The end of every calendar year brings with it the fatigue of the months prior mixed with the hopeful expectations for the new year ahead.
This week I sense a weary dread instead and it is accelerated by this repetitive news cycle that is constantly focused on how many people are getting themselves tested for the endless Covid-19 variants — I personally like to call the variants themselves the baby offspring of the initially “novel” virus that has upended countless lives around the world.
What struck me odd about this past year is the large number of paradoxes that our American society endured. The Webster definition of “paradox” is: a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true; b: a self-contradictory statement that at first seems true; c: one (as a person, situation, or action) having seemingly contradictory qualities or phases.
I’ve learned that going through paradoxical circumstances is exhausting emotionally. Our nation is suffering today from a high rate of undiagnosed “pandemic PTSD.”
For the sake of brevity, I’ve selected a few examples from the last 13 months to highlight some moments that we’ve collectively shared emotionally that makes 2022 a difficult new prospect to consider. At the end I’ll offer a couple of book recommendations (available as audio books too!) to help navigate our personal place in this complex chess game for “team human” that we’re all in whether we like it or not.
December 2020: Unfortunate Scarring by Post-Election Rhetoric
As if 2020 hadn’t beaten us all up with the inception of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, our nation had to face a changing of the guard from President Donald J. Trump to President-elect Joseph Biden. Unfortunately, shortly after the election in November 2020 there was an uneasiness that descended on all U.S. citizens because President Trump was not satisfied with the results and refused to concede the election to Biden. His words and actions continued to anger some people and enable others.
The paradox in this month is that there were more people who were caught in the middle of this argument who just wanted peace — this included many people who had voted for President Trump but were accepting of the fact that for now it was time for our nation to move ahead with a new president and keep up the near-impossible work of tackling the challenges that our nation faces daily which now included the 2020 pandemic fallout.
January 2021: Ouch, Ouch and Extra Ouch
In the first week of this month, most people were still nursing their hangovers or enjoying their detoxifying ways. When the day started on January 6th there was some concern of protests by pro-Trump groups over the official certification of the election results by Congress but the visuals that were broadcast on social media and other general media outlets were jarring. What was a boring procedural vote became the poster child for our nation’s political polarity that’s been brewing since before the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our soil.
The paradox in this month is that there were people in one half of the nation who didn’t want Biden as our new president but were also adverse to President Trump acting out with public disdain in the manner as he was through every media platform within his reach — his speech in front of his supporters by the White House on January 6th was saturated with nuances and charged language.
While he may have not explicitly described how people should go into the Capitol building that day, his rhetoric certainly helped accelerate their courage to follow their passion into the climate of an unexpected conclusions. The saddest part of January 6th was that there were more Trump supporters who were peacefully congregated all day in Washington DC and not part of the mayhem by a much smaller group whose actions and words were broadcast worldwide that day. The voices of many were hijacked by the voices and actions of a few.
Variant. This word would become the new word used to preface nearly every news update on the most current mutation(s) of the SARS-Cov-2 virus that gave birth to Covid-19 and its subsequent offspring. The Greek alphabet had been selected to help keep track of the different variants although the general public would only get to know a few at a time. March was the featuring variant was “Delta”.
The paradox I noticed in this month is that although vaccines were available, not everyone had access just yet depending on where you were in this country. I’m a Floridian and was not yet in the appropriate age group and was undecided on the choice of vaccine — I considered J&J and then the temple of the CDC lords decreed that there needed to be a momentary halt on the “one and done” shot as there were a few reports of recipients developing a dangerous blood clotting condition called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS. Never mind all the other side effects and problems with the other vaccines, J&J was the new patsy for rushed vaccine rollouts and its fate benefits the companies Pfizer and Moderna. Pay no mind that anyone with blood clotting issues or heart conditions had to consider avoiding the vaccine choices depending on the severity of their body combined with their personal doctor’s opinion.
Many people would contract the Delta variant and survive it. After they recovered and they still wanted to get a vaccine shot or two they were explicitly told to wait at least 3 months. During that waiting period they would endure the news cycles and social media universe spouting harsh opinions about those who hadn’t gotten vaccinated yet — little attention paid to the studies and evidence that even our NIH had posted on their website that people whose immune systems had already been exposed to the virus variants had the opportunity to help them next time they were exposed to any offshoots of Covid-19. The hope was always that the vaccines could hopefully match the the efficacy of the natural processes of our immune systems. Science! Unfortunately, selective science is the name of the game in this endless pandemic.
