Thanksgiving & the Holidays, Here in Pandemic Time, Year 2



The high school I attended as a youth has since been demolished. It was outdated, and too difficult to upgrade. The heating system never worked properly. Three floors, not an elevator in the place. It was here in a room on the second floor where I took the gun safety course at 11 or 12. Yes, back then, these courses were indeed offered in school buildings, as a prerequisite to a hunting license. They ended with supervised live fire at a rifle range and a trap range, for shotgun shooting. Hard to believe now, right? Bordering on incredible.

My school class had 143 students, if memory serves, but I could be off by a couple. A few of the young men, I know, liked to fight. Most of them, certainly everyone who worked on a farm, carried a pocket knife. And, as I reflect on the time since, I don’t think any of them ended up in prison, or shooting or knifing anyone, or being shot. Most of the boys and a good number of the girls took the hunter safety course.

I thought of this the past weekend, as I pondered the verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse case. I’m not going to dive into the self-defense argument and whether it was justified or made sense, either common sense or legal sense. But here’s what I think. We have two many semi-automatic guns with high capacities in the hands of people who are not trained to use them, and who do not appreciate the gravity and the cost of using them. Not one of these things is a good thing. If we actually were to operate with the bipartisanship everyone talks about, we’d do something about this.

Alas, we won’t, and those things will continue to be true. And this: We have now taken all mention of, and instruction about, firearms out of the classroom. And young men like Rittenhouse think they are in a videogame, where it’s just like playing combat, until they take the headphones off and grab a soda and some chips. The gravity and impact of using a firearm are never appreciated, never taken in.

All in all, it’s grim, damned grim. ~

So many of our small businesses have done yeoman’s work the past two years. To cite one sector: I think we have long underestimated the vital role of pharmacists and local drug stores in our health care system, perhaps especially so during the pandemic. I have found them to be a tremendous resource, including for a recent vaccine booster that was super-easy. In this time of Thanksgiving, a kind word for their dedication is surely in order.

Hard to believe we are in Year 2 of this, yes? We have a vaccine, and now we have boosters, so there is that. But our health care system borders on broken, and may in fact already be breaking down in parts of our nation. I do not think we can put this much stress on onefifth of the economy and still think it will continue to hum along. Get vaccinated if you aren’t. Get a booster. Get a flu shot. Help out the system. The unvaccinated will need those hospital beds. ~

I had a call this past week, from a subscriber, who wanted to talk about my use of the word “insurrection.” He believed it was unjustified, that the word didn’t match the circumstances. We had an eminently pleasant discussion, maybe 10 minutes or so, and covered the waterfront, including our national debt and whether congressional staffers actually, in fact, knew the amount of the national debt. We thought that most did not.

But at the end of the day, I said we’d have to agree to disagree on insurrection. I agree that words are important, that they carry tremendous weight. I intend that weight in this case. I was gravely concerned on Jan. 6 and I still am. We came awfully close, I believe we were moments away, from worse violence, possibly even the vice president or lawmakers being killed.

My partner and I watched it unfold, as many of you did, live. I don’t think insurrection is too strong a word. I don’t believe these were tourists. I don’t think it was just a civil protest. The people who scaled walls with zip ties and climbed in windows and used flag poles as sticks to strike police officers and communicated via earpieces and sprayed bear spray at cops, they knew exactly what they were doing. They were taking part in an insurrection. The fact that it ultimately failed — and thank God it did — does not make it less so.

Until next week.

I’m Douglas Cunningham and I’m the editor of the Courier and the Putnam County News and Recorder in Cold Spring. Reach me at, or 845.265.2468.

Letters are welcome, even those about the insurrection. Send to 500 words or less.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *