I Just Wish Coronavirus Had Never Happened

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I wish coronavirus hadn’t happened.

I know that’s not an interesting or a unique thought but I just wish it hadn’t happened.

I often just find myself saying that out loud and since I’m alone virtually all the time now, I then say, “Yes, Ben, same.”

This sensation—having nothing new to say but wanting to share grief and regret and sorrow—is universal. A very depressing thought to me is that despite that shared experience we’ve all spent this whole year being mad at each other. A lot of that you can pin on Trump, but not all of it. Trump is uniquely bad and uninterested in unifying the nation so instead he exacerbated every division until wearing masks was partisan. But that doesn’t explain it all. Social media is also to blame. Human nature is also to blame. The fact that people do just get off on defining ourselves against something rather than for it is sad. I’m as guilty of that as anyone else.

I don’t know the answer. Maybe there are no answers. Or maybe there are and someone smarter has them! But the state of play still makes me sad.

However, on the other hand, this year has also shown that people overwhelmingly are fundamentally good. What amazing things people—front line workers, scientists, doctors, ditch diggers, Mary, Joe, Sue, Jane, Tom, Frank, Harry, and Bill down the road—have done without really very much federal guidance or leadership. People have done extraordinary things all on their own.

And that’s pretty good! But it’s been a very strange year.

I live alone. About a month or two into the shutdown, I had convinced myself that it would be better if I had roommates. Then I noticed that for the time since living in this apartment that I could hear my neighbors and they were fighting constantly amongst themselves. Their voices were raised to heretofore unheard levels. And of course that newlywed couple to my right and that family of four to my left were probably thinking the exact opposite. What they wouldn’t give to not be locked up in close quarters with other people.

Coronavirus has been awful and terrible and revealing, and it’s not even the half of it! We began a long overdue reckoning with racism. We dealt with Trump and dispensed with him and then kept having to deal with him.

There is an apocryphal Lenin quote: “there are decades when nothing happens, and weeks when decades happen.” (I’m pretty sure it is based on a quote from Marx that I can’t find; email me if you know). There were weeks this year that truly felt like that. But at the same time it was just yesterday that I was seeing friends, and dating, and doing things in the world.

I don’t remember if I was optimistic about 2020 going into it. I think I was but I can’t find any proof of it.

I’m optimistic about 2021, at least the back half, and this newsletter will be proof of it!

This is the last Mother Jones newsletter you’re going to get from me for a while. When I come back, we’ll see if that prediction came true! (And in the meantime, subscribe to my personal newsletter.)

—Ben Dreyfuss

P.S. Today is the last day of our December fundraising drive. It has been a very hard year for the books at Mother Jones. In the summer we all agreed to pay reductions to stave off layoffs. It would mean the world to us if you could help out. Brian, who does our online membership work, is obsessively downloading reports on this, the biggest day of the year for online fundraising, and sending updates to a handful of us. He says we still need to raise about $55,000 by the end of the day to hit our goal, please help if you can.  Thank you! And happy new year! See you on the other side.

This post was brought to you by the Mother Jones Daily newsletter, which hits inboxes every weekday and is written by Inae Oh, Ben Dreyfuss, and Abigail Weinberg. It regularly features guest contributions by our much smarter colleagues. Sign up for it here.

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