On being ... a needed respite

By Ingrid Sapona

Many have commented that since January 20th they feel as though a weight has been lifted off them. I’ve been feeling the same way. The silence from the Twittersphere and the change in tone of words coming out of the White House is a welcome relief. I guess this is what it feels like when bullying finally stops. Still, it’s sad to think about the damage done to our individual and collective souls over the past four years.

I think much of the world felt reassured – if not relieved – at having witnessed the peaceful transition of power in the U.S. Though such transitions are something Americans had taken for granted for over two centuries, Trump had conditioned many to expect the unthinkable. 

Given that all I really wanted was a day with no violence, I certainly didn’t expect the Inauguration to be memorable beyond seeing Biden and Harris sworn in. But, like many, I was overwhelmed by the words – and wisdom – of National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman. 

Over the past few years, I’ve written about my general loss of hope for the future. But seeing and hearing Gorman helped me feel that maybe there is cause for optimism. She made me think that maybe the youth of the world have the energy, enthusiasm, and intelligence necessary to change the world for the better. Maybe they aren’t as tired and weary as me… 

I’ve been pleased that others too have pointed to Ms. Gorman’s poem as a beacon of hope. Here’s a bit of commentary by three Canadian professors who wrote about the inspiring recitation: 

“Gorman moved many in a time of geopolitical uncertainty and a pandemic with the power of critical hope, something that combats hollow positivity. In the words of educator and literary theorist Ira Shor, critical hope asks us to ‘challenge the actual in the name of the possible.’.”  

So yes, over the past few weeks there have been bright spots worth savoring. But let’s not forget that there are still 7,000 National Guard troops in Washington, D.C. and CBS News reports the number will be drawn-down to 5,000 through mid-March. How sad that that many troops will be needed in the U.S. Capitol for at least six more weeks! That says a lot. And if that’s not troubling enough, the other day the Department of Homeland Security issued a threat bulletin due to the ongoing potential for violence, including concerns that Domestic Violent Extremists (DVEs) “may be emboldened by the January 6, 2021 breach of the U.S. Capitol Building”. According to the bulletin, the heightened threat environment extends “across the United States”. I want to believe that Gorman is right that there is always light, but I fear danger’s is lurking in the shadows.

And of course, Covid-19 hasn’t taken a breather like the rest of us. If anything, it’s working harder to prevail. Besides the ever climbing number of infections and the staggering death toll*, mutations are preventing public health officials, pharmaceutical companies, and front-line workers from feeling any relief in the pandemic war. 

Though the feeling of being able to breathe easier and sleep better that many of us have felt since the Inauguration is definitely welcome, let’s not mistake it for more than a welcome respite. And, though I hope we can ride this wave of positivity for awhile yet, keep in mind that, by definition, respites are temporary. In the meanwhile, however, let’s use this calm to refill our wells of compassion, patience, and creativity so that we’re strong enough to meet the challenges that lie ahead. 

© 2021 Ingrid Sapona 

*World-wide there have been over 2.2 million deaths to date and the U.S. the death toll has increased 100,000 in the month since I wrote: On being … too much in 2020.


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