I’m just going to say it, to get it out of the way. We’re not ‘fine.’ No one is. Not in these times.
I’m not being a bleeding heart socialist Millennial, either, when I say this. The whole Western world is struggling in new ways, even if a lot of our problems are cyclical, or still drenched in privilege. But that’s part of the subtle art of trying to make everything about our current normal ‘fine.’ It’s how people cope. We look to the future hoping it will all be better by then – that the pandemic’s Second Wave won’t materialize, that the rules of social distancing might be a memory by the end of the year, or that the land below Canada won’t combust and burn our house down with it. But we’re also anxious about the possibility that trying to return to the way things were, too quickly, will only make things worse.
We try to reconcile feelings of sadness, ennui, or fear with our privilege and, with empathy towards the fact that others are probably struggling, we compartmentalize our own emotional response to the world as we see it and we try to act ‘fine.’ Maybe if we say we’re okay, it might materialize, but ultimately, it might be guilt that prevents us from admitting all the ways in which 2020 is changing us, however subtle these changes are.
Politically speaking, whether you follow the scientists or the capitalists most closely regarding a return to business as usual, neither side is more fine than the other. Some are anxious to get back to work and to eat out in restaurants again, to get the economy moving; others are anxious about prioritizing the economy over public health.
And now, protests against racially-motivated police brutality, ostensibly about George Floyd but in reality so much bigger than one murdered man in America, have been infiltrated by provocateurs, both organized and opportunist, seeking to defend the status quo or force revolution. Which extreme these infiltrators are coming from depends entirely whom you ask.
Canadians with short memories are watching what’s happening with a sense of superiority despite the way Canada buries the realities of its abuses against First Nations people and communities, which continue to this day. Some want us to believe that what’s happening in America is not our problem, but that also ignores what Canadian people of colour have been telling us for centuries – racism in Canada is everywhere, including within our system of law enforcement.
And we can’t snap our fingers and make any of what’s dragging us down, slowly, subtly, pervasively, in 2020 any better. There’s no easy fix. We’re stuck watching, waiting, hoping, and this powerlessness is chipping away at the ‘fine’ facade we build around ourselves. If you’re anything like me, you cried when Bob and Doug left the atmosphere in one piece because, fuck, has 2020 needed some good news or what?
Recently, I had a bit of a personal breakthrough on this. I identified the people in my life who would not judge me for being honest about how the past three months have affected me. I shared of myself, unburdened by any guilt of privilege, and I learned I was not alone. It doesn’t mean I write this blog with a sense of “and now I’m actually fine, people!” It doesn’t work like that. But honesty and communication are the keys here; the absence of both are how we lie to ourselves about how we’ll all manage, individually and as a community, to get through this ridiculously stressful time.