forced to help me figure out the system. Teacher shortages plague public education.
If you fall into the medical rabbit hole, you may find caring doctors and efficient offices, but too often the trend toward corporate medical care leaves patients coming and going through frustrating patient portals.
The big pillars in our lives are standing on less stable ground than before the pandemic, and before Donald Trump, with newspapers, public schools, universities, social media, medicine, Congress, the presidency, and the Supreme Court suffering identity crises.
As we move forward, the critical question is, can we find threads of gold amid the dross? Is anything OK?
I’m convinced that at ground level, not 30,000 feet, people are kinder to one another. We all know we’ve been through hell the past few years. But folks aren’t quitting on their friends and families. People are actively searching for more meaningful lives and richer relationships with loved ones. News stories shine a light on loneliness; our surgeon general writes about the life-giving effects of personal connections. People listen and reach out.
In record time, our scientists created vaccines to fight the coronavirus. Amazon has transformed our shopping experience, mostly for the good. People are spending, and figuring out how to negotiate a changing economy.
We are in the midst of an epic battle for our most cherished American values. At 30,000 feet, the cultish masses supporting Trump seem daunting, willfully embracing lies, slyly encouraging racism and antisemitism.
On the ground, I’m looking at Ohio, which just voted to support women’s reproductive rights. Candidates supporting inclusion and democracy had a good night on Election Day. I’m looking at the man in the White House, who, with a talented team, is keeping us rolling toward a sounder economy while supporting our unions, wrapping his arms around our allies in Israel and Ukraine and keeping a lid on little fires everywhere.
Yes, Biden is old. But Trump is old, and he’s no Joe Biden. The president flew to Israel in its hour of need, embraced Benjamin Netanyahu, a friend in pain, flew home, flew to Maine after a mass shooting. Trump wouldn’t get out of his limo at Normandy because he didn’t want the rain to mess up his hair.
Biden’s head and heart trump Trump.
Also what works: The MacArthur Foundation announced a $500 million grant to support local newspapers. John Palfrey, the foundation’s president, said, “It’s hard to have a democracy when you don’t have good local news.”
And there’s more: Election 2023 worked. Crazy lost traction and sanity prevailed. I still work, too, but my path is different, as is yours. Our footprints leave deeper grooves these days; we carry all that we’ve learned since Pandemic 2020 and the DJT presidency altered our reality.
Copyright 2023 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.