Standing at center stage for an uncharacteristically straightforward and goof-free address to her audience on Friday’s Amber Ruffin Show, host and usually reliable sunbeam-prism Amber Ruffin got unexpectedly serious. Relating how a friend had recently confided in her that she hadn’t truly accomplished very much during her year of forced social distancing, Ruffin looked right down the camera barrel and told her friend (and all of us watching), “It’s not a competition, and it’s not a creative incubator or a working vacation, it’s a pandemic.”
Following up with an indulgent pat on the head to all those of you go-getters out there who have, in fact, written that novel, or learned Portuguese, or gotten really, heavily into CrossFit while the rest of us huddled under weighted blankets and doomscrolled while utterly exhausting all streaming services, Ruffin went on to bestow some understanding. (Yes, we’ve all heard that one about Shakespeare writing King Lear during a plague year, so stow it.) “You are not any worse of a person for living through a pandemic and not accomplishing some big project,” the admittedly always-accomplishing Ruffin stated, “Because you did the only thing you had to. You lived.”
Noting how some three-plus million people across the Earth did not manage to make it through this existence-hobbling worldwide crisis, Ruffin reserved her disdain for not just all those showy pandemic overachievers (with their online cosmetology courses and their mastery of woodworking, and whatnot), but for people who couldn’t even muster the common decency to do the bare minimum. Sure, maybe your daily goals included merely masking up outside, staying home otherwise, and worrying yourself (metaphorically) sick, but at least you did those things. You know, unlike those defiantly selfish assholes whose refusal to take the most basic precautions contributed to your already justifiable fear. Or the governments whose willy-nilly half-measures and politically motivated covid skepticism or outright anti-science bullshit contributed mightily to the preventable death toll.
Or, as Ruffin built up steam toward the end of her inspirationally pissed-off speech, those people whose lack of common decency (including intentionally putting others at risk of horrible death) was “emboldened by a fascist president who couldn’t care less if you live or die.” Then there are the charlatans, grifters, and all-around worthless types who filled the internet and airwaves with anti-vaxxer nonsense, just for the clicks, or the attention, or the ratings, or to shore up their blinkered, pigheaded conception of their “so-called freedom,” according to Ruffin. (Of course, some of those people might have been watching The Amber Ruffin Show, but, then again, probably not.) Concluding with the sort of big picture perspective that can make a shut-in, stressed-out, year-long so-called underachiever mist up in gratitude, Ruffin offered this one final, deeply necessary blessing. “Don’t measure your last year in the things you could have done. Measure it in the things you had to do with the unbearable trauma of a worldwide crisis.” Thanks, Amber, we needed that.