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  • Writer's pictureChristopher McHale

My Pandemic Anthem

As the masks drop, what world are we left with? What consequence do we carry with us? What has gone forever?

President Biden is fond of saying America is back. But back to what?

Is getting back to where we were possible? Or even desirable?

Stevie Wonder once said he never wanted to let his fears put his dreams to sleep. But our fears can sometimes lead us to new dreams.

Those among us who built worlds of old dreams want to hasten our way back to them. But many people are stopping in their tracks. Wait a minute. We saw a different world in 2020. A glimpse of an unfolding possibility. We don’t want to go back.

“Covid-19 has reshaped the landscape of work and made remote office work a lot more accessible, allowing employees to be productive and contribute to business growth while staying connected. For some, remote work is necessary, but does not replace time spent at the office. For many folks, remote work will become a new way of life.” Kevin Leyes.

That’s work. We’re obsessed with work. But other ideas crept into our pandemic brain.

The vulnerable among us became more vulnerable. The hospital workers, bus drivers, grocery clerks. Vulnerable and valuable. But the poor, the homeless, the dismissed took the full force of the pandemic.

The elite among us became more elite. They sealed their bubble, retreated to their second homes, and gained wealth. The cancerous schism between the poor and the wealthy became larger, insurmountable.

I live in Manhattan. The pandemic had teeth here, but there were positive beats.

“Mother Earth could breathe a little easier as traffic stopped, and pollution decreased. We heard the birds singing, and the sky was a brighter shade of blue.” Yolonde Conradie

But the glimpse of an earth free of our toxic spew was fleeting. The climate crisis was laid bare in 2020. Huge heat storms, massive wildfires, killer wind.

A man was murdered in slow motion, captured on a young woman’s cell phone and a wildfire of social justice erupted, like a long-dormant volcano. Politicians panicked as they sensed control slipping away. Not the control of batons and guns, but the subtle control of performative politics and lies.

The truth was laid bare in 2020. Our democracy sustained blow after blow, and the illusion of stability vanished as an American president led with lies and denigration. Global capitalism fell short. Jingoistic anthems blared from corner speakers as fascists sensed opportunity in chaos. Fireworks and million-dollar flybys became tasteless and jaded as war ended not in defeat, but flaccid retreat.

But there’s another world ahead of us if we dare to go there. A world where work is replaced by life. A world where investment means investing in ourselves, our dreams, our health, our families. Where billionaires don’t take joy rides in space, but joy rides through clean neighborhoods on roads without potholes. Where a person’s education is job #1 and our universal ambition is to foster our global connection, our shared humanity.

Because our lesson from 2020 is we are connected. The differences between are illusions. Borders are fiction.

2020 was just a spark, but there’s no going back. Our politicians want us to go back, but that’s not what I sense from the people around me.

The virus killed more than people. It killed the fantasy perpetrated by a global elite that a better life is unachievable. That we must pray for a better afterlife, but life itself is just meant to serve the ambition of a few greedy mouths who fancy themselves born to entitlement.

What has been simmering globally is coming to boil. True liberty, true freedom for all. Technology is not meant to enslave but liberate. Global wealth is meant to lift us all. Our planet is sacred ground and needs nurturing and protecting.

No matter how cynical I become, I hope. I hopelessly hope. It’s not just my way, it’s the way of most of us. I pass through 2020, I drop my mask and I believe what has gone forever, what has been dealt a death blow is the crushing pressure of unachievable expectation.

We care. We’re told not to care. We’re told to hate. To be angry. To be controlled. But we care.

Caring is our greatest weapon. You cannot chain us if we care for each other. And the pandemic stripped away enough pretense that a desperate wave of fear is quaking the controlling media, the lying politicians, the corrupt preachers.

The intimacy of neighbors leads us to acceptance not rejection. The pandemic melted walls. Don’t let our corrupt leaders rebuild, take us back their world.

The consequence of our pandemic can be good. There’s no need to retreat behind moats filled with snakes. There’s a crisis and another just ahead for us. A gauntlet of storms to navigate. Our greatest challenge is upon us. And our greatest reward if we simply reach out and take our neighbor’s hand.


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