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A fitting week in this pinball life

Attendees hold letters that read "CAUCUS" during a

Attendees hold letters that read "CAUCUS" during a campaign event at Northwest Junior High on Feb. 2, 2020 in Coralville, Iowa. The Iowa caucus happens during a week that has the Super Bowl and the Oscars as bookends. Credit: AP/Matt Rourke

Every so often, the calendar gods toy with us mortals.

They furiously pile up events that compete for our attention. From the Super Bowl last Sunday to the Oscars next Sunday, crossing the nation from Miami to L.A., one big moment begets another. Iowa's presidential caucuses on Monday. President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech, on the floor of the House of Representatives that impeached him, on Tuesday. The final Senate vote on his fate, a near-certain acquittal, on Wednesday. The next Democratic presidential debate, in New Hampshire, on Friday. And the Academy Awards, as rich in cultural significance as the Super Bowl, on Sunday.

It's life in a pinball machine set to hyperdrive. Our minds careen from one thing to the next, overstimulated and bewildered, dreading what lies around the corner.  Finding perspective is difficult, gleaning meaning even harder.

But the times compel us to try.

It is clear our country is changing, and that much of what divides us and wracks us has to do with whether and how we embrace that change. Just look at the bookends to this fevered week.

The Super Bowl, a quintessentially American event, included an electrifying halftime show featuring two Latina singers who made statements both subtle and clear about diversity, immigration and tolerance. Jennifer Lopez and Shakira alternated singing in English and Spanish, Lopez wrapped herself in a two-sided Versace flag coat — United States on one side, Puerto Rico on the other — and Shakira let loose with a high-pitched cry and a tongue waggle that was an Arabic expression of joy, honoring the Lebanese part of her heritage.

The Oscars will be about how that change is ushered in. The leading contenders for best picture include a movie about the war to end all wars, a foreign film about class warfare with subtitles, and another about mental illness, alienation and dystopia in a big city. The lack of a single unifying  message in these movies — acceptance is better than rejection, perhaps — reflects the national zeitgeist. 

The country is searching for answers. Politically, while some of the nation solidly supports the president, more than half of our citizens thrash about in their doubts and worries. They see the impeachment failure as proof that the Republican Party doesn't care what Trump does, as long as the economy is good and it's getting conservative judges and lower taxes (albeit mostly for corporations and the wealthy). Democratic voters, meanwhile, are trying desperately to figure out what they should do — support an economic revolution designed to bring about big change, or pick someone who can beat Trump? Iowans have been tying themselves in knots not wanting to get this wrong for the rest of the country.

Iowa's results might not clarify much, especially for the top tier of contenders. The race likely will muddle along to New Hampshire, and beyond, with Democrats seeking and Trump crowing. Clarity will emerge eventually. It always does. A healed nation, we pray, will follow.

Let's hope that along the way this pinball life of ours doesn't tilt.

— The editorial board