If Everyone In America Could Hold A Talking Stick, What Would You Say?

Craig "The GratiDude" Jones
4 min readApr 10, 2022


I’ve been having this crazy-ass fantasy these last few pandemic months. I was imagining how the entire nation might undergo a massive debrief, all at once, with all of us standing in a huge circle stretching coast to coast with a facilitator asking us questions to get us thinking. We’d pass around a talking stick somehow, the person in possession of which would be the only one allowed to speak. Everyone else would just listen to that speaker’s truth about the last two years.

However untenable that notion is with more than 300 million citizens and multiple time zones, the idea has at least made me consider what I’d have to say if I were holding the stick.

I remember reading early on the comment “When this is over, the only thing that will matter is how we treated each other.” This colossally-huge facilitator might ask, “So, how did you all do with that?”

(S)he might well also ask “What did you learn about yourself?”

First, I imagined taking the stick and then unleashing my fury toward some of the people at whose feet I lay the blame for this prolonged Covid nightmare. I found I could not suss out, anymore, what was just fear of the virus from all the other feelings that eventually were engendered because of the politics and beliefs undergirding it all. At first we were united in fear, then it fell apart and the center would not hold.

I imagined that debrief circle and one particular customer at the grocery store where I work, a woman who has been an out there POTUS 45’er, even on her face mask, was in the circle. When I had the truth stick all I could think of to say was it’s people like you, you fucking bitch, who made this goddamn thing worse. I couldn’t get away from castigating her and others of her ilk in my fantasy, couldn’t tease out what was right and left wing from what was simply a disease.

But, intruding on all of my echo chamber imaginings, and how righteous I feel, was this second learning that I hadn’t expected.

I read that Pfizer was urging the medical community and Feds to recommend a fourth shot for people 65 and older. A second booster, as it were. I’ve had all three shots, no complaints, and, thanks to a free antibody test the Red Cross is making on all blood donations right now, found out that I’m loaded with antibodies.

I’m grateful for the antibodies, wherever they came from, probably in large part due to the vaccinations. So I’m not a vaccine skeptic. I’m grateful for vaccines that wiped out smallpox and polio, for example. However, in the instant that I read about Pfizer asking about the fourth shot, I had this knee-jerk reaction of, well, of course they’re asking for a fourth shot. Big Pharma is all about making money and with every shot they make money. What would you expect them to say?

And for that one moment my skepticism took over, albeit briefly, and I found myself looking out in the same direction as a large swath of America which doesn’t trust Big Pharma. It was disconcerting, like I was in a strange place, dropped into an unknown wilderness and I didn’t know where I was. To actually feel for a moment what a lot of Americans feel about these vaccines.

Now, what balanced all this out was I believe that there is science suggesting the vaccines are efficacious. But I immediately thought, well of course now we will be hearing we need a fifth one then a sixth one and who knows how many after that.

The second track I walk on, alongside the doubter, is that there actually is expert medical advice out there with the sum total of many many many many years of studying viruses and vaccines. Knowing which voice to listen to, I suppose, is part of the trick. But anyway, the important part is how I noticed my immediate skepticism kicking in and I felt for that brief moment at one with people that I don’t find myself agreeing with on very many things. It did feel strange. Almost like I was being disloyal to my own tribe.

When I used to practice aikido, I noticed that pretty much every hold we practiced involved each combatant looking in the same direction briefly while things unfolded. That always seems like a great physical metaphor for how to be with each other in the world. An attacker comes at you, you grapple, and briefly you’re looking in the same direction, wherever that is. You see the same thing and then the grappling continues and is resolved however it’s resolved, probably in a direction neither of you had planned on. Something like that.

So this moment of skepticism about Big Pharma felt like that, as if I were in an aikido hold with some imaginary person and I was looking in the same direction, standing in the same place and saying yup, I can see that now. I can feel my own skepticism and from there it’s a short step to even further down the line where a lot of Americans are standing and looking.

Anyway, that’s my idea about the huge debrief circle and, however possible it is, it would be great if there were a way for people to just stand around and tell the truth about this, however painful, to say things to each other in a safe place, and then move on perhaps closer than ever before. Resolved, to work together in new ways, less fractious ways, perhaps

But, how far I am, I thought, from “Malice toward none,” how far from “charity for all.” If anyone could read my heart and soul, they’d see. In my unguarded moments, which I suspect other Americans are also having, I find myself longing for the nation’s wounds to be healed and for that new birth of freedom. Yet, I question my willingness to be dedicated to the unfinished work, as our sixteenth president challenged us. Maybe I don’t have the chops to spin this into gold. Maybe together, we do.

Who wants the talking stick next?



Craig "The GratiDude" Jones

I am pursuing An Inquiry Into A Gratitude-Inspired Life