Good-bye, 2020, and the horse you rode in on. Go, and take your grief and sorrow with you. Let our elders rest in peace, our little ones go back to school and our college students get on with beginning their adult lives. Let our seniors dare to set foot in a grocery store, our families gather to celebrate holidays and milestones.
Free our nurses and doctors, teachers and EMS workers, shopkeepers, clerks and waiters from the constant anxiety that earning a living might result in an untimely death. Lift this burden on those who give the most and risk the most.
We could be done with all this by now, but no, we are a country of “freedom” with the right to flout the rules, skip the masks and kill our neighbors. Freedom that has plunged hundreds of thousands of people into endless yearning over friends and family lost to a largely preventable disease. For those of us lucky enough to have escaped a direct hit (so far), opportunities to work in our PJs, learn to Zoom, make sourdough bread and spend more time with our kids do not make up for all we’ve lost.
In 2021, we have a choice. We can proceed with doing what we’re doing and expecting different results, the definition of insanity, or we can let go of the anger and defiance and try going along with public health recommendations. We could at least give it a chance.
President Donald Trump and his administration ignored every bit of guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and carried on with meetings, parties and travel as though the pandemic did not exist. Same for many members of Congress. When they became ill, which many of them did, they were delighted to find it was no big deal thanks to treatment not available to the rest of us. You? Don’t wait for the helicopter. It’s not coming.
Now comes the vaccine, and the very people who refused to set an example for the rest of us are shoving their way to the front of the line. They are doing this for our own good, showing us that the vaccine is safe and we should all get it. Except we can’t. There isn’t enough to go around.
Thank you to the Maine delegation, all four of them, who chose to step back and wait their turns. Dirigo! Even the Senator, who shall be nameless, whose age qualified him for early vaccination, chose to wait.
Our federal representatives finally offered a grudging hand to the common man, though it was too little, too late. It was a hard-fought battle to win a pittance of money for the frightening percentage of Americans unemployed or underemployed, homeless and hungry. Democrats described the extension of jobless benefits as a lifeline to those with no income. Republicans eschewed the idea of forking over money willy-nilly for people to sit at home.
“We should never pay people not to work,” said Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. President Donald Trump himself called it a “disincentive to work.” Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) said many in his caucus agree.
And they are right! We know this to be true because look at Congress. Members are paid $174,000 a year, and do they work? No, they do not! Take away that $174,000 and you’ll see them up off their duffs, working like fiends!
Um, no? A bipartisan proposal sought to give members of Congress a “cost of living” raise of $4,500 that, according to Republican theory, gives Congress further disincentive to work. Instead, it will be photo ops, press conferences, hearings and a continuing absence of anything that looks like work. Passing a budget that lasts for more than 48 hours, for instance. Or giving some long overdue help to the Americans now waiting for hours in food lines all over the country. That would be work.
It was Congressman Jared Golden of Maine who stood up on this one, calling the proposal “shockingly out of touch.” Aye right, Jared! He was joined by one colleague, Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, who said: “Congress needs a reality check, not a raise.” They felt the wrath of their seniors in D.C., which seemed to trouble them not a bit. Two were enough; the provision was pulled.
Also in the relief package was an increase of the amount that may be written off on business meals from 50 percent to 100 percent. Wait! What about “Don’t pay people not to work”? Now you’re paying them to have lunch while they’re not working?
Fighting over whether $600 is “too much” for the unemployed, whether $174,000 is “too little” for members of Congress and whether a mere 50 percent deduction is suitable for a business lunch? There’s 2020, D.C. style, in a nutshell. Good riddance.
Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.