In the movie, Groundhog Day, Bill Murray plays an obnoxious television weatherman, Phil Connors, who comes to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on February 1st to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities. He is both bossy and rude to his co-workers, Rita, played by Andie Mcdowell, and Larry, the cameraman, played by Chris Elliott. When he awakens the next morning, contrary to his weather forecast, a blizzard hits the town and he is compelled to spend the day and night in the town. Upon awakening the next day, the time has remained February 2nd, and he begins to wonder if he is trapped in a time loop. This process repeats itself each morning with only Phil and no one else experiencing being stuck in a time loop. As the days progress, he becomes a kinder and gentler soul who begins to fall in love with Rita. With each day, we see Phil’s transformation from a loud aggressive newscaster to a much more sensitive caring human being. At first, Rita questions the sincerity of Phil’s metamorphosis, but when she realizes he is not acting, but is for real, she begins to fall in love with him.
Wouldn’t it be nice if such a story could happen in real life? The recent conclusion of the Jewish New Year occurs in the observance of Yom Kippur, the day of repentance or in Hebrew, T’shuvah, marked by a day of fasting and asking God for forgiveness of one’s sins during the year. According to the Jewish religion, the sins of the past can be halted by repenting for one’s past transgressions. This is a healing process in which T’shuva represents a form of ethical transformation. The idea is rooted in an individual’s return to the right path that will bring about redemption similar to what Phil experiences at the end of Groundhog Day.
Since the pandemia began, we Americans have grown more and more apart from one another in our ways. At times, these ways have led to what amounts to an ugly tribal warfare amongst its members. It hasn’t been pleasant to watch. We as a nation are in need of redemption. However, recovery will not come to us unless we begin to face each other, not as enemies, but rather as one people with differing ideas. An example of this might be my own annoyance at people who refuse to get vaccinated. I promise you that this belief compelling people to not vaccinate, from wherever it originated, will not be altered by my or your anger. Anger and frustration will not bridge the gap of disagreement. Listening to the other’s viewpoint will at least allow you to enter into a dialogue with that person. Of course, in order for this process to work both sides need to bury the hatchet and accept the other as a fellow human being rather than a monster. Abraham Lincoln’s words cannot be more relevant today: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”