By Scott Graber
It is Saturday morning and I am sitting in front of a smallish, well-tended fire in our smallish, white-walled living room. It is early, my wife is still sleeping, and my thoughts are ping-ponging among an ever-changing menu of ideas and strategies for filling-up the next 12 hours.
My options are circumscribed by the virus that still circulates in Beaufort County. The day is full of potential — or seems to be at this early hour — but reality still dictates that one must keep 6 feet away from everyone else.
There is no question that a safe, effective vaccine is here. There is some question about when we will be injected; and how many folks will choose to opt-out. But we do know there will be an end to the masking; distancing; sanitizing; no-touching or hugging rules. Soon, perhaps in my lifetime, I’ll be able to kiss my hostess as I take my late-night leave from a downtown dinner party.
The reality of the pandemic is the fact that it removed a year from our lives.
Well, actually, it ended some lives.
But for most of us it was a time of anxiety, uncertainty and finding ways to navigate hardships like buying a frozen Publix pizza burdened by a mask. Or not being able to drink a glass of Pinot Noir with one’s best friend after work. Or the endless repetition of the “confirmed infection” numbers — state-wide, U.S. and global. All of which reinforced the sometimes-overlooked truth that life is unpredictable, and unfair, and that governments are not all that effective when it comes to an unseen, coming-out-of-China pathogen.
Laminated on top of this crisis — I’m not going to use the word “existential” — was a debate about the fundamental nature of our national government. Were we going to re-elect an authoritarian, my-way-or-the-highway, Huey Long-like populist; or elect a less offensive, more inclusive man who seemed headed for assisted living?
To add accelerant to our already enflamed emotions, we had a series of killings — in Minneapolis, Brunswick and Atlanta — that brought hundreds of thousands of Americans into the streets. Indeed, we had our own Black Lives Matter March right here in River City.
So now we are heading into Christmas — a time we usually sit by the fire reflecting on our good fortune — nursing our wounds.
Notwithstanding — I’m not going to say “existential” — divisions, I still have an income, heat in my house and this wonderful thing called Medicare. And I daresay that most of my friends — I belong to that older cohort of Americans labeled vulnerable — remain comfortable, well-nourished and cautiously optimistic about the future.
The problems (I’m not going to say “tectonic”) that pour forth from our laptops, television monitors and these days, cellphones, are not insubstantial. This unfiltered flow of news informs us about faltering local governments; about bureaucratic rivalries; about ideological fevers causing sane, sentient legislators to cast doubt on the best thing this Republic ever devised — our method of counting votes.
But, however, and notwithstanding all of the above turmoil and sludge I can look back on the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Watergate, Watts and Vietnam. I can remember the assassinations, the resignations, the evacuations and the immeasurable, inexplicable greed that brought us the Great Recession in 2008.
I have no memory of World War II, but I did live in Germany with the expectation of Russian tanks coming through the Fulda Gap. I did not have a combat tour in Vietnam, but I do remember the massacre at My Lai. I have been eyewitness to the last 75 years — well, let’s say 65 years of American history — and can testify it’s been an uneven, up-and-down ride.
Last week Kendall Hinton, an unknown wide receiver for the Denver Broncos, became its starting quarterback in Denver’s game against the New Orleans Saints. I might mention that Kendall is a rookie, has rarely thrown a football, formerly a member of the Denver practice squad. But the Broncos were determined to play.
This, I thought, has to have some larger meaning.
The Broncos had problems, Covid-related problems that thinned-out their ranks. But Denver, by God, was going to adapt.
And yes, we in this country are flawed, and beset with problems, but we will also adapt, and will change if we have to, and we will move on — sometimes to greatness.
Scott Graber is a lawyer, novelist, veteran columnist and longtime resident of Port Royal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.