The year of our fragility
This is almost four months early.
Ordinarily, Christmas trees are looking peaked, and George Bailey has long since realized that he had a wonderful life when pundits begin to summarize the year and assign it a theme. But given the eight long months of 2020 we’ve already endured, not to mention the awful week just past, waiting seems an unnecessary formality. I’m ready to call it now.
More than any year since 1968, 2020 has been one where things that aren’t supposed to happen happen every day. It has been a year that shook the foundations, when time itself seemed to speed up, as if human events rush toward some terrible climax, our lives carried along like leaves in a stream. It has been a year when we re-discovered how breakable everything really is.
So call this The Year of Our Fragility.
Our healthcare system proved fragile, cracking under the weight of a pandemic.
Our economy proved fragile, breaking like china in an earthquake.
Our social order proved fragile, shattering like shop windows and dreams of equality.
Our freedom of speech proved fragile, splintering beneath an authoritarian heel.
Our government proved fragile, buckling in the face of unmasked fascism.
And twice this year we have been abruptly reminded that our lives are also fragile, that not even the next breath can be taken for granted. It happened in January when basketball legend Kobe Bryant, along with his young daughter and seven others, perished in a helicopter crash. He was only 41. And it happened again last week, when actor Chadwick Boseman died of colon cancer. He was only 43.