People Are Hurting

by Tom Swift

It didn’t have to be this way. With political leadership that included a healthy respect for science, the coronavirus pandemic could have been so much less severe in America. We had a head start. We had the scientists. We had the economic might. We could have done far more to limit the spread of infection and all the destruction and disruption that spread has caused.

That is what could have been.

Here is what is: more than 189,000 deaths and counting; more than 6.3 million confirmed cases and rising; millions out of work; untold Americans struggling daily with illness and grief.

Meanwhile, as reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune, our country is in the midst of a mental health catastrophe.

Suicides are up. Drug use is up. More people are suffering panic attacks. And this seems unlikely to lessen anytime soon, as we all go back indoors as winter descends, flu season arrives, and with COVID-19 still far from under control. Social isolation is likely to continue, if not intensify, in the weeks and months to come.

Talking to a friend the other day she remarked how it seems people on the roads are more angry and inpatient. I said I wondered if I was turning into a “get off my lawn” old man before my time. As the little buddy and I walk the sidewalks, I notice drivers roaring engines down side-streets, running stop signs, and otherwise giving the impression that the world is in their way. The other night I swear one rig went twenty miles an hour over the speed limit feet from our house. So many people seem on edge.

When I stop and think about it, I have to admit that I am among them.

I want to be able to plan for life. I don’t expect guarantees that we never get in this world — any day could be your last, we know this — but I find myself, as we all do, with an added layer of deliberations over every decision, large and small. Certainly any financial decision weighs in the back of my mind more heavily than it otherwise would. Before I, say, make even modest purchases I wonder: will I need this money for an emergency soon? Should I buy anything that isn’t absolutely necessary before the November election?

No doubt, this is a fear of luxury as compared to the daily challenges of so many others.

Yet I can’t help but wonder what awaits us as we keep not just our distance from each other but also from our futures.

Will we make a choice to work together and deal with this disease — so we can solve the economic crash and the physical and mental health crises — or will we embrace the chaos and division the current occupant of the White House foments? Will we continue to fight over masks, stock up on ammo, pit police against citizens, and allow elected leaders to take a hands-off approach with the fate of our democratic republic?

Of course, I do not know the answers to these questions.

Of course, it is not in my power to answer these questions for anyone else.

People are in pain. So many people. Through no fault of their own. I will try to remember that as I answer those questions for myself today and in whatever is to come.