Okay, so Christmas is over, some of us are already starting to put away decorations, and the New Year is at hand. Thank goodness. I don’t know about you, but this third year of our national nightmare has about done me in: 2020 was a show-stopper, 2021 was a lesson in reduced expectations, and 2022 … well… let’s just say that this was year of high hopes, lowered expectations, and continued anxieties.
The year began with a new fad, Wordle, introduced in The New York Times in January. How apropos, since the word puzzle is only five letters long and the key is simply eliminating vowels (if you know what a vowel is), which is a perfect place to start for any politician who doesn’t know what a pronoun is. It’s also the perfect diversion for those of us who continue to stay, and play, at home.
February saw the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, and the subsequent destruction, world instability, and crimes against humanity that have dragged on all year long. Shifting national alliances, economic upheaval, supply-chain interruptions, and looming arguments over “blank check” arms support raises the question of whether this is now the 21st Century’s “Churchill vs. Hitler” moment for the West.
Early spring saw the groundswell of Covid fatigue that forced the end of masking, distancing, and almost all other Covid restrictions, including mandated vaccines. People cheered on airplanes and became bold enough to venture out to stores and restaurants again, some returning to an actual workplace. Travel resumed; even the most cautious among us took a plane trip (non-stop, of course) for the first time in almost three years. The ever-optimistic Joe Biden proclaimed that the pandemic was over on 60 Minutes in September — while the new Omicron variants were gaining momentum and cases of the tripledemic, Covid, the flu and RSV, began to overwhelm hospitals and emergency rooms. All this just in time for our upcoming, long-awaited holiday get-togethers
We had another landmark school shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, TX, in May, in advance of the tenth anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy in December. Firearms now rate as the number one cause of death for children in the United States, but still there is no reasonable attempt at gun legislation to protect them. The Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade in June, however, and so now many State legislatures have gone to great legislative lengths to protect children before they’re born.
Politics continue to be loud and ugly, devoted almost entirely this year to the mid-term elections and its “quality candidates,” spending millions of dollars on mudslinging and misinformation that might have been more worthily spent elsewhere —like maybe on the migrant crisis. (Could certainly use some bi-partisan legislation there!) And we end the year with the January 6 Committee Report, which recommends criminal indictments not only of Donald Trump, but of other intimates complicit in the whole Save the Steal debacle. What a sad legacy for a president, and what an embarrassment for the nation.
As long as I’m counting down 2022’s greatest hits, let us not forget the natural and man-made disasters that occurred regularly all year long: floods, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, contaminated water, diminishing rivers and lakes, melting glaciers, and record heat and drought that caused famine and food insecurity around the world. Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano erupted in November for the first time since 1984, a perfect antithesis to the blizzard and freezing temperatures that have plagued our holiday season this year across most of the mainland United States (and made that much touted return to pre-pandemic flight levels a nightmare). Climate change? What climate change? Ho, ho, ho…
Forgive me for not delivering an upbeat, “health and happiness “New Year’s message for my last blog post of 2022, but this litany of disasters and disappointments is offered in support of my ultimate point: I, we, are exhausted. As a nation, we have been bullied, beleaguered, and held hostage to false promises and ridiculous conspiracies. As a people, we are all suffering from acute PTSD, and that accounts for our collective anger, ugliness, rage, impatience, selfishness, and outbursts of violence. Events outside of our control — disease, war, economics, weather, politics — make us fearful and uncertain, and fear produces trauma. Americans are traumatized. We have been at war with the elements, and alas, we now find ourselves at war with ourselves.
During times of great hardship, I often recall a quote on human suffering and sadness by the great American poet Robert Frost: “…there is no way out but through.” Let us shut the door on 2022 then, and let us just get through.