This is a tense time, as we ratchet up to the election.
The pandemic isn’t going anywhere, even as we start to fight each other over it.
The levels of covid-19 mean that New York would have to quarantine against New Jersey and Connecticut, according to Andrew Cuomo, if the tight connections and loose borders between these states didn’t make it impossible. What it means, instead, is that the whole area is spiking.
Meanwhile, everyone’s getting more and more tense.
At the beginning of the pandemic, when staying at home was still new, the question “How are you?” using got a stiff-upper-lip response. Sometimes some of us actually were taken with the novelty of the situation. Staying at home! No commuting! No dressing up!
That got old quickly.
By now, we’re all getting frayed. (And no, this is not news to any reader.) Parents are horrified by how eager they are to have their children elsewhere. Spouses are thinking that a long time in a solitary silent retreat might be a foretaste of heaven.
And of course that’s true just for those of us lucky enough to have jobs. For people who don’t, whose unemployment benefits are ending, who see that the government isn’t interested in helping them, there are no jokes. Just despair.
And meanwhile we are tick-tick-ticking closer to the election. Many of us are approaching it the way a silent film heroine who was tied to a conveyor belt probably felt about getting closer and closer to the sawmill. Maybe she could just pass out and have it all end without her realizing it. Maybe she’ll be rescued. Maybe it’s all a nightmare. Or maybe — very likely — it’ll be even worse than it seems.
On the other side of Election Day, Thanksgiving looms. It’s normally one of the few holidays that we Jews celebrate just like our neighbors, with family (that’s either good or bad, depending on your particular relatives), stomach-popping amounts of food, discussions and arguments and memories and love.
Now, this year, it won’t be. It’ll be like Pesach and Shavuot and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and Sukkot and Simchat Torah were for us, bloodless simulacrums of what they should have been.
But first, before we even deal with what will be another in a string of losses, we have to get there. And maybe, if the election goes the way we want it to be, it won’t even feel like a loss. There might be such great joy that we’ll be able to think ahead to next year, when we’re all together again. Or it might be such devastation that nothing else will matter.
Now, though, it’s just the ratcheting. The tick-tick-ticking, as if it’s coming from the belly of the crocodile that ate Captain Hook’s hand, cartoonish and terrifying all at once.
So where do we go from here?
According to a story in the Atlantic, which accords as well with common sense, the pandemic will end with not a bang but a protracted, nearly inaudible whimper. There will be no magic bullets, no herd immunity, no immediately available, easily distributable, entirely effective vaccine. There just will be a gradual shifting, over far more time than we’ve had so far, as more and more therapeutics become available, some vaccines work on many people at least to some extent, doctors and scientists learn more about the virus, and the scourge eventually morphs into something less deadly. We’ll get there at some point. We just have to hang onto our sanity and decency and sense of hope and future until it comes.
And to ignore the tick-tick-tick of the Election Day clock until it’s here. Until then, everyone who can vote early but hasn’t yet done so should do it now. If you want to vote in person, mark your calendar, set your alarm, pack some snacks, and go do it. By the time you read this, Election Day will be about a week and a half away.
Don’t forget to vote!