In May of 2021, we published our book, Hope, Interrupted. At the same time we continued to experience national bigotry (with violence directed toward Asian Americans,) a temporary slow-down of COVID-19, and a continued challenged economy for many.
At the same time, we breathed a collective sigh and ripped off our masks, gathered in crowds, spent money with pent-up demand and ventured out into the world of “before.”
We believed that we were totally free and, yes, maybe a trifle entitled. Restaurants and bars have struggled for workers to keep up with demand and it has, again, felt like the USA is a prosperous nation.
It seemed similar to when Prohibition ended. Bars continue to be full. We have hugged, kissed, and shared food and drink—we lived like Americans. And liquor companies continue to report record sales. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder at large events, beaming, singing, dancing, and “living.”
And then—like a specter—the delta variant took hold and, with many of our citizens unvaccinated, the pandemic that we deemed “over” has chosen a new path.
Viruses are smart that way.
Fall is now upon us, and we could argue that hope continues to be interrupted. This time, though, incited by our own bad behavior and arrogance. We wrote Hope, Interrupted with a sense of optimism, doing our darndest to eradicate existential dread. We believed that when confronted with facts, our fellow citizens would behave kindly toward one another. That they would care about their neighbors, that while “keeping hope alive,” they would reach across the aisle. That their collective will would be about more than themselves.
Not so fast.
- As of August 30, it was reported that 52.1% of our population were fully vaccinated. That means that nearly as many are not. (CDC)
- As of August 30, another monster hurricane (Ida) hit New Orleans. “The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released its updated 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season forecast. The agency is still predicting an above-average season with 15-21 named storms and 7-10 hurricanes.” The season continues into November.
While we seem to “look the other way” regarding our environment, there is empirical evidence that bad human behavior has exacerbated the warming of our climate, leading to massive worldwide extreme weather events, including wildfires, deadly hurricanes, and other perilous conditions. California continues to burn as well as many areas closer to home. Kudos, Al Gore, you were correct.
- We pulled our troops out of Afghanistan with lots of blame circulating. While each administration has endorsed our retreat, the results have included death to civilians and our own military. While the retreat is a relief, it is not without sadness and bloodshed.
We continue to rise in the morning and “hope” for a better world for our children. People speak of their legacy. They often envision it to be grand—to include keynote speeches, impressive statistics, and grip and grin photos with important people. The extraordinary folks may win a Nobel Peace Prize, while most of us will just do our best to put food on the table.We are all weary. Some because we can no longer “endure” what we view as a loss to freedom (like wearing masks is some kind of punishment, as opposed to a respectful life-saving device.)
Personally, we are tired of making excuses to our children about the tarnished legacy that we have left to them. In the 1970s, we stopped blatantly throwing trash out of our car windows and we banned aerosols. We cracked down on automobile emissions and we said we would ride bikes and public transportation more often. We were sincere.
Yes, this made a difference, and some-how we rallied enough to improve our air quality.
Today, in early fall, we observe the great America—the one in which each of us defines ourselves as rugged individuals. For the future of our children, and their children, it is past time for us to coalesce as a people. We inhabit this world with others.
America is known as the place where people came to “breath free.” At the same time, many were delivered in shackles and after hundreds of years, they can finally take a breath.
Our own hope and public advice is simple. To make our world a better place; make each decision with reverence to those lives who share this place alongside you—all beings, not just humans.
As someone coined back in the beginning of what we called the pandemic we are all in this together.
Byron McCauley and Jennifer Mooney are the authors of Hope, Interrupted; America Lost and Found in Letters (Orange Frazer Press, May 2021) www.hopeinterrupted.com