A Piece of My Mind: Groundhog Day? Groundhog Decade?
It’s become a cliché to compare living in the year of COVID-19 lockdown to the movie Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray’s character is doomed to relive the same day over and over until he gets it right. I’ve certainly had that feeling, as Laundry Day seems to come around faster and faster, and the only difference from week to week is what color sheets I put on the bed.
But hey! We’re getting through it, right? I’ve been waiting for the New Normal for a while now, with the anticipation of looking forward, rather than looking back at How Things Used to Be. But this week I had an unsettling discovery which challenges that anticipation.
Like many people, I keep a stack of unread magazines in the bathroom which I am going to get around to reading sooner or later. During lockdown, I made a lot of progress. This week, near the bottom of the unread magazine pile I found an issue of Time from summer, five years ago.
There was a two-page photo spread showing a scorched playground swing among the smoky ruins of a school, one of at least 2400 homes and businesses in a community destroyed by a wildfire.
A lead article talked about how to achieve equity and inclusion for black students at colleges and universities, using the line “Black Students Matter”.
Another article featured edible cutlery as a way to keep plastic waste out of landfills.
An op-ed article discussed how to help your children interact with and understand artificial intelligence.
A second op-ed article worried about how the aging of the Baby Boomers would impact our society, especially if they are siloed in retirement communities and lose engagement with their communities.
The lead articles discussed the need to reform our tax system in order to narrow the wealth gap and the lack of political will to address our crumbling transportation systems. The entertainment section featured an article on the retreat of movie and television drama into endless fantasies where magic and superpowers prevail over reality.
In short, if you changed a few political names, updated the titles of the books, movies, and TV shows, and overlooked the lack of mention of pandemics, there was almost nothing in the magazine that couldn’t have been written this week. I have the horrible suspicion that once I am out of lockdown, the New Normal could just be 2016 over and over again, until we get it right.
There are still a few magazines in my pile, even older than the copy of Time from 2016. I’m going to wait a bit before I look at them, though. If we are stuck in a Groundhog Decade, I don’t think I want to know.
This piece is so interesting to me because, without any evidence, I’ve had that feeling, too. The deja vu sense that nothing has changed and that maybe nothing will. My kids might agree, but they would be ironic about it. At half my age I guess they can’t dwell on these things. But I do and it makes me feel so sad that we don’t seem to be able to do better.