It’s 7:30 in the morning, or fifteen minutes after I’ve left the house, the absolute nadir of my morning commute. I’m stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic along the residential thoroughfare, my jaw flexing and hands squeezing the steering wheel, as there are too many parents endeavoring to drop their young children off at the neighborhood school. And all of this takes place before I merge onto interstate seventy, where the probability of another traffic jam is more than fifty percent. But at least there is constant forward momentum along the interstate, even if it is gradual and maddening. Residential traffic jams in school zones were particularly infuriating and disturbing, exercises that test the limits of my patience.
“Ah!” I exclaimed one morning in September. “When did all of these freaking people move into the neighborhood and procreate. You’re all just getting in my way. I wish you would disappear from the road on August through May. Please make my life easier by just going away!”
Five months later, my wish was granted.
A novel coronavirus pandemic swept through the country, causing debilitating sickness, excruciating death, and misery. State and local municipalities were forced to shut down, bars and restaurants were shuttered, gyms were emptied, jobs were lost, grocery shelves were bare, and the schools were closed, making way for virtual learning at home. Many parents were forced to leave stable employment to care fulltime for their children. Other parents who worked from home occupied multiple roles; that of employee, teaching assistant, and stay-at-home parent.
I was one of the lucky ones, as I was able to hold onto my job and maintain my physical and mental health. Plus, I’m single and childless, unencumbered by the responsibilities that came with caring for a child during the pandemic. Apart from donning a mask and washing my hands religiously before exiting the house in the morning, my routine did not change. I continued to drive the same path to work in the morning, but the roads were bare, unrecognizable emblems of the new world that we found ourselves in.
I was dating an educator last May, about the time when America became ground zero in the fight against the advancing coronavirus pandemic. The teacher’s name was Sarah, a red-haired beauty who lived on the other side of my home town. We talked a lot about her experiences in the virtual classroom during our get-togethers, a mixture of virtual and in-person dates. After a particularly stressful day of teaching, she reached out to me via text message, sending a GIF of a frustrated red haired woman overturning a wooden desk. I threw my head back and laughed before dialing Sarah’s cell phone number.
“Hello my love,” I said.
“Hey,” Sarah said, her voice shaking. “How are you doing sweetness?”
“I’m all right. How are you?” I said.
Sarah sighed. “I had a day today.”
“I know you did. I did get your text, and I have to admit that I did laugh , because the GIF you sent was really, really funny.”
Sarah laughed and said, “Yeah. Comedy usually does come from anger.”
“Yes it does. So that’s why I called you, knowing that you probably didn’t have the greatest time teaching today.”
“I so didn’t.”
“So did anything in particular happen?”
“I can’t really point to one occurrence. There are just so many things that contributed to my loathing of the work day. I really don’t like this virtual teaching model, Eze!”
“I know it must be hard for you right now, but you are still giving your all. You are a superhero, my great love. All of you teachers are freaking superheroes.”
“Thank you for saying that. Oh my god! You seem to always to know what to say!”
“You’re welcome. And I am not just saying it to flatter you. You guys are really doing some special work under extraordinary circumstances. I can’t imagine teaching right now.”
“You were a great teacher, Eze. I’m sure you could have done it if you needed to.”
“I don’t know, Sarah. I remember teaching being hard ten years ago.”
“But you still made it though. You were renewed.”
“I just hope I’m not teaching virtually for the next few years!”
“Well, that depends on who is president. If Trump is still president after the first of next year, then I don’t have any hope. We’re in this situation because of the damn fool. He’s so freaking clueless. He wants us to inject bleach into our arms, Sarah. Bleach. Injected. Into. Peoples’. Arms.”
“I know,” said Sarah, sighing.
“We got to get him out of office if we want our lives back.”
“Let’s hope that we make the right decision next time.”
“Yeah, let’s hope.”
“I feel better now that I’ve talked to you.”
“Awesome. You know that you always can talk to me.”
Donald Trump was soundly defeated by Joe Biden last November, providing a balm for a broken heart — my relationship with Sarah had fallen apart a month before the election. Biden went right to work after being sworn into office, rescinding dozens of Trump’s executive orders, symbols of cruelty, malice, and historical incompetence. After wiping out the majority of Trump’s “legacy” with the stroke of his pen, Biden and the Democrats in congress enacted the American Rescue Plan, a nearly two trillion-dollar piece of legislation designed to keep people in their homes, cut child poverty in half, buttress the child income tax credit, and increase the efficiency and efficacy of our response to the Covid-19 disaster.
Ah yes, the response to Covid-19, the barometer upon which the first year of Biden’s presidency would be judged. The American people were fed up with the Covid-19, the bane of our collective existence, and we looked to the new president for strength, competence, and guidance. Of course Joe Biden, derided as “sleepy” by his predecessor, was cognizant of the expectations of the American people in this regard. So, Biden took charge of the situation, utilizing the Defense Production Act to buy millions of vaccines, setting ambitious vaccination goals for the country, and trusting the science.
Before long, the number of people receiving a Covid-19 vaccine increased exponentially, contributing to a drastic decrease in the number cases and deaths. As the weather became warmer in 2021, municipalities throughout the country eased restrictions, paving the way for struggling businesses to open their doors to the reemerging public. What about the viability of our teachers and educational institutions? Schools are going to be open for students in the fall of this year, prompting a flooding of cars onto the roads in September. Weary parents will be afforded their first rest break in more than a year. I’m looking forward to navigating the traffic jams in the coming months, as they will be a sign of how far we have come.
Recently, Mr. Biden reasserted American leadership , announcing an impending donation of five hundred million Covid-19 vaccine doses to countries in need. Wind the clock back a year, to the previous month of June, when “President” Donald Trump and his maladroit administration were driving the response to the pandemic, and were finding new ways to mishandle the management of this crisis every single day. What if America has chosen to reelect Trump, thereby continuing the nightmare that had been foisted onto the entire world by the malicious and misguided? Selfish and venal Trump, promoter of a perverted form of nationalist pride, could not have recognized the inherent advantage that will come with donating these vaccine dosages; that of America being perceived as a generous actor and a vital member of the world community, able to leverage our resources to maintain our status as the leader of the free world. Perhaps Trump would have tried to exact payment before agreeing to ship vaccines to Africa and Asia, where many countries currently lack the necessary infrastructure to develop and administer a Covid-19 vaccine. Yeah, that’s exactly what he would have done, demand payment for a vaccine from desperate people while proclaiming “America first.”
Donald Trump would have Made America Selfish again, a cynical and hateful country, one looked upon by the rest of the world as past its prime, a second banana to China and Russia — both of these countries began distributing vaccines to the rest of the world before the United States.
Thank goodness for Joe Biden, a good man who is capable of growth and reflection. He is remaking the composition of our court system, nominating and confirming judges who reflect an increasingly diverse America; he is accurately representing America’s interest at the G7 summit; he is reestablishing alliances with European partners; he is protecting our right to vote; and he is negotiating an infrastructure plan and producing a national budget that will uplift traditionally disadvantaged Americans — the elderly, disabled, and the poor.
Be patient. Joe Biden is going to make America great.
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