For Christmas, We Received a Hopeful Week

From Esquire, by Charles P. Pierce:

This has been a bit of a hopeful week as weeks go these days. The U.S. Army seems to be closing in on a vaccine that will work against all variants of coronavirus—not just COVID, but SARS, as well. There are now not one, but two antiviral pills aimed at treating the virus in affected individuals and moderating its effects. And studies indicate the new Omicron variant of the virus, while highly contagious, results in a milder form of the disease than that produced by either the original strain or the Delta variant.

Science is reaching the point at which it’s done all it can. The rest of the fight against the pandemic depends on how much every one of us cares about our fellow human beings. This has been the obvious answer from the start, but it’s also been something at which the country has bridled over the past two years, a reaction that, as nearly as I can tell, is unprecedented in American history. I’m old enough to remember the unequivocal joy with which the Salk vaccine against polio was received. (Kids, of course, were equally overjoyed at the arrival of the Sabin vaccine. No more shots!) My mother had been confined for weeks in an iron lung after contracting polio as a young woman. It left her with a lasting medico-phobia that she transferred to me, thereby making sure polio affected our lives long after the vaccine had eradicated it. But even she insisted that I be immunized as soon as the vaccine became available. She didn’t believe in doctors, but she believed in that vaccine.

I believe we have it in us to be better than we have been. I believe we have it in us to be better than we are. I believe we can rediscover our common humanity if we just look for it. There are all kinds of things we knew and loved once that we’ve forgotten. There are better parts of ourselves that have lain dormant for far too long. Rediscovery can be as exciting as discovery was in the first place.

Every year at this time, I publish the rejoinder delivered by Ebenezer Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, the first time his uncle has dropped the “Humbug!” In response, Fred appeals to those parts of his uncle that have atrophied through many years of greed and contempt. Those are the first things that are summoned in the story. The ghosts come second. Lost humanity must be rediscovered first.

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say. Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creature bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

And so say we all, amen.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from all of us in the shebeen. And god bless us all, everyone.

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