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Everything Is Heavier Right Now

Everything Is Heavier Right Now

The hardest part of the moment we’re living through isn’t the wait—it’s the weight.

What a short time ago were the simplest everyday decisions now feel heavy with risk. Do I go into that store? Do I walk on that popular path? Do I visit with others who may calculate risk differently than I do? Do I wipe down that half gallon of milk before it goes in fridge, if it helps me sleep at night?

Even as we second-guess a thousand daily micro decisions that we took for granted in what our son now calls “the before times,” the macro arena has added more weight on our collective shoulders. The daily blizzard of self-serving lies and lunatic conspiracy theories emanating from the current administration feels intended to wear people down, and at times there is no escaping the weight they create: the weight of uncertainty, and weight of knowledge that a malevolent presence occupies the heart of our national life.

At the same time, this country’s long overdue reckoning with systemic racism and structural inequality is as heavy as they come, a national conversation that people have tried to initiate many times over the past seven decades, but never before with the sense of urgency, the degree of honesty, and—in some quarters, at least—the capacity for empathy present today.

All the while, we wait for the scientists and public health officials to lead us out of a rolling disaster that was entirely preventable.

We wait, and absorb the weight of it all—the failure of leadership, yes, but also our collective failure as a society. Our first duty is to our family and loved ones, of course. But our second duty is to each other and to our communities, and too many Americans today don’t seem to view this as a duty at all. There is a virulent strain of selfishness in our society that the infected like to dress up as “freedom” or “independence” as a way of rationalizing their own lack of empathy or sense of responsibility for anyone other than themselves. It’s sociopathy in a red, white and blue mask.

In that sense, this subset of America has found the perfect expression of their ethos in the current administration, a cabal of high-dollar grifters incapable of even pretending to value unity or allegiance to a social contract, choosing instead to fan the flames of division and bleat about personal responsibility while pocketing corporate welfare by the billions.

It’s a lot.

All that weight, plus the weight of isolation, and economic anxiety, and adapting to a world that shifts and heaves under our feet daily as we struggle to maintain our equilibrium. And the weight of the anger that many of us carry about all of this avoidable disruption and its ever-widening ripple effects.

It’s a lot.

Ultimately, though, everything is heavier right now because on a gut level we understand what’s at stake in the weeks ahead: our lives, our communities, our country.

In the midst of all this heaviness, three things have recently made me feel lighter:

  • The Wall of Moms (and Dads, and Vets) in Portland, peaceful protestors and genuine patriots whose collective action personifies the idea that none of us can carry the weight of this moment alone.
  • The powerful words of US Air Force Col. (ret.) Curtis Milam, a stubborn optimist who describes the current administration as “exactly what America needed… a mirror, a warning, and ultimately a catalyst for change… [this administration and its supporters are] a virus, and they have activated our democratic antibodies. What we are seeing in the streets is the body fighting the infection.”
  • And most of all, the eloquent words and remarkable example of Congressman John Lewis, who penned the paragraphs below during the final week of his life, to be published on the day of his funeral:

“Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr…. talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.

“Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.”

The only way we can bear the weight of this moment is together, leaning on each other and supporting one another. And now: onward. Roll your shoulders. Stretch out your neck. Set your jaw, and get ready to carry that weight a little farther. We have work to do.

Comments (4)

  • Barbara

    Wonderful insights Jason. We are all separate, but together, in this fight against the unseen enemy of Covid 19, loneliness and isolation. Keep on enlightening our days with your thoughts.

  • Judy Warburg

    This is so well done, and hits right in the gut. We all feel the weight and it manifests so differently. Thank you for putting into words what we are all feeling.

  • Elisabeth Kersten

    Powerful image of the weight we are all feeling in these days of a worse job g pandemic. Bearing this weight requires cooperative action at a time when we are urged to stay distant. I appreciate so much you highlighting three illustrations of lightening the load—John Lewis’ life, courage and words of encouragement help immensely. Thank you!

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