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Guest column Sophy Burnham: Reader to columnist: ‘There is always hope’

I am stunned and baffled by publication of columnist Richard Fein’s dark and dystopian column “COVID: The pain will be with us for a long time” (June 22), which details all the disasters about to hit us: health, suicide, fear, poverty, unemployment, economic disaster and depression, lack of education, and long-term suffering.

Who was it who once said, “We accept finite disappointment but allow infinite hope?” Since Mr. Fein offers no solution to his dismal view, no independent clause beginning “but” — no ray of hope — I wonder, why write it? For that matter, why publish it? There is always hope.

My parents lived through the Great War, in which tens of thousands of young men “went over the top” in one day, to be mowed down in minutes. Right after World War I came the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, then the Great Depression, then World War II, with the flattening of whole cities like Dresden, London and Berlin, and the killing of 6 million people in concentrations camps, 20 million in Russia, even more millions in China, and after that the fears of imminent atom bomb destruction, and the upheavals and rebellion against the Vietnam War era, in which for the first time ordinary people saw what really happens in war.

And still my parents laughed and played, and joked, and enjoyed their lives. Or think what it was like during the Civil War, with 55,000 soldiers killed in one day at Antietam, and the South left in economic ruin? Or take the French Revolution. Or how about watching Napoleon return from Russia with his army of 500,000 reduced to 5,000 men.

People are infinitely resilient and creative. We survive. We’re like ants. Destroy an ant hill, and you see the ants pour out, each carrying one white egg in its mouth, and within minutes they have started a new ant hill. We do it too.

Moreover, I disagree Fein’s hopeless view. I find this time thrilling. I think we are in a paradigm shift of enormous implications. We are rethinking our values. We are replacing the ancient and violent patriarchy, and outmoded greedy capitalism, with a concern for schools, health, climate, food, air, water, justice even (imagine!) for the heroic poor and less advantaged. We have only to look at the world-wide protests against police brutality to see the implications of this shift in cosmic consciousness.

I don’t demean the suffering and pain. I’m saying that we humans are boundlessly energetic and inventive. We build and create. We inspire. We reach for the stars. We love. Yes, we have troubles and problems to solve, but frankly that’s the human condition on this little planet circling lonesome through space, and the challenge.

It’s whether we will rise to the challenge; and frankly I’m in love with the way we Homo Sapiens struggle to help one another and forge new ways. Don’t worry. It’s going to OK.

Sophy Burnham lives in Northampton.

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