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Americans over 65 and those with underlying risk factors are not supposed to travel. Luckily, I have no plans to travel this week. Because I traveled last week. Who knew?
No one. No one and nothing. That is who knows what.
About the variant.
“What is President Joe Biden saying?” I asked one of my news-following friends.
He yawned. It took me a minute to realize that was the answer.
He’s saying that we should be concerned. But not panic. I don’t have any idea what that means.
I know I’m not following the news — or, at least, presidential news — the way I did when former President Donald Trump was making it, and it was ever so much more infuriating, not to mention entertaining.
These days, the news I’m following is what’s happening to my shopping cart if I forget to check out on Amazon Fresh and almost all the prices go up in a matter of days (cottage cheese, even local produce); what happens at the gas pump (it’s literally heading to $6; when I was back East, I couldn’t get over how cheap gas was, and no one else could get over the fact that I thought it was cheap).
And then there was that piece of meat. I literally leaned over to tell the cashier that she must have pressed the wrong button. A piece of meat for over $100. It was on sale. My son was terrified he would overcook it.
A hundred dollars to fill the tank.
A hundred dollars for the holiday roast.
A hundred dollars for a single bag of groceries.
Are we allowed to go out?
Can anyone afford to?
Former President Jimmy Carter got creamed when, back when inflation was roaring in the 1970s, he blamed the country for suffering from “malaise.” The country blamed him in 1980.
Biden isn’t blaming the country, but he isn’t taking the blame either. It’s true that people feel plenty of malaise these days, but it’s also true that there is plenty to feel malaise about. Pandemic. Inflation. High prices. Shortages. That’s what we had in the bad old 1970s, when you had to line up for gas on even-odd days depending on your license plates. It was leadership we didn’t want.
Now it feels like no leadership at all. I know, Congress is passing bills. Legislators are giving each other the thumbs-up; the government is still open. Whatever they’re doing, it’s not trickling down to a sense that someone is in charge of what matters.
One of the worst lessons we learned from COVID-19 is to trust almost no one, including, at times, both the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What times is what’s hard to know. The recognition that all different kinds of politics have figured in to what we think of (or want to think of) as “science” makes figuring out who to trust as hard as figuring out what’s really going on, leading to malaise that is not easily addressed.
What are we supposed to know, and who is going to tell us? What are we supposed to do, and who can we trust to follow? Do you cancel your plans or make new ones, see relatives for the holidays or stay home again, go to the convention or skip it, plan for the trade show or cancel it, get on with life or go back to buying toilet paper?
There is still another year until the next electoral reckoning.
There is still time to put partisanship aside, at least the ugliest kind, and see if it’s possible to come together at all as a country, figure out just what we are up against and face it together.
With a president who, on matters of health and science, might even speak for all of us.
And an administration we can trust to give us the best advice they can, being clear about what’s driving it, honest about what they know and don’t know.
Too much to hope for? Probably.
And would we know it — the “truth,” such as it is — if we heard it? Probably not. Travel safe. Or don’t. Damned if I know.