If pandemic fatigue was already prevalent in our nation by this point, it was about to get much worse. Many people were now used to not having to wear the mask anymore and a significant amount of our citizens had received one or more of the Covid vaccine shots and were ready to move on with their lives. Then at the end of this month the U.S. health czars – such as they are – reversed course saying that the vaccinated should mask up again as they were vulnerable regardless of their shot status.
The paradox in this month was that while our nation had collectively made firm decisions on whether to get vaccinated or not (unvaccinated or previously infected taking responsibility that if they got sick it was their own fault), they were punished with the news that there were reports of break-through infections occurring amongst the vaccinated.
While this should have been a momentary pause for all of us to consider why this was happening and to clarify the record that the public had been told repeatedly: if you get vaccinated, we can stop the virus. It turns out that Americans may need to sign up for an online course in biology and virology to learn for themselves how false and misleading this message has been. Also, it has been a terrible disservice by our federal government to refrain from admitting that they were wrong about their initial claims.
From the faction who was comfortably vaccinated, there were some that went ahead and got booster shots without waiting for the FDA and CDC to finalize recommendations in August. Little did they and many others who got boosters know that within weeks their bodies would be vulnerable again just like everyone else.
I personally love Septembers because they mark the optimism of a “new year” feeling as the school year starts for my own children who are home-schooled for over a decade along with many other educational add-ons. My heart was bruised, however, by the start of this particular school year as we witnessed a meltdown of decorum between the school boards and parents in school districts all over our nation.
Paradox here? While school board members and parents were arguing over whether or not they should force students to wear masks all day at school, the students were watching. They were learning that those people who were supposed to look out for their educational needs were teaching them by example how to be mean to those who you don’t agree with and for what? The fight was over masks and yet even when masks were worn, the variants of Covid-19 continued to proliferate. Social damage done to the pyches of young minds at the expense of a strained argument lacking logic — while you eat or drink there is no virus transmission right?
For the next couple of months, kids started getting sniffles again and many parents avoided getting their kids tested so they could keep them in school. The disruptions to the kids’ education and parents’ work had hit a fever pitch and many teachers, administrators and parents started to look the other way when someone sneezed. By the way, if using the modern Greek alphabet, there are 10 letters between “delta” and “omicron”.
As I write this we are hours from the New Year in the Eastern Time Zone. At the beginning of the month most people were refraining from talking about Covid-19 issues. We had respectively gone through with most of our Thanksgiving plans and embarked on 2–3 weeks of nonstop work meetings and party engagements. Hugs, handshakes and maskless events abounded. Some wealthy elites even hosted social functions with rapid testing conducted prior to help assuage anxieties. The common cold, random influenza strains and a newly born Covid-19 baby “omicron” quickly came through silently as “Silent Night” played in countless Christmas playlists.
The possible paradox in this month is that although most of us know that being around each other in close proximity could yield outbreaks of all kinds of germs related to viruses, stomach bugs and so forth. It was unspoken but sensed that most people were ready to deal with it. People are tired of being constrained or shamed into doing whatever the CDC or Dr. Fauci recommends we do with our lives on a daily basis. Americans have the benefit of religious freedom in this country and yet most of our citizens are in the controlling grip of a new religion that has become tied to what the latest infection rate is based on a testing system that is flawed at best. Where do we go from here?
Closing Thoughts and Book Recommendations
I’m an optimist and do believe that Americans have more in common with each other than we have disagreements. 2021 also featured stories that reflected strong opinions from different sides about the right of one’s body. Pro-abortion groups and anti-mask groups connect precisely on the level of what we should be able to do with our bodies. When someone brings up how we affect other humans both pro-choice and anti-mask folks are intertwined. While abortion can kill a human life that is helpless to the person carrying it, we’ve also been living maskless lives for hundreds of years — potentially exposing everyone around us to any number of deadly plagues.
For “team human” I offer the following book ideas as the authors are trying to educate and empower the reader to find the path forward so that together as a collective we can contribute positive changes in a world that may seem off-tilt and spinning ever faster.
A blessed year of strength and grace to you all in Peace’s guidance: