Perhaps you think that 2021, with all its challenges, should have finally convinced us to stop pretending that everything is fine, admit defeat, and fully embrace the SMOD.
And maybe that impulse is right. But before we go that route this Thanksgiving, do me a small favor and look outside your window. I’ll wait.
Did you see roving gangs of COVID vectors and hordes of illegal (or interstellar) aliens brandishing AR15s and buckets of inflation?
If you get your info from Twitter, then things look really bad. Crime and inflation are up, democracy is down, and everyone hates you for the color of your skin. And if you get your info from Facebook, then you think that the election was rigged and COVID vaccines are Bill Gates’s attempt to force humans to run on Windows Vista.
However, if you pause for a moment and consider what you experience in your day-to-day life—what you’re seeing outside your window—you may find that none of those things square with your actual reality. Your life is probably . . . “fine.”
Statistically speaking, I mean. Of course, you might have gotten laid off in 2021. Or spent the last year fighting cancer, or losing your mother to COVID, or some other terrible trial. And to everyone out there who had a bad 2021, you have my condolences and the right to say that things most certainly haven’t been fine. But for the rest of us? Things are fine.
Maybe they’re not as fabulous as we’d like. They’re not great. But they’re also not terrible and not nearly as awful as they could be—by a very large margin. Trust me, I say this having lived in Soviet Russia where things were worse by a VERY large margin—and even that was long after the invention of vaccines and antibiotics, prior to which things were worse by an even larger margin.
Still unconvinced? Look, I don’t know you, but as a statistical matter, you almost certainly didn’t get mugged last year and even with the rise in crime because we have got such historically low levels of crime, you’re exceedingly unlikely to get mugged next year, either.
The people that you deal with, in person, on a daily basis are generally civilized and polite and behave more or less the same today as they did last year, or the year before that.
Maybe you can’t get the exact brand you want at the grocery story, but the shelves are stocked with food. You’re not starving. There are no gas shortages and there is clean water flowing from your tap. There are more good TV shows to watch than ever and they arrive in crystal clear UHD. Donald Trump isn’t going to see the inside of the oval office for at least three more years. And if you’re one of those loveable weirdos who wish he was still president: You have every reason to expect that he’ll be right back in the White House in 38 short months. So yay for you!.
Maybe you wanted some trinket that is stuck at a Long Beach port and won’t be delivered in time for the holidays? I’d play my tiny violin for you, but it is also stuck in Long Beach. C’est la vie.
I’m not saying that the problems that you read about in the news aren’t real or important. They’re frequently real and when they are real they can be extremely important. The climate is changing, the autocrats are gaining power, and American democracy really is hanging in the balance while our elected officials are conducting whistling competitions next to every graveyard they can find.
But you and I don’t have day-to-day control over any of that. Here is what we can control: We can be kind, and considerate, and forgiving, and try to embrace every gift that the world offers us.
This may sound trite, but it seems to me that very few people are actually doing it. Instead, we spend our days doom scrolling through Twitter and raging at one another and totally neglecting the fact that outside our windows just about everything is FINE.
Put down your phone. Go find someone to hug. And tell them they’re fine.
And thank you.
Now go. Happy Thanksgiving.