These are surreal times.

More than 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in about the last 10 weeks.

That’s no longer front-page news.

More than 100,000 Americans have died from coronavirus, and the tally keeps rising.

That is still front-page news, but not at the top of the page.

What happened?

George Floyd happened. And what started as outrage in Minneapolis has spread around the country and across the globe in the form of protests and vigils, all the way down to our little town of Sylva, North Carolina.

Those protests, and in particular the coverage of those protests, can only be compared to an all-you-can-eat buffet. You can find scenes of encouragement. You can find scenes of outrage. You can find scenes where the police look bad. You can find scenes where the protesters look bad. You can find scenes where the police and protesters bond together. You can find scenes where the press looks bad. You can find scenes where the press is being attacked. And you can find scenes that fit in nicely with any sort of bias you bring to the table.

As with an all-you-can-eat buffet, some people are stuffing themselves in a rather unhealthy manner, feasting on divisiveness and encouraging others to take a bite.

Thing is, divisiveness isn’t mandatory. You can hold more than one position at a time – that law and order should be respected, that individual rights should be respected, that the destruction of property is out of bounds.

As to protesters looting or committing vandalism, that one’s pretty easy. When you commit either of the latter you are no longer the former. Protesters protest. Looters loot. You smash the window of a business owned by someone who’s already been hanging on by their fingernails thanks to coronavirus, head to jail, do not pass “Go.’’

Some of the people engaged in that behavior may have been caught up in some sort of moment. Others undoubtedly were hoping to toss fuel on the fire of others’ outage, to serve as an accelerant to sow yet more outrage and divisiveness. Watch for those hoping to take advantage of this moment, whether they’re someone with a brick or a political agenda.

They may feel this is their moment. Don’t let it be.

Because it is ours. We, the people, can’t go back and rewrite the dark parts of our past, distant or recent. But we can write the future, and make it a bright one. The choice is ours.

The recovery from the economic crash and the pandemic isn’t going to be a sprint, despite some happy talk to the contrary. It’s going to be a marathon.

We’re going to need each other more than ever.

These surreal times will end, but it’s going to take a lot of work. 

Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to it.