As I am still doing some rehab from injuries from a fall last year, I have been associating my own rehab with that of our country. Anyone who has been through a rehab regimen pretty much know the drill. You get the diagnosis and the medical treatment, and then you enter into an often impatient, rigorous, extended process of hopefully reconstituting yourself to a level of previous normalcy and, better yet, into a new and improved version of a repaired body and soul. But there are no guarantees, and the best we can do is try to follow directions, persevere, and expect positive results.
And so it is that I consider us in a period of rehabilitation post-Covid, post-lockdown, post-Trump. We eventually got a diagnosis and means of treatment for the virus, the isolation and Trump, and now we are in the process of bringing ourselves individually, communally, and as a nation back into some form of normalized democratic, social and personal health. But as noted, there are no guarantees and the process includes as lot of tedious, often painful work and lots of stops and starts.
A broad dictionary definition of rehabilitation actually provides interesting applicability to our present situation. “Rehabilitation" is defined as:
All these have some truths when applied to our nation. The dynamic is a bit of a contest between restitution and reckoning with what caused the problem in the first place. We may just want treatment and rehab to be a standard “fix it” without too much sacrifice or changes, but we know in our hearts that will not be possible. We usually need to deal with the overall situation as well. A helpful analogy is when someone has a heart problem. Surgical treatments are generally available to correct it. Then as part of the rehab the doc says, “We can do the technical fix, but it is up to you to change the habits and lifestyle that gave you the problem in the first place. You need to eat better, get more exercise, and stop smoking.” And the lifestyle changes may be the most difficult part of a rehab regimen.
Any disease or injury is an interruption in our lives. We are forced to stop or slow down and adapt to what ever changes are required. There was so much about the Covid pandemic, and all the related election problems, that required a reset. The dramatic impact of it all meant we needed a revaluation of systematic issues that led to the problems in the first place. And we have received the grace of some temporary relief. But full recovery will depend in large part on the success of our subsequent rehab process.
I find it awkward and somewhat hypocritical personally to be negotiating this post-Covid rehab period. Like most everyone else I dearly want to be out and about, but I can’t quite reconcile myself to what it means to fly again and to expose myself to the virus even though I have been immunized and wear a mask. And I am disappointed to confess that I am unlikely to change much about how I lived before Covid. Am I just denying or ignoring the underlying social, economic, environmental, and political threats that certainly haven’t yet been addressed? And I am not sure what I am to do in the meantime. Is a grand post-pandemic rehab even possible? What is my part? We will only successfully rehab if we stop denying the seriousness of the maladies that precipitated the presenting problem, and then make the commitment for the imperatives of change required.
The truth about rehab, though, is that it is, after all, a great gift. It provides the opportunity for restoration through professional support and care of loved ones. It gives hope that even with the tedium and discomfort we can recover and go on with life if we are willing to do the work. The alternative is to give up or be told recuperation isn’t possible. Instead we enter into a kind of covenant with our bodies and our caregivers and commit to allowing and supporting the healing to occur, even if it is quite uncomfortable and painful, with a confidence that the rehab will be successful.
Our nation and world are now faced with an epic rehabilitation challenge. There are only hints at directions for the extensive and complicated process needed for the rehab to be successful. But I admire the initial spirit, at least, of the Biden administration as it tries to simultaneously deal with the complexity of the world today. May we add our prayers and appropriate practices in support and in the expectation that resilience and creativity will prevail.
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noun: rehabilitation; plural noun: rehabilitations