My Turn: Hope springs eternal

  • DANIEL BROWN

Published: 2/2/2021 12:22:30 PM

It’s been seven years since I moved away from the Pioneer Valley, but I still remember when springtime arrives there. First, the crocuses pop out of the snow, bringing color to the bleak winter landscape. The maple sugar houses begin burning their long wooden planks signaling time for my annual pilgrimage to Gould’s Sugarhouse for a ceremonial breakfast of sausage and waffles smothered in butter and syrup. The Red Sox take the field and we fans rekindle the joys of yelling at our television sets during the post-season.

The peepers, sadly missing in New Mexico, peep their splendid evening song and fresh green grass lines one of my favorite spots on earth, the Connecticut River Valley in Gill. Those living in Shelburne or Turners Falls get serenaded at night by the roar of the rivers cascading over their dams. By mid-May, the trees, having sprouted their new leaves, show the brightest green of the season. The weather, poised between the gloomy grAy of winter and the hazy humidity of summer is perfect.

The spring of 2021 promises to be like no other. If all goes well, the twin horrors of COVID and Trumpism will diminish and we Americans will shake off the anxiety of the past years. On the day of Joe Biden’s and Kamala Harris’s inauguration, many reported sighs of relief and the unclenching of tightened muscles. I would guess that many Republicans were secretly relieved to be free of Trump’s daily assault on their psyches. A man who spends his days tweeting insults at others isn’t “Telling it like it is.” He’s suffering from some rare form of mental illness.

Although Trump is gone, the cancer of white supremacy mixed with conspiracy lunacy remains. While it existed long before the former president, Trump gave it the green light to metastasize. Despite that, America will survive. Our history is a schizophrenic mix of hope, oppression, liberty and violence. And yet, refugees still come to America, as my ancestors did more than a century ago.

As far as COVID, I admit that I’m tired of masks, social distancing and Zoom calls. If the remainder of my life is doomed to “virtual” events, I will go stark raving mad. I obey these strictures only because as an amateur historian, teacher and former general aviation pilot, facts are to be respected despite my own personal feelings.

But I miss human contact and interactions. When COVID first appeared in Taos last March, our mayor Dan Barrone went on local radio and observed that the hardest thing for Taoseños in the coming months would be the inability to hug each other. Taos, with its predominantly Hispanic population is a very huggy community. One of the joys of teaching at the local elementary school was having the kids and their teachers routinely hug each other. We would hug hello and good-bye or just meeting in the hallways. No embraces were forced or mandated; it was just an intimate part of the culture here. It made the kids feel that the school staff was their extended family. Which we were.

As the year progresses, maybe we will all be able to partake in a nationwide group hug. It seems impossible now in these divided times, but contrary to the pundits saying that the last time we were so divided was the Civil War, I would disagree and mention 1970. During that critical year, with the Vietnam War and Civil Rights struggle pushing Americans to the breaking point, it seemed to me that the United States was on the verge of self-destruction. The Chicago police riot at the 1968 Democratic Convention and the Kent State Massacre two years later — which a majority of Americans approved of — were evidence to young people like myself that the system was about to collapse and it was time to create alternatives.

That collapse, however, never came. Americans backed away from the edge and the Seventies became the decade of frivolity, disco and awful clothing fashions. We survived that as well.

We Americans need a break. While I have my doubts that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will magically heal and unify our fractured nation, perhaps the American people can. To quote from the transcendent young poet, Amanda Gorman, “When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Daniel A. Brown lived in Franklin County for 44 years and is a frequent contributor to the Recorder. He lives in Taos, New Mexico with his wife, Lisa and dog, Cody.

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