It's the Flyer's annual Best of Memphis issue. Cynics among you might say being the best of anything in 2020 is like being named least homely stray dog at Memphis Animal Services. But they would be wrong. There truly is a lot to be grateful for in this seemingly unending stretch of masked weeks and days. We Memphians, along with millions of other Americans, are the living embodiment of the old cliché: "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."
Thousands of us — businesses large and small, organizations, nonprofits, families, and individuals — have struggled and experimented and tried to learn how to adapt and scrap and hustle in order keep the bills paid, to keep some sort of revenue coming in, to survive until better times return. We've innovated; we've created hundreds of new side-hustles; we've found new opportunities in the darkest hours and the oddest places. We're doing our Best.
Those of us who are lucky are getting by — juggling childcare, education, work, and tight financial straits, though there's no clear end in sight. We're working from our kitchens and bedrooms and dens. We're spending hours staring at computer screens filled with our co-workers' faces in little boxes, like some Bizarro World version of Hollywood Squares. We're living in Zoomland! We're making plans, discussing business, and talking smack on Slack.
Millions of Americans and thousands of Memphians are now "front-line" workers — keeping food and supplies on the shelves of our stores, teaching our children, carrying our mail, delivering our packages, treating the sick and dying in our hospitals. Thousands of people working behind cash registers and steering wheels and server aprons are risking their health to pay their bills, to feed and shelter their families. They wear masks because they come in contact with hundreds of people and are exposed to the virus on a daily basis.
They deserve our respect and gratitude — respect we show by wearing masks to help protect them and their families. It's the Best thing we can do, and millions of us are doing it — something that visibly demonstrates that we Americans, we Memphians, are still capable of caring for others, still capable of working together for the common good.
We're living through a sea-change year, one that will be examined and analyzed in future history books. Was 2020 the end of a short, strange, scary, and aberrant era? Or was it the beginning of the country's descent into even more chaos and disruption and tribal antipathy? With any luck, we will know a week from now. And frankly, given how 2020 has gone thus far, we are way overdue for some luck.
Either way the presidential election goes, the remaining two months of 2020 will likely be very difficult. President Trump will remain in office until January, at least, meaning there will probably continue to be very little national leadership on tackling the coronavirus, which is surging again. If Trump loses the election, God knows what kind of chaos will be unleashed from the White House in the next two months. I can't imagine it will be pleasant. The best scenario is that he'll just go play golf. We can always hope.
If the Senate flips blue, the current Senate will have little incentive to do anything proactive about the virus — or anything else — and will probably just leave the whole mess — COVID, deficit, healthcare — for the next Senate to deal with. Mitch McConnell will go home, count his money, and ponder what it means to turn blue.
The holidays are coming, traditionally a time for getting together with our families — for children, parents, grandparents, and others to gather around the dinner table, to hug and tell stories, to give thanks for another year. That won't happen for a lot of us in 2020. Traveling around the country will be difficult and even dangerous, particularly for older folks. Cramming a dozen people from all over into a single room is playing with fire. If you're going to do it, get everybody tested first, unless you want to remember 2020 as Meemaw's last Christmas.
Those 225,000 COVID deaths (and counting) have touched the lives of millions of Americans, when you consider that most of those who've left us had friends and family who cared about them and who will miss them, especially as the holidays come around. It will be up to all of us to honor their memory by being our Best selves, by doing whatever we can to get all of us — even those whose politics we don't share — through this strange year, this strange time.
Love each other. This will end. Be Best.