2020: the good, the bad, and the ugly!

I doubt that I’m the only one who is eager to close the door on 2020.  A year that has caused so much turmoil in our lives, our countries, and the world. A year that sent us looking for things to do, ways to connect, while keeping sane in what seemed to have been the most insane world of our lifetimes.  This year packed all the crazy we could bear.  Even atheists must have secretly prayed to G-d for relief.  A combination of bad politics, bad decisions, bad journalism, and bad intentions; sent us on an eleven-month long journey into man made hell.

The bad made its way into our lives by way of Wuhan, China. Months into an epidemic which started presumably in Wuhan, the Chinese decided to let us on their putrid little secret only because they were caught out.  I’m sure that had it not been for Dr. Li Wenliang, one of many Wuhan doctors that blew the whistle, we would still be wondering what is infecting most us or killing some of us.  Dr. Li Wenliang died soon after tweeting about the virus in February 2020. He was 34. Another Chinese scientist has recently come forward alleging the deliberate creation of the virus in the Wuhan government lab, and the subsequent cover up by the Chinese government to suppress the story.  Whether one is to believe Dr. Li Meng Yan or not, one must wonder why it took the Chinese weeks to warn the rest of us that a deadly virus was on the lose and that it transmits easily and rapidly.

The consequent finger pointing by politicians did not help us in either dealing with the situation or even solving it. Once politicians grabbed hold of “the problem” we should have realized that we would be in trouble. The polarization of world politics divided us into camps. The virus became an inadvertent campaign ad and subsequently irrelevant to many. Mixed messages intermingled with panic and uncertainty put us on the brink of self-doubt as individuals and communities. Fear mongering was channeled into government and state controls that stifled our freedom and trampled shamelessly on our rights in Democracies that under normal circumstances would scoff at such restrictions in third world countries. The gradual erosion of our basic rights morphed into mandated lockdowns without legal process.  We followed blindly the same politicians we normally would consider lower than pond scum.  How that happened is still mind boggling to me and others with a certain degree of common sense.

The bad continued to dissolve into ugly as US elections drew near.  A predominantly controlled Democratic congress bent on getting rid of President Trump played all the cards to include impeachment. A deliberate and pre-meditated attempt at foiling a presidency with minute precision from inauguration to the present. Millions were spent on a predictable outcome that wasted everyone’s time and meanwhile allowed the virus to spread. January and February were lost in circus-like impeachment processes, while downplaying the urgency to curtail travel to and from European countries already run amok by the virus.

Dr. Fauci was the face of arrogant smugness, the administration’s appointed virus guru who as late as February 29th on NBC “Today Show” shrugged the virus as a notch above annoyance, to quote: “at this time there is no need to change your habits over coronavirus”. Him and several other charlatans to include the insipid New York Governor Cuomo who as late as March 8th was urging New Yorkers to go and have fun, remain unscathed from their duplicitous behavior. Governor Cuomo had the chutzpah to write a book praising himself on his “leadership”.  Wonder if he wrote it before or after he decided to send old folks back to infected homes to die? This excuse of a civil servant was nominated for an Emmy.  Which makes anyone receiving an Emmy dumber than a rock.

Mid-year the “ugly” in extremism ripped US cities apart. A legitimate outrage against brutal and unethical police practices turned into unstoppable riots.  Small businesses already at the mercy of lockdowns were burnt or vandalized out of business. Pinhead mayors and governors allowed the rampage to run into months fortified by an indigenous crooked media that refused to report the truth and supported by equally irrelevant leftist politicians in Congress. National monuments were vandalized, and a war on civility brought a nation to the brink of Bolshevik-like anarchy.

If the pillaging and the burning was not enough, we had to be subjected to months of soap opera-like presidential debates that confirmed what we have known all along: politicians are idiots.   While the country was burning, statues of saints destroyed, churches and synagogues vandalized, the candidates were concerned about race identity. Race mongering for votes. Their demagoguery could have been taken out of a mafia novel. Corruption disguised as empathy for the oppressed. If it weren’t so screwed up it would be laughable.

The continual narrative on “science” based COVID political decisions reduced the world economy to shambles. Leaving third world countries poorer, and western countries attempting to keep the economy afloat by paying people to stay home. Old businesses that survived two world wars and other epidemics closed their doors in desperation. Children lost a year of education justified by a virus with 98% recovery and predominantly dangerous to the elderly and those in already high-risk categories.  A fact very few will mention let alone admit. Teachers and schools are left scrambling for ways to educate our future generation already handicapped by ineffectual teaching methods and cretin political correctness. We are being donated a future generation of imbeciles without grit.

The rush to get a vaccine shoved aside other imminent needs for cures especially for terminal diseases like ALS and cancer.  But like AIDS in the 80’s, COVID is the token political “disease” of today. COVID was put on the electoral ballot of public opinion strengthened by disingenuous information, partisan duplicity, and unwarranted fear. The FDA is yet to approve a much-needed NurOwn, an Israeli ALS stem cell drug that would stop the disease and often reverse it. A reprieve to the millions of ALS terminal patients waiting for a cure. However, the FDA approved without hesitation a vaccine with a 95% success probability that avoids 2% fatalities and dismisses 98% recoveries.  Either the FDA failed mathematics, or we have all been drinking the Kool Aid.

The ugly finished off the year in a presidential election fraught with doubt and division.  An election with not much choice. Eighter the tweeter or the senile. An almost painful result to a divided country that voted on who would do the least damage and not the most qualified. Two parties that have gone so far-off course from their original intent, that neither appeal to anyone except their base. Two men with pasts and questionable characters. Poster boys for the dysfunctional. And so, we limp toward the finish line of the bad and the ugly.

Through irritating and often irrational lockdowns we were compelled to stay home. Once the urge to shoot oneself had passed, we found an uncanny feeling of serenity. Brakes had been applied to our lives and whether voluntarily or not, we had to slow down. The silence and tranquility pushed us toward finding ways to keep busy. Hobbies and talents, we had dropped by the wayside of our busy lives found themselves active in our minds and free time. The fear that was thrust upon us by mainstream media and politicians gave us a sense of urgency to reach out. Estranged parents located children.  Friends called friends. Siblings connected by social media, WhatsApp or whatever electronic method at their disposal.  Loneliness was not an option.  We forgave past hurts and pains. We wanted to make sure that we were fine, healthy, safe and doing well. We compared lockdown miseries and laughed at ourselves. We were united in fear that we might not have the chance to say “sorry” or “I love you”.  A gentler cloud descended on an uncertain world.

The faithful who had lost their faith turned to live streaming of services, Masses, Shabbat prayers and G-d. They needed something bigger than themselves. Suddenly, a virus brought out the ardent desire to pray by cynics who had long given faith, religion, and G-d the boot. Amid chaos there was prayer.  Amid fear there was hope. Amid loneliness we reached out. We saw work of kindness that dispersed hatred and division.  Parents stayed home and spent time with children. Bonding took the form of teaching, baking, reading, playing games, or just talking. We were all listening more and talking less. Family became important and life saving.

In the Middle East, Arabs and Israelis were making agreements and friendships. The first to reach out was the United Arab Emirates. Soon Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco signed agreements with Israel. Serbia-Kosovo also signed peace agreements with Israel. This was historic because until 2020, neither side had acknowledge the existence of the other. A great step toward understanding and peace in a region normally fraught with angst and uncertainty.

Humorous end-of-year memes and gifs are kicking 2020 in the ass! But the year ended on a gentle note. From the beautiful lights of Chanukkah to the quiet nativity manger, we realized that 2020 made us appreciate the good in our lives. The simplicity in a weekly family Zoom meeting, a phone call to a long lost friend, or a quick wave at an old neighbor form the kitchen window. Simple acts of kindness have taken a new meaning. A wake-up call to our often-egoistic attempt at being perfect. Perfect job, perfect spouse, perfect parent, perfect child, and perfect friend.  A multi-tasking whirlwind life without relevancy.  We “cold started” our lives and enjoyed the simplicity that our environments had to offer. We were truly “woke”.

Cities will herald in the New Year without fireworks or crowds. But we will quietly look up at a midnight sky in whenever and wherever we are, and thank G-d for our good, reflect on the bad, and learn from the ugly that changed all our lives in 2020. A learning experience that will hopefully change us for the better; make us kinder, make us better, and make us stronger. Frohes Silvestre und gute wunsch!

Li Wenliang: The Wuhan Doctor Who Warned the World About Covid – POLITICO

Dr. Anthony Fauci On February 29: At This Time There Is No Need To Change Your Habits Over Coronavirus | Video | RealClearPolitics

NY Gov. Cuomo says people should not panic over coronavirus despite state of emergency | Fox News

A COVID Christmas might not be that bad

I think God had a plan.  He was in cahoots with the Chinese to throw the proverbial wrench in our lives and slow us down to a crawl. It was a conspiracy between the Almighty and the People’s Republic of China. Together they managed to take us apart and forced us to calm down; take stock of our lives and make the best of it. Take stock of priorities and determination.  Amid the bitching, the protests, and the groaning is Karma waiting patiently for us to determine our destiny.

If we had to dig deep down into our psyche and embark on a journey of self-truth and revelation, we would admit that most of the crap we go through in December has been dumped on us by a consumer society compelling us to spend and be merry. There is a “hum bug” waiting to get out in most of us, we just don’t want to admit it.  By November we are urged and shamed into a rapid count down of frenzy and uncontrollable stress toward December 25th. We are dragged through a mire of guilt if not wanting to engage. “It’s the Season to be Jolly”. Enticed, cajoled, and convinced into an insidious perfect Hallmark Christmas. Hallmark is to blame for throwing a wide net of deceit across the western hemisphere. Armed with 15 actors, one plot, and several hundred movies; a red and green annual ritual of perfection brings bile to our throat but like a bad train wreck, we are compelled to watch. Why? Because like rats in a lab, we are conditioned to “love” Christmas or bust.

