Much Ado about Everything
As we limp from the upheaval and uncertainty of 2020 and tip-toe carefully into 2021, do you think we should dub the first full year of COVID-19 as the worst twelve-month span of time in US history? Or is the pandemic going to get worse?
In an article published in the October 5, 2020, edition of The Boston Globe, historians reminded us of previous periods of pandemonium: In 1861, the country was fractured by the Civil War; in 1919, Americans were knocked to their knees by an ongoing deadly flu pandemic, the Great War, an incapacitated president, and extreme racial tension. In his poem “The Second Coming,” William Butler Yeats described the year this way:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
In 1932, the Boston paper reported, the Great Depression peaked, and that year’s drought decimated life with fourteen dust storms that were followed by thirty-eight more in 1933. World War II came next, ending the Depression but killing millions. Some felt a slight calm in the 1950s and early 1960s, but the storm of 1968 drenched everyone—deadly protests and riots over war and race, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy, and tens of thousands of soldiers killed in the Tet Offensive and more horrifying battles in Vietnam. Harvard historian Lizabeth Cohen says “the relentlessness of the crises (made) people feel the world was coming apart.” She said people wondered: “Oh my God, have we not hit bottom yet?”
History repeats itself, as it did dramatically with 2020’s political unrest, racial tension, and worldwide health crises. Since we have been there, done that, we should be motivated to cope by holding fast to faith and families, but many have strayed from that glue that holds us together. I’m reminded of the wry definition of insanity: “To repeat the same action or thought over and over, expecting a different result.”
It’s apparent we have much work to do in the year ahead. May we forge ahead with our eyes and hearts wide open. The psalmist’s idea is to:
Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his marvelous deeds.