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It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Mind-blowing, isn’t it, this opening paragraph (one sentence, really) from Charles Dickens ‘A Tale of Two Cities’? Reading it always gives me chills.  How prophetic of him, writing it in 1859 about the years leading up to the French revolution? But that’s the mark of a great writer, a visionary, and great literature too, to transcend times and many generations, and still be so truthful. About our age, too, it is true. About the last year in particular.

So let’s see where we’ve been, and what we’ve experienced in 2021 as it ends with a blast of cold air and a new tsunami wave of a coronavirus variant. It has started, indeed, with a shocking wave of a different kind, manmade: The January 6th insurrection, when a mob of Trump supporters, urged on and inspired by him and his cronies, stormed Capitol Hill and almost succeeded in overturning the results of our democratic, fair election and the certification of a new president. This assault on our democracy, this coup d’état was long in the making and almost successful. Don’t delude yourself that it’s over, because—should we not be on our guard—we won’t be so lucky next time.

This event, in the national political arena, overshadowed everything else this year, and still vibrates in the streets and in the halls of power. If not for the coronavirus pandemic—I cannot get rid of this thought, disturbing as it is to even contemplate—if not for the “China Virus” as he’d used to call it, we never would have gotten rid of Trump and his autocratic regime. Sad but true: if not for the many deaths and sick, we now would have a dictator in the White House, and autocracy in the vein of China and Russia here in America. The war is not over to be sure, but one battle we have somehow won. We better learn the lesson.

Meanwhile in Israel, a similar—if better and not so dramatic—outcome has occurred. Another potential dictator, Bibi Netanyahu, was kicked out of office. It was indeed a miracle of sorts that the preceding two-week flareup, the semi-war with Hamas in Gaza in May has brought some political opponents to their senses, and pushed them in a new direction. Foes and friends united—including, a first, an Arab party—to form the narrowest of coalitions, culminating in the successful formation of a new government, pushing Netanyahu to the sideline. To boot, he is also being prosecuted now in a court of law. But as in America so in Israel, it is not over yet, and all polls indicate he is still, by far, the most popular leader in Israel. That he might stage a comeback, like Trump, is entirely within the realm of possibility.

But above all—as in 2020—everything was eclipsed by the pandemic. In June of this year I went on a first date after a long time, and sat in an ice cream parlor with my young date maskless, enjoying the sun, the cold treat, and talking freely to each other. A month later I was up on the hills above Reno with my son on a fabulous vacation after two years of not seeing each other. At the end of October we were celebrating my birthday in Monterey Bay, and had a great time watching whales in the Pacific Ocean. Shortly thereafter I celebrated with some dear friends the Thanksgiving holiday with good food, wine, and fine comradeship. Likewise in Chanukah. We thought we are finally emerging out of the dark into the light.

“It was the season of Light,” as Dickens wrote, but now it is again the “season of Darkness.” It does look very bleak as I write this, as if we are back at square one. In the news on Monday morning it was said that Israel has added America to its no-fly list, both incoming and outgoing flights, as it already did with some European and African countries. Last evening I rescued out of my cupboard a new N95 mask I kept there for an emergency—using other, lighter and easier-to-wear masks in the meantime—for going grocery shopping. Last Saturday evening I was all geared up for a new episode of SNL. Guess what: my favorite TV program was back improvising, without an audience and hardly any cast members. British soccer Primer League matches are being canceled left and right, and so are NBA, NFL, and NHL games, as the various leagues are struggling to continue as scheduled.

So many other things/events, good and bad have occurred this year, but I’m going to stop right here and now. You know the rest. Let’s remember the good times. Stay healthy, my friends, and don’t let your guard down. May the next year be happy and joyous, mostly, for you and yours!

* The ‘Leave a Comment’ link is the last tag below, in blue.

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!

* The ‘Leave a Comment’ link is the last tag below, in blue.

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