I am an eternal optimist. But wow, it’s hard to be an optimist these days. Natural disasters abound, precipitated by and exacerbated by climate change—floods, hurricanes, drought, fires, tornadoes, and historical heat levels never before seen. COVID, which for a brief period of months appeared to be getting under control, continues to spread, hospitals are once again overwhelmed, and people continue to die. People would rather trust conspiracy theorists and take drugs meant for livestock than listen to science and medical experts and take a vaccine that has been proven to be effective.
Human beings continue to be treated as less than human—whether it’s because of their race, their gender, their religion, or their national origin. Immigrants are denied entry, women are denied the right to control their own bodies and treated as breeders, and people of color are abused and killed without any consequences for those who assaulted them. Gun violence hasn’t abated and in some places is worse. Our government is broken because hatred and greed and the lust for power rule instead of reason, kindness, and compromise. Our Supreme Court has become nothing but a rubber stamp for those who would oppress others. Add to all this the personal issues so many are facing, and it’s damn hard to be an optimist.
So how do I greet the new year? How do I wish people a shana tova, a good year, when things look so dire?
In these times it’s important to look backward instead of forward, I think. I find strength in knowing that my ancestors and others faced what must have seemed to them insurmountable obstacles and yet they survived—oppression, concentration camps, awful diseases, poverty, and hunger, things that most of us cannot imagine. They didn’t have our resources, our medical knowledge, our technology, our access to information. But they persevered. Of course, millions died from all those causes, but millions also survived. They went on with their lives—they fell in love, they pursued careers, they had children. They somehow found hope. We must also.
We must dig in deep and find the strength to make the glass at least half full. We must fight against climate change, COVID, evil politicians, and hatred and prejudice. Maybe we need to wallow for a bit and feel the despair. But then we must get back to making this a better world for our descendants so that someday they, too, can look back and be amazed by the resilience of their ancestors.
And so, shana tova. Make it a good year. It’s up to us.*************
I will return to “regular programming” next Friday after the holiday.