Susan Steen

Susan Steen

“Strange times are these in which we live when old and young are taught falsehoods in school. And the person that dares to tell the truth is called at once a lunatic and fool” — Plato

That was the funniest thing ever, thanks!

I really needed to laugh, thanks!

I can’t believe this is 2020, thanks for the laugh!

While it wasn’t my writing, I shared a post on social media that was putting 2020 in a nutshell. It was written with such a humorous approach that it was hard not to laugh, even though it was sadly true. We are living in strange times, it seems, and if you blink you might miss one of the latest happenings.

This week, I thought I’d take a serious look at all that has happened this year as we have survived a lot of strangeness, disease and uncertainty. We can listen to Plato’s words, yet we still find ourselves wondering which person is daring to tell the truth and who is teaching falsehoods.

The truth of 2020 has so far been: nothing is the way it has ever been before. So many people have been out of work, out of food, afraid of getting sick and some have died. We won’t really know how many deaths were strictly from COVID-19 for a while, but it stands to reason that many people with underlying diseases might have survived if not for contracting COVID-19.

People die every day. Without the virus, more than 150,000 die each day around the world. In some countries, such as the United States, England, Spain and the Netherlands, the increase in deaths this year has been so much greater than previous years for the same period of time that there is no doubt COVID-19 is to blame.

What is it? It is a virus. I’ve heard many people claim that its name is based on the fact that there were 18 other versions before it, but that is not true. COVID-19 comes from: CO = corona, VI = virus, D = disease, and 19 = 2019. It is officially the 2019 novel coronavirus.

If you research a bit more, you will discover that there are many different types of coronaviruses, and this is new or novel. That means we, and more importantly scientists, don’t know a lot about how the virus behaves. What we hope will stop it in its tracks has changed as weeks have passed and the virus has changed or mutated. There is much we don’t know, so for us to argue about absolutes is kind of silly.

In January, our friends in Australia were fighting bushfires. Do you remember that? It was so sad and scary to be watching from afar, but I remember seeing caring people giving water to koalas that were parched.

One of the people in my photography group lives in Australia and created a self-portrait of himself as a firefighter, drawing my attention even more to their frightening reality. Millions, possibly a billion, of animals died in those fires, along with homes, and human lives. 

Also in January, the World Health Organization learned that COVID-19 was in China and had begun possibly as early as the previous November. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced they would be leaving their duties in the royal family, and an impeachment trial for the president of the United States began.

On Jan. 20, the United States had its first case of the virus, and on Jan. 26 we learned that several precious lives were lost in a helicopter crash, including Kobe Bryant, and then the United Kingdom left the European Union. That was in January.

I don’t know about you, but it’s all a blur to me to look back on that one month. I helped my mother move, took her for one surgery at the first of the month and a hip replacement at the end of the month. In the unpacking and rehabilitating, I didn’t pay attention to much else going on in the world. Can you think back to that month that was so long ago?

From February until the end of June, the world has lived through riots in India, Hong Kong and across the United States (and in much of the world) for many different reasons. Most of us have been glued to the daily number of cases of COVID-19 and the number of deaths. Many have said it was all a media hoax; others have stayed home because they haven’t known enough to trust being in public.

I had just come home from seeing my son when we were told we could no longer see people, for the most part. My mother has been in quarantine where she lives, I’ve continued working from home, my husband and I sat through “Tiger King” and wondered what we might have better done with that time instead.

As spring moved along, there were Africanized Bees (around 40,000 of them) swarming in Texas, Murder Hornets in Washington, reports of UFOs, the possible death (or at least absence) of Kim Jong Un and then real deaths. The video showing the death of Ahmaud Arbery, followed by the video of the murder of George Floyd, followed by the reminder of the murder of Breonna Taylor all hit at once. Most of America and many other countries broke down and stood up to say they couldn’t take any more of the senseless deaths and unfair treatment in everyday life for the past 400 years or so of People of Color/Black people.

People who were tired of hearing how they might be the ones with the advantages because of the color of their skin (mainly Southern white people) began growing almost as loud demanding that statues and memorials to Civil War “heroes” remain standing.

And here we are in July. I don’t know what lies ahead, but I know that we have an opportunity to pull together as people pulled together to help those in Australia and as people pulled together to support healthcare workers who have been exhausted.

We have an opportunity to listen to each other because whether you are Black or White, masked or maskless, working or jobless, we are THE United States of America (and we are THE WORLD). There is no better time than now for us to prove to the naysayers how together we are in living according to truth and kindness toward and compassion for our fellow humans. 

Susan Black Steen is a writer and photographer, a native Tennessean and a graduate of Austin Peay State University. With a firm belief that words matter, she writes and speaks to bring joy, comfort and understanding into each life. Always, she writes from her heart in hopes of speaking to the hearts of others.

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