Over the last three years, the mood of the country feels as if it has grown darker
By Chris Honoré
When I think of life as it was before the unexpected arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic and all that entailed, what comes to mind is the year 2019.
My inclination is to refer to it as our last “normal” year; however, that word doesn’t quite offer a meaningful contrast as we attempt to understand the changes that have taken place since those first days of 2020.
Over the last three years, the mood of the country feels as if it has grown darker, and though masks and social distancing have fallen away, there still seems to be a psychological quarantine that prevails. For some, it’s an unsettling, fog-like dis-ease. For others, it can slip into an inexplicable rage, which was made manifest by the riotous mob that invaded the Capitol, an insurrection that lingered throughout 2021 as the Jan. 6 Congressional Committee spent the year researching and taking testimony while attempting to understand what provoked this unprecedented event (resulting, finally, in an 845-page report/analysis).
Throughout 2020 we seemed unable to find reservoirs of good will. School board meetings echoed with discontent and criticism (book banning). Threats and vitriol that stun were directed at poll workers, politicians, and public servants, the extraordinary Anthony Fauci being one of the best examples. I was then and still remain at a loss to understand why anyone would stand before a capitol building dressed in battle fatigues, some armed with long guns, others waving the confederate or “Don’t Tread on Me” (Gadsden) flags. But then I fail to comprehend why America has become an armed camp with more guns than people, and 2020 experienced 640 mass shootings, including the heart-rending killing of 19 elementary school children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas.
Extremism, disinformation/alternative facts, and toxic social media continued to saturate our national discourse while dividing us as a democracy. And should we not ask ourselves if platforms such as Tik Tok and Meta-Facebook, et al., did not contribute to the increase in adolescent depression and anxiety?
To be generous, perhaps we should keep in mind that our nation continues to be in the midst of a prevailing grief due to the tragic loss of 1.1 million people, caused by the ever-changing malevolent pandemic. Anti-Semitism increased in 2022; so have unprovoked attacks against Asians and those who identify as LGBTQ. And, as anticipated, our Supreme Court rejected precedent and overturned Roe v. Wade, impacting countless lives. And while we spent a good part of 2022 questioning the viability of our own democracy, we watched Ukraine make incalculable sacrifices in terms of lives and infrastructure to defend their own.
There is much more to say about 2022, and we are still attempting to fully understand the changes that were wrought by the pandemic and the political divisions that have created an ongoing stress test for our form of government.
We know, however, that regardless of the year, our democracy does not function if we fail to peacefully transfer power, which is linked to our fundamental belief in the integrity of our vote.
And be it 2019 or 2023, we must hold dear two simultaneous convictions: our democracy is both fragile and resilient. But as Benjamin Franklin once said, “It’s ours — if we can keep it.”
Email Ashland resident Chris Honoré at email@example.com.