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What are you going to do with the rest of your life?

People are beginning to feel like they’re born again without going down in baptismal waters. Though spiritual in part, this rebirth is not totally religious. It is the sensation of rebounding from a horrific condition no one living ever imagined, a global pandemic.

To be sure, there’s no certainty that there will not be other incarnations of the dreaded virus that so gripped the planet that it brought virtually every nation and human activity to a standstill. There have already been Delta and Omicron; talk of other variants persists.

But conventional thinking appears to be that better days are coming. Some fear that mindset reflects overzealous optimism. Skeptics insist the crisis never was as bad as portrayed, though tens of millions were afflicted and died in the process of bringing the virus under control. Many continue to reject science. At any rate, people are moving on.

College campuses across the nation as well as public schools and government facilities have either relaxed mask mandates or dropped them altogether. Of course, just as you could never actually force anyone to wear a mask or get the COVID-19 vaccine, neither can any new imperative force compliance among those who insist on wearing their masks. That population is considerable.

More important is the question of where we are heading as a society at this critical juncture.

If anyone thought that the brutal reality of the coronavirus would result in the enhancement of our humanity and the coming together of divergent people of contrasting interests, they were sadly mistaken. The vitriol and animus prevalent prior to COVID-19 is still prevalent. Some say it has worsened.

Throughout the process, division among political parties has become more entrenched. Seldom have we seen greater antipathy at the federal level as well as from state to state.

Even the highest court in the land, which has frequently over the past 50 or 60 years provided recourse for the voiceless, that body has instead given tepid approval of assault on the nation’s most vulnerable.

The plight of Black and brown U.S. citizens, already the most arduous before the pandemic, has been exacerbated in the past two years. Already conspicuous in its absence from the history books, state lawmakers are making it illegal to address the critical issue of race in America. The most fundamental principle of democracy, voting rights, is facing a full-frontal assault.

Voter suppression is being instituted as an acceptable strategy by those who lack confidence in winning elections legitimately. Gerrymandering is just the tip of the iceberg.

Besides districts being re-drawn, mail-in ballots, access to voting booths, voting days and hours, absentee balloting, post-election tabulation processes, approval of elected delegates and countless other tools are disassembling one-man, one-vote.

Those on the far right are moving aggressively to disenfranchise targeted populations. Those on the left are finding it an increasingly difficult challenge in accessing platforms to articulate opposition. And the majority of people caught up in the middle, are too often either apathetic, uninformed, frustrated, burnt out, cynical, or simply too exhausted to fight. The tragedy is that silence is complicity.

There’s a lot to deal with in this country.

The economic wealth of white families is still more than 10 times that of Black families. And though we know that education can make a difference, the disparity still exists. Wage-earners with degrees can anticipate paychecks seven times that of Black or brown Americans with identical or similar levels of education. There is no easy escape from the tentacles of racism.

So comes the question; what do you plan to do with the rest of your life?

If you are advanced in years, no one could blame you for feeling like you’ve run the race and earned the right to pass the baton to the next generation. Though continuing activist behaviors is recognized as a contribution to the greater good, it’s certainly an idea even among our seasoned population. The reality is the nation can still benefit from your experiences and expertise. You still have much to offer and your input is valuable.

If you are in the middle, raising family and trying to establish your career life, it is understandable how valuable your time is and how you may have relatively few hours in the day or days in the week to step outside the realm of your personal necessity. But the fate of your children and their children will be impacted by your decision to get involved in the community at some level.

As for the young, you hold the key. It has kind of always been that way. Dr. King was surrounded by schoolchildren at some of his most momentous demonstrations. The lunch counter boycotts were perpetuated by college students, as were the freedom rides through the south.

The young have always been at the vanguard of the freedom movement, and the same will be required if we are to resist those who want to turn back the Hands of Time on progress in America.

That means less involvement in self-indulgence, entertainment, style and fashion, intoxicants, and ego in favor of working collectively to build wealth, community, political organization, health networks, and strategies for sustainable change.

The fate of the nation in the hands of progressive-minded young thinkers endures.

It’s easy to relax and leave it to someone else. That almost always assures that nothing will be done or that progress will be dreadfully slow. The next two years will be far more critical than the last two, telling where we are going as a people, as a nation, and quite frankly as a world.

You won’t find it on TV. CNN, MSNBC, Fox and Netflix are not the answer. The last poets were right, the revolution won’t be televised.

So prayerfully, when someone asks “now that you’ve been blessed to survive this global atrocity, what in the world do you plan to do with the rest of your life,” the answer will be, “I plan to get involved and stay involved however possible to contribute to meaningful and sustainable change.”

God is still in control, but He works through our faith and action. Get involved! Power to the people!

’Nuff said.

CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].

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