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Don’t Blame 2020. Blame…

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Blame us. Yes us, all of us, humans. We are to blame for everything bad that has happened to us this past year. Especially, of course, the coronavirus pandemic. It’s our responsibility, you see, and nobody else. You heard me right. Nature, which we keep mistreating and destroying, is not to blame for it. Not the bats, not the pangolins, not even the parasites. Just as you don’t blame the poor koalas in Australia for the devastating wildfires there. Or the dolphins and the whales for the melting of the ice. This world of ours, the only one we have, is crumbling under our feet. Well guess what: nature has decided to resist and is putting up a mighty fight.

Good for nature. And maybe, though there’s not much hope for it—when and if we put this terrible disease finally behind us—we will learn our lesson from it. We will change our ways. Stop polluting and destroying the oceans. Stop the melting of the icebergs in the North pole and Antarctica. Stop the decimation and killing of fish and animals and other species to extinction. Stop multiply so unconsciously that soon there won’t be a place for us here on earth any longer. As I said, the way I see it, we are to blame for everything.

But… maybe something good will come out of it at the end. This brings to mind something else: Hard as it is to say, one good thing has already happened. Here in America. Yes, here, in the killing fields of devastated America. Where we have close to 350,000 people dead, and more than 20 million infected—numbers that are growing by the day—it is tragic, and very problematic to say, but I’m going to say it anyway. Because this pandemic has saved our democracy. Has saved the republic. President Trump was going strong before it had hit our shores. Considering that some 70 million people have voted for him anyhow, despite his disastrous mishandling of the pandemic—surely he should be blamed for many of the sick and dead—there’s no way he would’ve lost the elections otherwise.

As it is, he is putting up a major fight against the results of the elections, trying to overturn them. Can you imagine what would have happened had the results were closer? And then, we would’ve had him as president/dictator not only for the next four years, but who knows for how long after that? With his disdain for democracy, for freedom of the press, and his adulation of autocracy, another four years would have given him the power to destroy our democracy for good. I have no doubt about it.

Of course, one might say he could—and should!—have behaved like a leader. Behaved differently when it came to preventing the spread of the pandemic. But to say this is to disregard who the man is. In line with everything he does, everything he is standing for, he decided that when it comes to COVID-19 he better abdicate the obligation to face reality head-on. Instead, he created a false, alternate reality for his followers to believe in. He and they are paying a heavy price for it. (Some of them, do you know, even when lying sick and dying from this virus at hospitals, still will deny its existence.) It’s hard to shed a tear for them. And it’s almost as if, it gives me pain saying that, the coronavirus–originated in a wild-animals’ market in China—was sent here to save us from him.

And that’s a good thing. So what else, then, is there for us in the “good department.” I believe there’s a real change taking place—even the cabinet-in-formation that President-elect Biden is assembling is proof of that—in regard to advancing the cause of diversity. The social unrest that irrupted on our streets this year, as a result of the murder of George Floyd (and other black men and women) by the police, turned the wheels forward. It’s hard to see how they can be unturned. The fact that we are diverse, and equal people, is taking hold. Those statues of racist men are not going up again. They won’t be put on pedestals anymore.

Next year, we will have a woman as Vice President for the first time. A woman of color, no less. And while the road ahead is still long, as far as correcting and amending the horrors and mistakes of the past, when it comes to the African American population, a significant change is indeed taking place. And I tell you what’s more, in a different arena though—but returning to the pandemic arena—Dr. Antony Fauci beat President Trump and his supporters. Hands down. They were ready to eat him alive. Trump was about to fire him. But the popularity of the good doctor was too much even for him. And now, in the midst of the pandemic, many young people—looking up at Dr. Fauci as an example—want to study and practice medicine. Want to be doctors. Good for them. And for us.

I have a feeling, also, that ‘kindness’ is on the way up, and ‘meanness’ is on the way down. Now surely, evil and violence are still very much among us, but it seems to me that people are finding ways to be kindlier to each other. I see it all around me. And I hear about it, too. So maybe it’s here to stay. (I myself have tried to be more generous and kindlier with my year-end donations. I hope you were too. And hey, like others, I danced by myself this year. Grew a beard and a ponytail. Heck, why not?) And what do you know, in the last couple of months I’ve begun to correspond with a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl. We are pen pals now. We write to each other occasionally. Giving hope to one another.

