The family still gets together on Sunday afternoons for a Zoom call. It was a habit we began at the start of the pandemic and we’ve kept up with it.

Some Sundays this person or that is not able to join the call, especially as life picks up speed as the pandemic (perhaps) reduces its speed, but regardless, we gather. I’m from a big family, oldest of eight children, so that coupled with our own children at times joining the call we have enough people for an honest hour visit. I moved out many years ago, so really we’ve been in touch more due to the Zoom thing than we have been in the past. I’m getting to know my family and am enjoying it.

And a topic came up this week, a point was made, as these things do, and the assertion was made as to how bad things were and how they seem to be getting worse. It led me to ask a question about things getting worse.

I was in junior and then high school when the Vietnam war was the topic. Not long after graduating, not long after boot camp, Watergate and presidential resignation took place. In fact I was stationed in California, hadn’t been to sea yet, when the Symbionese Liberation Army (have to mention Patty Hearst here) hide-out burning took place. The Saigon evacuations took place while I was at sea, in the Navy. This was all during the Cold War, nuclear-tipped mayhem always just over the horizon.

And these were all events and circumstance marked by conversations, the conversations marked by hand-wringing, real or metaphorical, where things were “getting bad” and “getting worse” and even “worse than they’ve ever been.”

And we’d be in a group, the topic would come up, the conversation, and then someone with the “…. than they’ve ever been” assertion and we’d all nod our heads sagely.

And it happened again on the call, “… worse than they’ve ever been” and the pause, the nods.

But, wait, and here’s the question: Are they really? We can look at whatever event and circumstance on top of the national or international news these days, heck even the local news, and wring our hands, but is it really “worst ever?”

Off the top of my head: The Spanish Flu Pandemic, World War I, the American Civil War, on and on, these were bad events, history-altering events and can we really state that what we face these days are at least as bad and maybe worse?

Well, we can say “worst ever” in its own way. Now we have these portable computers we carry around, we can even use them as phones if we want, and they give us remarkable access to the rest of the human race. So it’s easy for us, if nothing else, to make these “worst ever” assertions. Better yet we live in a time and place where we have the freedom to make these assertions. Best of all, we can make these assertions and in digital time have others in our group digital-nod sagely (Like if you agree).

And from what I can tell as one gets older, one gets more fearful. So what was really really bad in times past is more likely to be worst-ever with each graying hair. Never mind that media platforms, even “news” organizations have found a successful marketing niche behind assuring us “worst ever” is here and now.

Which is to say things aren’t that bad. Could be better, sure, but isn’t that always the case? Could be worse. Ditto. Could be the worst it’s ever been.

But I doubt it.

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