There is something comforting about a comprehensive snowstorm impacting 100 million Americans, causing whiteout conditions, shoveling galore and snow days for those still going to school, with Buffalo and Western New York as only a supporting player. New York City got it hard this week, with tales not of snow shovels but of sleds and other sliding devices sold. Washington got it so hard that television reporters stood at intersections dressed like Bernie Sanders. Boston – well, Boston always gets it hard.
Western New York was on the periphery of this one. Twenty-five degrees and about an inch of snow in my driveway at the moment, and that’s under-par for February. I fear we are losing our reputation as a strong and sturdy people inured to lives of robust confidence and appreciation of life in all its manifestations, and becoming merely another part of America known primarily for football loyalty and expressive cuisine.
Still, sitting out a snowstorm has its advantages. You get to watch others battling the weather on television, and learning that New York City has 1,300 snowplows, the majority of which are roadworthy. You develop a degree of smugness, watching the unprepared deal with the sort of disaster you typically regard as a bump in the road. Comedian Mark Russell, who grew up in Buffalo, once coined one about his hometown on the topic: “The weak live elsewhere.”
There is something comforting in watching Congressional Republicans beginning to behave like Republicans again, in questioning the cost of the next round of pandemic-related economic rescues. After the national debt ballooned by trillions – no, I do not refer to the Reagan administration, but that of the other guy – 10 of 50 Republicans in the Senate think a pared-down package of national relief is more appropriate than what the Biden administration demands, so they went to the White House to explain it. Imagine Democrats going to the White House en masse to explain anything, circa 2017-2021, and you’ll see why this may be a harbinger of a return to Republican concentration on one of the pillars of their raison d'être, lowered spending, the sort of thing we expected from them prior to their party-wide nervous breakdown.
It may or may not work out for those 10 GOP senators, but they are displaying some traditional Republican ideals. Plenty of people disagree with those ideals but it is behaving more like a political party and less like a cult, and that’s a good thing.
It is comforting to know that the national effort is now on vaccinating Americans instead of reporting their stunning death tolls. If I had a beer every time someone used the phrase “grim milestone” on television, well, my drinking game technique would deteriorate rapidly. This is a country which knows how to move things rapidly – those socks you ordered from Land’s End, the letter on your table which needs to be signed and in California by tomorrow -- and the inability to deliver vaccines from where they are housed to where they are needed is disappointing. It did not take long for the Greatest Country on Earth to move from excellence to a simple eagerness for examples of competence – guess what I blame for that – but the effort is finally being expended to get active vaccines into active American arms, like something actually approaching life and death hinges on it.
Ah, competence. There remain pockets of it in this country. The way those Social Security checks go out like clockwork. The way General Motors committed itself last week to a future without gasoline, although it should be noted that the history of the U.S. car industry cites numerous examples of companies betting it all on a single roll of the production line, a reason some thrive and others are named Studebaker, Packard or Pierce-Arrow. The way first responders, well, respond. We never noticed it until lately, and if you learn what they are typically paid you’ll wonder why they do it, and then you’ll think about it and understand why they do it.
There are bright spots, like stars, over America, and admittedly, even in the best of times things were not ideal. It has always been the place, though, seeking a “more perfect union,” which is the line in the Constitution right after “We the people.” We aspire to but do not expect Perfect, but the world knows to assume Very, Very Good when it comes to watching and dealing with this country and its citizens.
There is some bold action going on, largely because we require bold action. I suspect that we’re also tired and bored of pessimism.
We get bored easily in this country.
Contact Ed Adamczyk at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.