For those of you who were otherwise productively engaged – or not even here yet – 1977 was the year that “Happy Days,” a nostalgic TV comedy, strayed so far from its brief in an attempt to attract an audience that it lost all credibility.
In this episode, the star of the show, a small town “greaser” with about as much bite as a drooling puppy, takes a trip to LA with his pals where he dons his signature leather jacket and a pair of water skis and jumps over a shark. Writers everywhere looked askance – it was not only way outside the parameters of the show, a funny and nostalgic look at high school life, but it reeked of desperation. The show’s writers were clearly out of decent ideas and the powers that be lacked the smarts to stop them.
Henceforth “jumping the shark” was used to describe any situation where the individuals involved fail to recognize that their brand, idea or franchise has peaked, and, desperate to keep the enterprise afloat, they try a cheesy gimmick to attract attention which backfires.
Last week 2020 jumped the shark.
We’ve been through a lot this year. First and still there’s the pandemic. And then Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and over 160 other Black Americans were killed in the first eight months of 2020 leading to protests and protests-of-protests and upheaval in the streets of several cities. As deaths mounted from the pandemic, lockdowns led to layoffs led to small businesses collapsing, which led to folks going broke which led to evictions.
And through it all there were two distinct approaches to the problems we were facing, the right adopting a “strong man” approach that downplayed the threat posed by COVID 19 and emphasized resiliency and self-sufficiency and the need to stabilize markets, while the left trumpeted the COVID 19 risks, looking for collaboration with the government to provide financial support for reeling industries and hospitals and aid to individuals via unemployment payments and a ban on evictions.
I’m all for resiliency and self-sufficiency – I am a Yankee after all – and I also recognize that mitigating the virus is job 1 and that we need to coordinate nationwide to do that, meanwhile keeping our people and small business afloat until that job is accomplished.
Which is why I’m an independent. Give me two from column A and three from column B, please.
And then last week happened.
Setting aside party affiliations and the individuals involved – and I know that’s hard but stay with me for a moment – the spectacle of an elected leader, who’s been diagnosed with a virus he’s consistently dismissed as small potatoes, leaving the hospital to go on a car ride and wave at fans so he can double down on this idea of resilience and prove that the virus is insignificant, was absurd. That he risked the lives of the Secret Service agents in the car with him and his driver, is the sad reality underlining an otherwise ridiculous event. Add the fact that the multiple crowded events leading up to this elected leader’s diagnosis have resulted in the infection of all kinds of staff, several cabinet members, multiple senators, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and we’ve arrived at farce.
Remember Dr. Strangelove? Stanley Kubrick’s satire of cold war fears provoking a precipitous launching of a nuclear bomb? The egos of all the commanders involved leading them ever further out on a limb until the sight of the tree is completely lost?
For those who may have misplaced the point recently due to the political scrum of the campaigns, the point is that - nothing has changed! We still don’t have a cure, a vaccine or a treatment other than mitigation. And yes, I know we’re all frustrated and sick of social distancing and masking and hand washing. That we want the schools to open and businesses to re-launch and paychecks to start coming on the regular. I also know that there are people who can’t afford rent or food and are in the streets with their families during a pandemic. And winter is coming.
So yes, by all means vote. Connecticut has done a terrific job of getting out absentee ballots and setting up ballot boxes so no excuses. I voted this week. Easy peasy.
Meanwhile perhaps set aside some of the funds you have earmarked for campaigns to buy masks for shelters or WiFi for families who are trying to school children without a consistent signal or donate to a local soup kitchen.
For those of you who think the issue of hunger is overstated, I was shocked to learn from friends in New York who volunteer at soup kitchens in all five boroughs that they have seen a sudden influx of middle class families, kids in tow, coming in for groceries. And right out here in our Shoreline towns, the Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries has seen a 50 percent increase in folks coming in for help.
“Families of four or more make up over half of our guests, 35 percent are infants, children or teens, 14 percent are seniors, and 20 percent live alone.” Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries.
So maybe carve out some dollars for hungry people.
Because the politicians will come and go. Meanwhile people need help. We need to step up and provide that help neighbor to neighbor, town by town, state by state. Because whoever is elected will have to deal with a reality we’re already facing. And the sooner we get to work and support those most at risk, the better. Because make no mistake – those sharks in the water are real.
(Thank you so much for all your emails. Reach me at WelcomeToThePandemic@gmail.com. And find me on Twitter at @epagenyc or on Facebook at ElizabethPage.)