As the reality of an indefinite psychological marathon descended, many newspaper writers began to count their blessings, in articles tinged with both gratitude and fear.
“There have been a lot of losses in recent months, including transport on public buses, cycling because the cycle path is destroyed, the library is closed. … When I hear that this could go on for another year, I feel desperate. But I’m taking it one day at a time and I’m thankful that I can pay my bills, have a roof over my head, and have figured out how to get food so far. – 70-year-old retired woman from Michigan.
In their preliminary analysis, Dr Mason and Dr Willen found that expressions of guilt, privilege and gratitude emerge early in the epidemic and appear in about a third of the 530 English-speaking contributors in total. Ten of these columnists devoted most of their articles to give thanks – for what they have, and to see what they took for granted.
“Part of it is white liberal guilt, feeling bad about doing right when so many aren’t,” Dr. Mason said. “But we have a lot of people of color who are not privileged, and they feel guilty for a slightly different reason. They see family members dying, losing their jobs and not being able to pay their rent. “
A summer of protests, fires and existential terror
“The world feels like it is imploding again with the murder of black and brown people by the police, children murdering innocent protesters, teachers scared to go to schools, the economy continues to collapse, a hurricane. It’s overwhelming … we’re all sick of it. – Nonprofit worker and mother in her 40s from New Jersey
Over the summer, Covid-19 epidemics swept across much of the country, even as Black Lives Matter protesters took to the streets in more than 400 towns and villages. In August, California was in flames, ravaged by one of the worst wildfires on record. And it all seemed to fuel an increasingly wicked and deeply polarized presidential campaign that escalated through September and October.
Many people, especially the young columnists, were ready to shout. “At this point, selfish as it sounds, I’d rather be homeless than spend another day in this house,” wrote a young woman, a late teenage student from New York City. “It might sound dramatic and I might be angry, but I’m done with it.
Newspapers swell and recede like a living organism, spreading the growing sense that the world is pulling away from its moorings. “The record high temperature in Death Valley reminds me to remember the desperation over the climate crisis,” wrote another woman, a software engineer in her 50s from California. “The pandemic made it seem like everything fell apart.”