Today marks the extended “Labor Day” weekend holiday in the United States, Thursday-Monday. America’s ‘May Day’ is officially Monday but everyone takes the whole long weekend off.
Vacations end, schools reopen, the fall sports season begins, the culture season with operas and symphonies begin in the great cities… Well, not now. Covid continues to wreck havoc on America; only about half the country is fully vaccinated. Some vaccine is going to waste. How could this be?
I know there are divisions all over the world. Until recently I thought of the tribes in Kenya as the most divisive social groupings in the world. I just couldn’t understand why my educated, empathetic, generous Kenyan staff was unable to shake their tribal prejudices.
But now I’m experiencing first-hand something even worse: the cultural division in America between my group of “liberals” and the “conservatives.”
It isn’t ground in ancestry, like Kenyan tribes. There’s really no biological or deeply historical basis like colonization, however unjustified even those are. No it’s visceral, a recent cleavage in American society.
And it’s so deep I don’t see any possible mending.
This isn’t a difference of opinion. It’s a difference of reality. Take the CDC, for instance, the Center for Disease Control, which has been so influential and visible during the pandemic.
My side, the liberals, trusts the CDC and its scientists and administrators implicitly. The other side, the conservatives, believes it’s a liberal or “socialist” conspiracy of lies to retain power, truly something treasonous.
The banal conservative news anchor, Tucker Carlson, refers constantly to the CDC as the “Center for Disinformation & Confusion.” As this is the foundation on which more than 3 million viewers watch him nightly on Fox News, distrusting the vaccine, distrusting masking and other government-recommended mitigation becomes a rational position.
The days begin to shorten at Labor Day. Where I live in the “Driftless Area” of the upper Midwest near the Mississippi river we currently enjoy 13 hours of sunlight, but that’s shrinking by nearly 3 minutes a day until December 21 when we’ll have less than 9 hours.
Our great green forests are beginning to change color. Soon there will be piles of brown and red leaves on the ground where now there are only scattered yellow leaves. The sumac will turn a deep red, elm yellow, maple become blood red and oak a warm, deep orange.
Many species of birds that nest and spend the summer in the far north are flying south through our area, and many of our own resident species are beginning to gather in large flocks before they fly south, too. A month ago my area had around 180 resident bird species, many which were still nesting. A month from now that will be nearer 80, for those are the only birds that know how to live through winter.
Before we know it the forests will be leafless, great sculptures of sticks and the crackly ground beneath them will be covered in snow.
But if you live on the “other side” from my liberal reality, none of the foregoing is necessarily true, and there’s nothing I can say to convince any of them, even as the sun slips lower and lower into the southern horizon.