We Boomers began our journey during the poliovirus epidemics in the 1940s and ‘50s, and today we’re ending it with the coronavirus pandemic. Polio mostly attacked young children; Covid-19, older adults.
The only thing I really remember about polio is the sugar cube—I must have repressed the shots. Maybe what we’ll remember about Covid is that we learned Zoom technology, and we’ll forget the isolation and fear. It’s hard to say right now as we’re smack dab in the middle of it all. Add to our health fears a political divide that was building throughout our adulthood; a deepening racial divide that seems inevitable in retrospect; and a tragic economic divide that’s sparked a deep questioning. How did it come to this?
We Boomers caught a wave—post-war prosperity, increased educational opportunities, and more careers to choose from, particularly for women and Blacks. And now this big wave seems to be crashing. How close in is it going to break? Who gets swept away? So much uncertainty.
The most comforting thing I’ve read this year, and that I keep returning to, is an article from the New York Times titled: “No one knows what’s going to happen,” by Mark Lilla, a professor of humanities at Columbia. He writes, “…the post-Covid future doesn’t exist. It will exist only after we have made it.” He says we should ask “only what we want to happen and how to make it happen, given the constraints of the moment.”
I find those words and that attitude heartening even though he cautions we are always “just tapping our canes on the pavement in the fog.” He urges humility and to remember we live in radical uncertainty, that all we can do is “tap and step, tap and step, tap and step.”
So, we do what we can—sign up to be a poll worker, make a phone call for the Buddy program at ACCA, wear masks, keep our distance, read and listen widely, and think deeply.