The great eclipse
I'll never forget the Great Eclipse of 2017. Most people, including the planet's scientists, foolishly believe it's still coming up on Aug. 21. But no, the Big One already happened. Don't tell me you missed it?
I really can't blame you if you did. You work in long-term care, which leaves precious little time to stare at the sky when you have residents to care for, therapy to deliver, complex rules to follow and facilities to run.
But while you were doing all that, and God bless you for it, I was watching a different, more frightening phenomenon occur — the total political eclipse. For those who aren't astronomers, here's what happens.
The moon, in this case represented by squabbling politicians and their president, passes obliviously between the urgent, real-world problems of America and the sun of responsible government. Any viable solutions were obscured. Then things get a little dark and frightening for a while.
We've seen many partial political eclipses over the years created by both parties, where selfish interests and ambitions seem to blind them to the possibility of solving actual challenges together. But this one was rumored to be particularly spectacular, and I certainly wasn't going to miss it.
So a little after midnight on July 28, 2017, I slipped into a pair of protective glasses, microwaved some edamame and turned on my favorite fake news channel. Sure enough, through fancy graphics and scary music it was touted as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch the self-serving orbit of a president and his politicians plunge the future of our nation's most vulnerable citizens into darkness.
For the next several hours, I stared unblinking at the screen, aghast with terrified wonder, as Senators clutched to their chests the diabolically-named Better Care Reconciliation Act and moved inexorably across the sky. Slowly, vote by vote, they threatened to come between the needs of seniors and the programs and services that have long sustained them.
Then things happened fast, and the night got scary-black. This was the moment of totality all right — total cruelty, total indifference, total irresponsibility, total political calculation, total ego, total obfuscation — and would have been total disaster for the people we serve. But at the last possible moment, three fearless Republicans lit up the night with a flick of their lighters, the darkness receded, the political moon moved on—at least temporarily—and I went to bed still quivering from the near-death anxiety of it all.
Now everybody's talking about the next eclipse, the one in the actual sky, the one scientists claim will happen on August 21. People are scrambling like it's Y2K all over again—hoarding food, filling cars with gas, writing wills, saying tearful good-byes and huddling in cellars and bomb shelters. They know with certainty that this celestial event will absolutely occur, and they're scrambling to prepare.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, another, more earth-based cataclysm looms with equal and absolute certainly: The continued aging of America. Though the needs of vulnerable citizens increase, leaders do to next to nothing constructively or unselfishly to prepare. Instead, they do what novelist Annie Dillard describes best in her legendary essay, “Total Eclipse.”
“I watched the landscape innocently, like a fool, like a diver in the rapture of the deep who plays on the bottom while his air runs out.”
Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since he began writing for the profession at the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.