So let’s be kindlier in the next year, and give each other hope. We desperately need it!

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The Elephant in the Room

Fighting the spread of the coronavirus pandemic—in America fighting ingrained racism too, and in Israel the threat of annexation—I myself am facing the extra burden of walking, eating, and sleeping with an elephant. No kidding, stay with me please. It’s not only in my room, mind you, it goes everywhere with me. The few people I interact with these days, and those I pass by on my walk in the park, don’t seem to see that I walk with an elephant by my side. And after reading, hearing, watching millions of words being spoken, coming from the mouths and minds of people much wiser, educated, and knowledgeable than me—some of whom I truly admire, though none can equal Albert Camus, whose ‘The Plague’ I’ve read in my teens and again in my twenties—I’m still completely baffled by the fact that no one ever mentions the existence of ‘The Elephant in the Room.’

Why so? I wish I knew. Though this much I do know: This Elephant belongs to all of us. Only most people, for reasons that escape me, cannot see it. Or are too scared to admit seeing it. So let me tell you also this: I see them, too, and I hear them. I know where most of these people are coming from. After all, this world of ours suffers greatly from our collective misbehavior and ignorant. Our abuse of nature and wildlife—especially our cruelty towards animals and species of all kinds, not the least our own kind—is well documented. This teenage girl from Sweden, Greta Thunberg, who keeps shouting that “the emperor has no clothes” is my hero long before she’d been named Time’s person of the year.

Which brings me to admit this: If it were up to me, I would elect a triumvirate of women—say Germany’s Angela Merkel, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, and Denmark’s Mette Frederiksen—to lead the world in this epic, pandemic war. Their brains are much superior to any man leader alive today, and their hearts are in the right place. We can add the doctors, the specialists—most, but not all, are still men—to work under them. To be their soldiers. Let these women generals command the battlefield in our fight against nature’s long-overdue revenge. Because only those who are capable of compassion and compromise, have the faculties to deal with this enormous challenge.

But what’s worrying me, and keeps me awake at nights, is that even they might not see this Elephant. Or that if they would see it, they might not acknowledge its existence. Because otherwise, how can one explain that this, the most wondrous of animals still walking the face of the earth, also represents our downfall? It leads us, obediently so, to the edge of the cliff. And why, you may rightly ask, I don’t mention it by name? That’s a good question, I give you that. But you see, the nature of the ‘elephant in the room’ metaphor is that when you mention it by name—since it’s so obviously available for all to see—it disappears. And when it disappears, we have the tendency—being human and all—to believe it has never existed.

Yet it does. And it carries on its wide back the climate change crisis. Racism and injustice, it carries too; abuse of natural resources, starvation and desolation, it carries too. Income inequity, class divide, abuse of power and resources… you name it, it carries. Our elephant, beautiful creature though it is, is also the foundation for all the ills in this world. It’s very prominent, for instance, in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities of New York, London, Jerusalem and elsewhere. In these communities in particular, where the commandment to procreate (“be fruitful and multiply”) is so fundamental (it’s common rather than the exception there to have seven/eight children in a family), the coronavirus has inflicted an unusually great amount of suffering and death.

In one television newscast I watched lately, there was a story about how people are suffering economically in America due to the pandemic. A poor, down on her luck woman who lost her job was complaining and crying—my heart was aching for her, believe me—that she’s a single mother with seven children. How can she feed them all? How indeed! And yet, the reporter didn’t see the elephant standing so tall behind her, and had asked her not a single question about it. Neither did the anchorwoman in the studio. But I saw it right away: A single mother with seven children to feed, to clothe, to educate. Help me here, people: How is it possible? Even allowed?

They have their share of elephants in Africa and India, of course. And they have many hungry children and adults to feed there. But they too don’t see the Corona Elephant in their midst. No wonder they keep trying to infiltrate Europe and find a decent living for themselves and their families overseas. I guess they simply don’t want to see it. And BTW: I love children, don’t get me wrong. But we are doomed if we don’t see this elephant and take appropriate action. We will destroy this planet, or it will destroy us. Maybe the three ladies, the leaders I’ve mentioned above—who share three children between them, and also share some of the lowest rates of deaths due to the pandemic in their countries—would see it. Would understand it. And would do something about it.

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