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Don’t give in to the gloom | COMMENTARY

John Waters is donating approximately 375 prints, paintings and photographs to the Baltimore Museum of Art.
John Waters is donating approximately 375 prints, paintings and photographs to the Baltimore Museum of Art.

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing its worrisome upswing and governments responding with what Supreme Court Justice Samuel “Give me indoor seating or give me death” Alito injudiciously describes as “previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty,” it would be easy to feel a bit depressed. The days are shorter, the temperature is falling. There will be no big family holiday gatherings this year. And even the afterglow of Donald Trump’s loss is fleeting as the soon-to-be evicted president does his best Richard III impression: Manipulative but now friendless, suspicious and lacking conscience, he has met his demise at Bosworth Field, but apparently doesn’t know it. Perhaps someone could give him the CliffsNotes version of the Shakespeare play.

Yet easily overlooked in the angst of the moment are some happy events. Maryland — home to the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration and supporter of the winning presidential ticket — can be especially comforted by the re-ascendance of science and reason within the federal government, but there’s more. And it would be wise to spend as much time contemplating these happy thoughts as considering what mischief Mr. Trump may yet inflict on the nation out of sheer spite.

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Here are five of the best:

1. The vaccine cometh. Surely, you’ve heard. No longer just a promise, there are now credible indications that a highly-effective vaccine may be available as early as December. It won’t make everything suddenly go away. There are multiple challenges ahead including winning federal regulatory approval, distribution, potential side effects and convincing people to take it. But infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci thinks the vaccine, along with public health measures like wearing a mask, will be a “game-changer” by next summer, and that’s good enough for us.

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2. Overdue climate change progress. Here’s one that might have gotten overlooked. One of the single biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the region is cleaning up its act, at least somewhat. Talen Energy has committed to no longer burn coal at its Brandon Shores and H.A. Wagner power plants in Curtis Bay by the end of 2025. Across the country, such facilities have been switching to natural gas for years if only because it’s more affordable, but the hope is that the company will go greener than burning fossil fuels of any kind. Add this to President-elect Joe Biden’s promise to address climate change and return to the Paris Agreement and the future of humanity has not looked brighter in, well, four years.

3. John Samuel Waters Jr., philanthropist. You know him as a transgressive cult filmmaker, as a writer, director, actor and all-around bon vivant, but now you can add major Baltimore Museum of Art patron to his unconventional resume. He’s bequeathed a massive 375-piece collection that includes works of some major figures like Andy Warhol, Diane Arbus and Roy Lichtenstein. And what did he seek in return? To have the bathrooms named after him. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the sly humor of a seriously unserious Baltimore native. We should all be more like him. Well, maybe just a little bit more. The BMA, locked in its own controversies about what art to keep or sell, should be thanking their pink flamingos.

4. Larry Hogan, political pugilist. Not a lot of Republicans have been willing to stand up to Mr. Trump who continues to enjoy cult-like status among many party faithful. Maryland’s governor has thrown some punches, and it’s gotten him national attention. Whether it leads to anything more (like a successful presidential candidacy) seems doubtful given Mr. Trump’s headlock on the GOP, but it took guts (and an intact soul) to give it a try.

5. Pippi Longstocking returns. No, not the beloved children’s book character, the seal. After nursing the injured, malnourished and dehydrated gray seal pup found near Dewey Beach, Del. to adulthood these last nine months and providing groundbreaking surgery to remove her damaged ear canal (a potentially fatal problem in deep-diving seals), the crew of the National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Center returned Pippi to the Atlantic Ocean last Wednesday by way of Maryland’s Assateague State Park. May she enjoy many more molting seasons or, as her brassy fictional namesake would say, “Don’t you worry about me. I’ll always come out on top.”

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The Baltimore Sun editorial board — made up of Opinion Editor Tricia Bishop, Deputy Editor Andrea K. McDaniels and writer Peter Jensen — offers opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. It is separate from the newsroom.

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