CONFESSIONS OF A WEARY COMMENTATOR
Two years ago, before COVID became a word, I had a three-part series about my father’s experience during WWII accepted for publication in the Concord Monitor. Then stay-at-home came and, as a way to combat boredom, I started writing op-ed pieces that were regularly accepted as “My Turns.” It became a habit and then an obsession.
The first year of opinion-ating was fun and exhilarating. I learned that in order to sound credible, I had to do a lot of research, reading, and listening. I learned things I should have been taught in school, like all of the politics, sacrifices and choices made from the time of the pilgrims landing, the importation and exploitation of slaves, the revolutionary period, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights fights, on up to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The backdrop that inspired all this learning was the killing of Black men and women at the hands of police and vigilantes, the disproportionate effect of COVID on people of color, and the reaction by former president Trump, who inspired many of my essays because of his actions and words. I inserted a bit of satire to encourage people to read my essays because it was easy to make fun of the former president and if we didn’t laugh, we’d cry a flood of tears and drown.
The second year, 2021, started on a very somber note with a remembrance of a dear friend who died of COVID, and it quickly went downhill from there with the Jan. 6 riots and assault on the Capitol by Trump’s supporters trying to overthrow the government.
The hope inspired by the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and the unveiling of the life-saving vaccines was quickly quashed by reality. Trump was impeached for a second time but evaded conviction because the Republican Senators collectively proved they were spineless.
New Hampshire Republicans, who swept into power on all levels of the government, quickly proved to be on the farthest right wing of the political spectrum, passing the first abortion ban in the state’s history and restricting what can be taught in public schools. We should support our teachers and not muzzle them. The political division reached epic proportions over mask and vaccine mandates and Gov. Sununu lost complete control over what got him re-elected – his handling of the pandemic.
I tried to maintain my optimism when I wrote a piece about the lessons my blind dog was teaching me about adaptability and accepting change with humor and humanity.
As time went on my optimism waned as I wrote about the fickle weather, comparing it to the justice system where on one hand there was finally some evidence of justice, as in the example of Derek Chauvin and the killers of Ahmaud Arbery, but on the other hand, Kyle Rittenhouse got away with murder and Bill Cosby got away with raping women.
Then Delta hit, fewer people got vaccinated, and cases surged; hospitals started to get overwhelmed, and the nationwide death count reached above 1,000/day again. Each party blamed the other for the continuing tragedy that is COVID. Democrats blamed Republicans for fighting the mandates and the Republicans pointed out that all this mayhem was happening under Joe Biden’s watch. The discourse became more vitriolic sprinkled with obscenities, which I wrote about when I exposed the “Let’s Go Brandon” movement. It just makes me want to throw my hands up in the air and crawl into a cave forever.
It is becoming more and more difficult to find the joy and passion in writing. I try to diversify my essays and, to the extent possible, insert some positive, but that is getting more and more difficult. When you consider some of the house bills that are being introduced in New Hampshire for the next legislative session, I just can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel; another bill trying to force loyalty among our public-school teachers and a bill giving standing to citizens to sue their local towns who try to restrict gun use on public lands.
I don’t know how professional columnists do it week in and week out. I’ve noticed that Katy Burns, the regular Monitor columnist, seems to have stopped writing and I miss her voice terribly. She was a mentor for me, although she never knew it. I’m impressed with Jonathan Baird’s weekly history lessons, which encourages me to keep on trying. Jean Stimmel has stumbled upon a regular gig with his weekly inspirational pieces. I can’t give a shout out to all the regular writers from both sides of the political spectrum, but I’m glad they share their voices. I read the entire opinion page every day. Bravo to the new “Engagement Editor” Allie Ginwalla.
I certainly hope 2022 will bring an end to COVID, so we can stop writing and complaining about it. It would be nice to see a return to civility in the political world, so we can have serious dialogue of our differences to reach consensus.
Ultimately, I wish for peace and harmony for all in the New Year!