DO WE DARE BE OPTIMISTIC?

The Septuagenarian Speaks – published March 10, 2021, Siskiyou Daily News.

My wife and are fully vaxxed, having received both of our COVID vaccinations. Ann received hers relatively early on. I got mine when the county public health department administered nearly 1,150 vaccinations at its clinic at the fairgrounds. Thank you to all involved in that! For those of you who haven’t received yours, or are only half-vaxxed so far, take heart, you will get yours soon. Also, as more people are vaccinated, the safer we all will be.

Who would have thought a year ago that the highlight of our lives would be to get a shot? A few days ago my sister, who lives in the Bay Area, emailed a picture of herself proudly wearing her vaccination “badges.” Apparently, they handed out stickers, similar to the “I voted!” stickers given at voting precincts.

Receiving the shots is exhilarating. There is a renewed energy, a surge of enthusiasm. I was suddenly faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

This miracle drug also improved my mental state. I am now optimistic, and for the first time I see light at the end of the tunnel; and my optimism is not limited to the pandemic. It has a broader reach. I now believe, probably “without evidence,” as the pundits say, there is a glimmer of hope we can turn around the horrible divisiveness and anger so pervasive of late.

I believe it is more than coincidence that the level of anger and hate now so prevalent coincides with the pandemic. I further believe it will be headed off, at least partially, when we resume normal lives. What better environment for inciting hate than for everyone to be confined to their homes, cooped up, and prohibited from interaction with other humans? Especially in the winter, when we can’t go outside and vent our anger and frustrations on our gardens.

When locked up in our homes, with nothing more to do than be constantly slammed by media diatribes all day, it isn’t a surprise we want to go out and kill someone. I recently took stock and counted how much time each day I was spending immersed in media stuff: Facebook, radio, television, on-line news, and podcasts, and was astonished at the number of hours. It’s not the same as having real conversations with real people, or actually doing things that are physically and mentally challenging. And the tendency is to focus only on those media sources that agree with our own world view, preaching to the choir, thereby reinforcing our own opinions and demonizing those who don’t share them. It’s not healthy. We become obsessed, and believe that every action taken or every idea put forth by the “other side” will immediately destroy the world as we know it. I told myself: “Enough is enough,” and began weaning myself from that habit, harder than I thought. But it has helped. I still worry, of course, about what those stupid “other guys” will do next, but I’m not as obsessed as before.

Inevitably this pandemic will be over, and people will live normal lives again (if the government allows us to do so.) People will get out. They will again enjoy and appreciate the wonders and beauty of our world. They will see and talk to one another, face to face. It’s easy to hate the “other guys” who are out to destroy everything we cherish, when we are locked up at home, constantly bombarded by so-called news that preaches how awful those faceless “other guys” are. But when we can actually go out and see and hear and talk to those awful “other guys,” on the street, in schools, shops, restaurants, bars, churches, and other places where normal people go in normal times, somehow those “other guys” don’t seem so horrible after all. Some of them are even our friends.

There is room for optimism. And Spring is just around the corner.

Bob Kaster
Yreka, CA

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