The 1969 feature film They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (directed by Sidney Pollack with an Oscar-winning supporting actor performance by Gig Young) has, to my mind, been one of the best illustrations of desperate people giving their last best effort to catch a financial break. The movie focuses on a depression-era dance marathon that purportedly will award a prize for the pair of dancers that stays on their feet the longest. It turns out to be something of a scam.
I think of this movie often when I think of people hoping against hope that they’ll find ways to support themselves and their families through troubled times only to find out again and again that the cards are apparently stacked against them. The recent Booker Prize Winning novel Shuggie Bain is, perhaps, a more current example.
During the pandemic, more people than usual have been looking for the smallest shred of hope that they will survive this, all of this from COVID itself, to the bankruptcies and lost jobs caused by lockdowns and other restrictions, to seeing hospitalized and nursing home separated loved ones again.
It takes grit and courage to keep trying, doesn’t it? To keep scanning the news for stories that say things are getting better. For most of the pandemic, the news has been bad and that as bad as the news is now, we can expect it to get worse. Now we hear that the vaccines seem to be helping while simultaneously hearing that a lot of people are still waiting for their turn for a shot.
I am surprised at how quickly a handful of companies have created viable vaccines and equally surprised at how inept society has become that these vaccines haven’t been available in a fraction of the time it’s taking. Today’s news informs us that the U.S. is about to reach 500,000 deaths. Yet solutions continue to appear at a snail’s pace. The availability of vaccines that most of us still cannot get is an example of spoilt hope. These are the times of government negligence and felt-serving partisan “solutions” that show dereliction of duty at both the state and federal level
The U. S. could have done better. Meanwhile, our world is collapsing around us while red tape ensures quick solutions are unimportant. One can understand why dance marathon entrant Jane Fonda would tell another character to shoot her at the end of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?