Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Now Be Thankful

We've reached the second COVID Thanksgiving, something I never would have anticipated back in March of 2020. I had the naive belief that if would just be a short, sharp outbreak and over in a month or so. Eighteen months later there's over 700,000 dead in America. More people have died this year than in 2020 and the infection rates are shooting up again as we head into winter. 

If I am thankful for anything this Thanksgiving it is the vaccine. I know I am not bulletproof, but I don't worry about dying or serious illness anymore. My kids just got their shots too, so the range of things I can do will open up some more. Because of the vaccine I am not looking at this winter with the same absolute dread I had last year. I knew last November that we were headed into the worst winter of my life, and I was right. 

Sometimes it's hard to be thankful because we are constantly reminded of the things that make us bitter and resentful. The vaccine, for example, has been blunted in its effectiveness by anti-vaxxers. I have probably spent up too much mental space in the last year on these choads. They're not going away, so I should at least be happy that so many people I love and care about are being protected by the vaccine.

I am feeling similarly about politics. The fact that the teaching of American history, which I do for a living, has become the primary focus of the right wing's hate has been demoralizing to say the least. But I can still be thankful that I teach at a school that supports teaching the country's actual history. The complacency and failures of liberals and the vigor and lack of restraint on the right scare and frustrate me, but I can at least be thankful that Donald Trump is no longer president. 

Just so you know, I have not had a lobotomy or religious experience or have turned into a kind of Pollyanna. It's more that the pandemic has taught me some new life habits. On the eve of the pandemic I was an emotional mess, overstressed and pulled into five different directions at once. The daily assaults on democracy and humanity by Trump filled me with both outrage and hopelessness. The pandemic forced me to buckle down and get to prioritizing the things that actually mattered, instead of engaging in constant emotional spasms. That wasn't going to help anyone.

So I guess above all I am thankful for the perspective I have gained recently, the kind of perspective I needed to mentally survive this difficult time. Part of that perspective involves appreciating what I do have in my wife and my children, in my students and colleagues, in my friends and family. The reality of death has never been more present, as well as the imperative that comes from the consciousness of death to lead a meaningful life. Here's hoping we make it to the next Thanksgiving with COVID behind us and a successful midterm election, and that we have the strength to make both happen. That's my Thanksgiving prayer. 

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