My Wisdom is Your Wisdom

  • Posted on: 11 June 2020
  • By: readersbooks

Some of you send me emails after you read my weekly missives, telling me how thoughtful and affirming I am, how much you look forward to my words of encouragement and/or wisdom. Well, let me now gently disabuse you of those notions.

Okay, let me amend that: I'm glad you feel better. I hope whatever I come up with helps. But I guess what I want you to know is that for me, at least, these essays are an act of pure selfishness. I write them not to enlighten anyone (although if that happens, that's fine, that's just an added perk); I write them for my own sanity. And really, I don't pretend to know any more than you. I have no brilliant solutions, but like you, I read the paper and I turn on the television and I see that things in this country are terribly, horribly out of whack these days.

Everywhere I go, the word "normal" is invoked with a reverence I've never heard before. We crave what is normal. We ache for what is normal.  

That's because it's not normal to have a global pandemic that has killed north of 100,000 Americans and counting. It's not normal to have a government that has such a ham-handed response to our suffering countrymen. 

That's because it's not normal for forty million Americans to be suddenly without work. The pain and anxiety this has generated is unprecedented. For decades, Americans have been told that government is the problem. That we should all be self-reliant.  And now we don't know if we'll ever have our jobs again. We lay awake at night, and in the meantime, our government is printing up money and passing it out like there was no tomorrow.  

That's because it's not normal for there to be two Americas, one for whites and one for people of color. The whole country seems to realize that at last, and the whole country is sickened by the blatant murder of black citizens at the hands of police.

That's because it's not normal that we have a president who is a pathological liar, who refuses to take blame for any of his mistakes, and who, it seems, is genetically incapable of feeling the pain of others. Not only that, he takes childish delight in tossing gasoline onto any story that has his name on it.

None of the above is remotely normal. And what strikes me most is that the bonds, agreements and tacit understandings we've shared since our founding as a society have suddenly, for now, at least-- evaporated. The legal glue, the trust that we thought always held us together through thick and thin, is gone. You see it in the streets of Minneapolis. You see it in the jarring rhetoric of congressional committees. I've been thinking a lot about this. Trust is one of those commodities you can't really put a price tag on, but when it vanishes, that's serious. Democracy depends on trust.    

Yesterday, because I desperately wanted a normal experience again, I drove with a friend out to a restaurant in Napa. And we sat in the sun and ate lunch and a waiter came along and asked if everything was okay and we said yes, it was wonderful (even though the food was only so-so). We smiled and ate and thanked the waiter when he refilled our water glasses and it was just like old times, which is to say, normal. May such days come again.

--Andy Weinberger