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  • Jan Flynn

Do You Notice Anything Different?

I’m hoping it’s not just me

Since late January, there’s been a shift in tone

At least in my corner of the nation, which is admittedly a deep-blue pocket in a majority blue state. Most of us here were mightily relieved once the Inauguration was finally fait accompli. But even scanning a cross-section of news media (leaving out the vitriolic fringe) and scrolling my Twitter feed, I notice a generalized head-cooling. 

It’s not like everything is tickety-boo, of course. The flags at the middle school where I work were, like most places in the country, at half-mast this week in solemn acknowledgment of a heart-breaking milestone: over a half-million of our fellow citizens lost to COVID-19. That means millions of us are grieving lost loved ones, without even having had the grace of bidding them farewell in person.

And most of the things that were in a mess at the end of 2020 are still just as screwed up. The climate and the environment are still in peril, the economy is still out of whack, people’s lives are still simultaneously constrained and upended by the pandemic, and racism still stains our collective soul. It’s also true that the hate-fueled, extremist fringe among us hasn’t exactly given up and started singing “Kumbaya.”

But each new day no longer unleashes a tsunami of outrage

With #45 (aka “TOG”, in reference to Joe Biden referring to his predecessor as The Other Guy) out of the White House and muted by Twitter, we no longer live under an administration that abandoned governing in favor of fomenting. Whatever side of the cynically cultivated division we landed on, all of us have spent the past five years being relentlessly baited. Who could keep up with the whirlwind of attacks on normalcy, the onslaught of misinformation, the raging rhetoric encouraging us to fear and distrust one another? It was exhausting, to say the least.

Remember the first year of TOG’s term, back before he had become bro’s with Kim Jong-un and was goading North Korea with reckless glee? I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. That was before #45 devoted himself to stoking crises at home, say, in Charlottesville, until we all had to watch our Capitol overrun by armed insurgents.

Wow. Just writing that last paragraph re-excavates the pit in my stomach that yawned for all those years. Let’s move on.

Now there’s a sense that the tide is turning

Sometimes I think it kills the media to report good news, but it’s out there. More and more studies show that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are wildly effective, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is less costly, less fussy about storage temperature, and only requires one shot, has just been approved. The rate of vaccinations, while still maddeningly spotty, is increasing day by day. The death rate has fallen dramatically in recent weeks, although the rate of decline has stalled in the past few days.

The metadata? We’re not out of the woods; we’re in a slow-mo race to vaccinate enough people worldwide before the new virus variants that keep cropping up can send us into another surge. So it’s not time to head to the ballpark with 50,000 of your closest friends just yet. But if we can act like grownups for a few more months, we can live to see COVID take its place in history.

Meanwhile, the House just passed the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, which will help families and businesses stay afloat and will fund a host of measures to ramp up the coronavirus response. Now it’s just up to the Senate, so we can all relax (KIDDING — seriously, Senators, if any of you are listening, I do hope you feel the pressure).

And more school districts are opening to in-person instruction. Back in my little blue corner, our schools have been open for half-day in-person, half-day online classes since November 2. Just recently our PE department has begun offering after-school, non-contact sports clinics to interested students. Needless to say, the clinics have been filling up fast.

I notice I’ve stopped doomscrolling

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but I no longer search Google News at spare moments, trying to steady my breathing as I try to keep up on the latest calamity. Life has stopped feeling like I’m chained to a seat on a runaway train.

Maybe you’re experiencing the same thing. I think it might be hope.

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