The weeklong preparation of food and stress leaves most of us looking like we’ve been kicked by the mule in the manger and run over by the Magi’s camels for good measure.  Parents put a guilt trip on kids to visit relatives, and kids take it out on anyone they encounter on the way.  Those who normally display goodness and politeness 11 months of the year, turn into heathens at airports, stores, and on the roads in December. They become Mr. Hyde, the worst version of themselves. Add bad weather, flight cancellations, and crowded stores; the season of goodwill turns into a horror movie without a happy ending.

A recent article in the Stars and Stripes revealed the joy some families are secretly harboring not having to run around visiting relatives or making long trips thanks to COVID. They are looking forward to quiet dinners at home.  Most expressed their annual horror they are subjected to trying to please everyone.  Large extended gatherings that have become not only cumbersome but subject to partisan unpleasantness, are being dreaded and avoided. One couple admitted to always dreading landing at their annual Christmas destination because of family drama; leaving them stressed and inadvertently worse off than had they stayed home. They have tried to make excuses in the past not to travel, and this year they are thrilled because they finally got their wish.  They are looking forward to staying home and enjoying movies and simple meals.  

Many are happy that they don’t have to spend money in travel plans that brings them little joy but ultimate aggravation. Others are taking the opportunity to be a family in their own home, relaxed and able to enjoy quality time with their kids or one another. The fact that we are being forced to stay home may end up being a blessing in disguise. A realization of what could be or should be.  A “perfect” Christmas does not exist. Through the years we’ve become Christmas masochists. COVID is a wake-up call that life is anything but perfect, which is okay.

We lost our normal lives ten months back, but we gained closeness.  Relatives we had not seen or spoken to for years are now in our lives more often than before. Lockdowns, quarantine, and isolation widened our network of family and friends we would not otherwise seek or speak to.  We argue less and we tolerate more. For some strange reason, a common enemy has brought most together.

In Germany, where I think Christmas must have been born, we missed the absolute best of the season. Christmas markets, gluhwein, hot chestnuts, and music; all anticipated and disappeared at the wave of a hand from Berlin. The loss in income to small businesses is staggering. Senseless decisions that make little scientific logic have been implemented; not because it’s good for us but because they’re a political check mark on an election list. Trinkhalle are still open selling beer and hard alcohol but florists had to close. Head scrathing baffling. Hairdressers and nail salons are shuttered up but a discount store remains open because it sells a few shelves of packaged food. The absurdity is lost on most. Frightened and manipulated, they go with the flow. There has not been one COVID case at any hairdresser, nail salon, car dealership, clothing store, or florist. But all were forced to close creating a last-minute panic that sent thousands in stores and streets to finish their Christmas shopping before being locked up. No concern there. Stupid has replaced sense and politics has replaced honesty.

Our lives have slowed down. We sleep later mornings because the streets are quiet. Between doing some work from home and daily routine, I managed to bake Christmas cakes, mince pies, and conjure up wonderful gluhwein for friends and neighbors. Never made gluhwein before but staying home permitted it. Slowly simmering white wine and brandy, thin slices of oranges, apples, cinnamon sticks, anise stars, cloves, and fresh ginger. The beautiful aroma fills the house with simplicity in spice and everything nice. A pleasure we would not had enjoyed had we not been compelled to stay in our homes and come up with things to do to keep us from going stark raving mad.

Crazy still lurks all around us. We can attend church but not sing, regardless of the fact that we are all masked like Zorro. We’ve been wearing masks for 10 months which if we must go by what “the science” says, we should all have been over this crud a long time ago. But we’re back to square one without an end in sight. Oh, yes, the much-awaited vaccine; it will suddenly beam us into post COVID Pollyanna, just like that. We will reach the end zone and life will be good again.

The weather is crisp, and snow is in the air. The quiet of the mornings and the stillness of the evenings bring comfort to a world wrapped in angst and self-loathing.  Politicians with little juice between their ears have managed to screw up the world without much effort. Families are going to miss out on being together, but they are also going to discover that Christmas is about simplicity and humility and not outrageous gifts and too much food. How we morphed from celebrating a baby in a manger to a multi-million-dollar industry is beyond me. We have been conditioned to expect perfection when Christ’s birth was anything but. Incongruity that should baffle those of us who profess to be Christians. What line or verse in the scripture does it say that we are required to consume enough food to feed a third world country, and max all our credit cards on crap we sell in a garage sale in the spring?

This will be remembered as the COVID Christmas. The lockdown season of the year. The time when we managed to pull ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get on with our lives making the best of it.  So shall this end; a memory filed it in the confines of our minds as something to relate to grandkids akin to walking ten miles in the snow to catch a school bus.  We will embellish and exaggerate our discomfort for poetic license, and then admit that it might have been the best thing that could have happened to us. As Garfield put it so succinctly: “Christmas, it’s not the giving, it’s not the getting, it’s the loving….” (A Garfield Christmas Special, 1987).  Merry Christmas and hope for a better New Year.