We are still more alike than we are different
I was invited to write this retrospective of this year-unlike-any-other, and had no idea where to go with it. After an annus horribilis like this, what can you say?
If you spend any amount of time on Twitter — and trust me, consider yourself gifted if you do not — you’re treated to a second-by-second bombardment of all the world’s ills and injustices, all framed through the lens of grandstanding and “influencer” self-absorption. The general malaise from that sours me on opining too much about the sad state of the planet, be it the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, or legitimate social issues I am barely qualified to write about.
My main personal takeaway from 2020 is my ability to be on a Zoom conference call with Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri one moment, and the next be witnessing a virtual Zoom courtroom appearance by inmates from the Niagara Detention Centre— all from the relative comfort of my former dining room. The surreal nature of this, of course, is a testament to how fortunate I am that my employers didn’t cut bait on me once the economic impact of the pandemic hit — at least not yet.
Others, including some of my own friends, have not been so lucky.
One of the things my late dad stressed to me — along with telling me to carry identification (unless operating covertly), so that authorities could ID my body in the event I am killed—or, when making a bed, facing the open ends of pillowcases towards the inside of the mattress so that snakes cannot crawl inside them— is that all of us, no matter how privileged, are one-to-three bad breaks away from truly hard times.
How this shakes out for Donald J. Trump in coming years remains to be seen.
For real folks, however, these difficult times are no joke, and it’s a reality too many have dealt with this year. In the grand scheme of things, of course, we’ve gone through economic downturns and crises before. Yet CNBC-speak doesn’t soften the blow for those who have lost their jobs and livelihoods, or seen them drastically curtailed.
So, in an effort to be as a cliché as possible in this season of giving, do what you can, if you can. That doesn’t mean just cash or canned goods for charities. It means favouring area small businesses over the multinational chain corporations that, while they do employ local people, do not make staffing decisions based on daily bottom-lines. It means considering nearby take-out restaurants or other services — even if you have to go out and get it because they aren’t digitally linked to Silicon Valley delivery systems. Support starts locally.
I haven’t been inside a bar in ten months, easily the longest such personal streak since approximately 2003. While neither myself nor my wallet has missed it all that much, my thoughts are with the bartenders and wait staff that routinely put up with a cavalcade of antics for the uncertain promise of tip money. When this pandemic is over, God willing, I imagine I must go back to one—despite the fact that one particular establishment I frequented in the past has permanently shut down.
I haven’t been inside a bar in ten months, easily the longest such personal streak since approximately 2003
Community can still be a thing wherever you live, even in an age of further cocooning. And to take it a step deeper and venture into even more-sudsy territory, heed the words of rapper T.I.: “Stop looking at what you ain’t got, start being thankful for what you do got.”
In the year 2020, I’m thankful that my family and friends are —touch wood —relatively healthy. I’m thankful my wife and I actually strengthened our relationship despite working wildly different jobs and shifts from the same small house, and that we even had the opportunity to do so.
I’m thankful that the circumstances of this wacky year also allowed me to spend more time with my best friend, a Siberian husky named Arty. The Coles-notes version here is that my brother-in-law got a puppy almost exactly ten years ago, not long before he embarked on a near-decade long educational/career journey that today sees him in Texas.
Long story short, the dog now lives with us in said small house. When he’s not howling for chicken to eat or utilizing his hardwired wolf nature to growl at various displeasures, I drive him around in search of new adventurous walking locations, making various non sequitur observations to him.
Enjoy the ride, I guess.
That’s important, because even if the world wasn’t a literal dumpster fire, that’s what you’re supposed to try and do. Because, just as an example, I’ve got highly disturbing news for you: There are tens of millions of people south of the border (plus an untold number of similar thinkers here in Canada) who are currently living and functioning in an alternate version of reality, where Trump won the U.S. presidential election, had it stolen from him, and that the political party of the man that legitimately beat him is run by an evil cabal of — wait for it —pedophiles.
Not to take a sledgehammer to the glass coffee table of any attempted merriment here, but to say that the future is unknown is as massive an understatement as it has ever been.
The tendency to sentimentalize the holiday season is as old as time, and syrupy year-end retrospectives are likely written much better elsewhere than here.
But if it’s possible for you, start with it and use the festive season to respect the difference and diversity of your fellow humans. Even if you cannot literally walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, consider trying to envision it, regardless of — or perhaps, especially because of — their different age, race, religion or social status.
Step back from the rancor for a moment and try and see the humanity and basic character in people, even the ones you vehemently disagree with personally or politically. They’ve got parents, children, siblings, dogs, cats, ferrets, snakes, whatever. They’re people, and we’ve all been through a lot this year, some much more than others.
Merry Christmas—or whatever your reason for the season is—and Happy New Year. ◆