As we barrel toward Thanksgiving, then on to the end of another very strange year, I’ve got some good news and some bad news.

The Good News: Covid case numbers are falling fast, along with hospitalizations and deaths, and vaccination rates are rising slowly but surely. Even more exciting? Pfizer just released preliminary data on a new anti-viral drug that appears to slash the potential for hospitalizations and death by a whopping 89%. This is huge! Though I wouldn’t say we’re out of the woods yet – I’ve learned never to say that – we might finally be approaching the end of this cursed pandemic.

The Bad News: People have no idea what to do now. What guidelines should we be following? What are the health protocols? What’s the etiquette? Take masking, for instance. Some people have never done it, and never will. Other people have always done it, and seem loath to give it up. (I saw a man riding his bike in Pigeon Point last week, on a crisp fall day, masked.) Then there are the rest of us – those who do it some of the time, in some places, out of sheer courtesy . . . or peer pressure. When I go out, I always wear a mask around my wrist, like a bracelet, then play it by ear ‘til I’ve cased the joint. (“What’s everybody else doing?”) Sometimes I even let it dangle from my ear, in places like Publix – where about half the shoppers are usually masked – and pull it up and down as I see fit. I’m all vaxxed up – boosted, even – and not particularly worried, but I don’t like making people uncomfortable, nor do I like having my entire social-political-philosophical orientation surmised at a glance. I find myself trying to telepathize with other shoppers in the aisles – masked and unmasked, alike: “I’m not judging you; please don’t judge me,” I plead with my eyes. It’s kind of an emotional burden, frankly, when you’re just trying to find some fresh asparagus and a decent cheap Chardonnay.

The Good News: On a related note, live music is finally coming back! From the small (coffee shop folksingers and church choirs) to the large (stadium-sized concerts), musical events are on the rise, and not a moment too soon for those of us whose souls require song – both listening and performing – and who particularly crave the group experience. Listening to music alone is one thing – a very good thing, at that – but sharing music with other humans offers a kind of transcendence – a sense of connection, collective catharsis – that we’re in desperate need of at this current moment in history.

The Bad News: After almost two years without live music events – years that also stoked all manner of anger and division in our country – it seems some people may be mentally unfit to attend a concert. As of this writing, it is unclear what caused audience members to surge toward the stage, stampede-like, at Travis Scott’s performance during a music festival in Texas, killing eight young people and injuring many more. Sources say there may have been drugs involved, and the investigation is ongoing. But according to the BBC, a female concert-goer said she “had never been to a music festival with so many angry people.” Illicit drugs have long been a staple at these festivals. Death by trampling – though not unheard of – is far more rare . . . and murderous rage, even more so. Scary times we live in.

The Good News: Conservative students in Birmingham, Ala, recently pressured Samford University to disinvite historian Jon Meacham as a guest speaker when they found he had previously spoken at a Planned Parenthood event. While this is not good news to me personally – in fact, I find it chilling – looking on the bright side, it means “cancel culture,” once almost exclusively the province of the left, is now officially a bipartisan phenomenon. Something conservatives and progressives both endorse. In other words, it’s one of those increasingly rare anomalies – a common American value!

The Bad News: See above.

(Sorry for the sarcasm. Sometimes I can’t help myself.)

The Good News: Average Americans are speaking up, exerting real influence over their state and local governments, especially with regards to Critical Race Theory.

The Bad News: Average Americans don’t entirely understand what Critical Race Theory is, or how much it does, or doesn’t, infuse curriculum. Also Bad News: Proponents of CRT aren’t being entirely forthcoming about what it is, or how much it does, or doesn’t, infuse curriculum.

The Good News: I’ve recently read several articles pondering the possibility of a Second Civil War. Each made the argument that we could never actually have one, because America isn’t neatly divided into two geographical territories with opposing values, as it was in the mid-1800s. Whew!

The Bad News: I’ve recently read several articles pondering the possibility of a Second Civil War.

The Good News: Since Americans’ trust in the mainstream/corporate media is approaching an all-time low – according to a recent Gallup poll – more and more of us are turning to independent news sources for information and analysis. And some of those independent news sources are quite good.

The Bad News: Again, see above. While we’re finding good alternative sources, they’re not the same alternative sources. Independent media is proliferating in many directions – finding gaps, filling niches, covering interests and concerns that have long been ignored or ill-served by our mainstream media. These sources have an array of different priorities, perspectives, and content. The problem? Americans still need some baseline of common information and comprehension. Some semblance of shared reality. Otherwise – well, we may not be headed for a Second Civil War, exactly, but something along the lines of The Troubles in Ireland seems entirely within the realm of possibility to me.

The Good News: After 22 years, the Atlanta Braves finally won the World Series. For about 24 sweet, sweet hours, it felt like the whole country was celebrating together! Except Texas, of course.

The Bad News: Baseball season is over. Literally and figuratively.

The Good News: With the coming of Thanksgiving, the holidays are upon us. It’s time, once again, to count blessings, spread love, enjoy the magic and wonder of the season. But first, friends and family will gather ‘round the table, once more, for good food, flowing wine, and stimulating conversation . . .

The Bad News: Do I really need to spell it out?