Our “unprecedented” times

For many Americans, these are “unprecedented times” because the times are often better than we realize. For those who found this year startling and surprising, the hard parts have exposed us to hard realities that some people always face. Those of us who felt shut-in and alienated have had a taste of the reality we normally reserve for the elderly. Some of us have been newly afraid of illness or unhappy to be “forced” to wear masks. In any year, cancer patients and immune-compromised individuals wear masks and worry about contagion. Unemployment and food insecurity have increased, but 20% of children were food insecure in my county in 2017. We have seen small businesses go out of business and worried about their employees, but 50% of small businesses fail within five years even before the pandemic. In Hamlet, Hamlet exclaimed that “the time is out of joint” after learning that his uncle murdered his father. As Orwell wrote, “to the poor, all times are out of joint.” — Elizabeth Stice

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