In the big picture, a slim Biden win may actually be the best possible outcome for America

Progressive-minded people across the U.S. who were hoping for a landslide Biden victory that would serve as a referendum on Trumpism quickly had their hopes dashed on Election Night. As of this moment, we don't know the outcome of the election yet, but signs are pointing to a much-narrower-than-predicted victory for Joe Biden.

In all honesty, we should have seen it coming. As someone who spends a lot of time on social media and pays attention to what people pay attention to, the signs were all there. Comment sections full of Trump supporters pushing narratives full of disinformation. The Facebook Top 10 most popular posts list being filled with right-wing outlets that peddle alternative facts and bash legitimate journalism every single day (despite these same right-wing folks crying about Big Tech suppression and censorship). The clear fear and paranoia over "Antifa" and "radical leftists" and "socialism," which Trump has disingenuously-yet-successfully associated with the slightly-left-moderate-at-best Joe Biden. The racism, of course, that is obvious to half of us but that Trump and his supporters insist isn't there.



And if you're reading this article through Facebook, take a peek at the comments afterward. The vast majority of comments will be from people who only read the headline and don't read the article. It's going to happen as sure as the sun rises and sets. That's a big part of the problem, too.

American people today are living in two vastly different countries, if not entirely different worlds. On a fundamental level, we are more like the Divided States of America than the United States—only the divide isn't geographic, but ideological. People have unfortunately accepted the binary left/right, liberal/conservative boxes that modern discourse demands we place one another into, removing nuance from every issue and assigning a "side" to every statement. Even science—basic science—has become a politically polarizing topic.

Partisanship plays a big role in this, with the pitfalls of our de facto two-party system being laid bare. White dominance plays a big role, manifested in both obvious racism and the unspoken white identity politics that has been plugging along since our founding. Greed and selfishness play a role, as does the genuine economic strife of millions of Americans due to the pandemic. Disinformation plays a huge role, as do the ignorance and ingrained prejudices that make millions of Americans easy prey for it.

A Biden 2020 landslide was always a pipe dream. It was magical thinking for people who want to believe that these problems are not as prevalent as they are, who deluded themselves into thinking that Americans were somehow immune to the propaganda of a populist authoritarian demagogue, and who dared to hope for proof that we are better than our worst human instincts.

But here we are. Despite ample warnings from historians, psychologists, survivors of the Holocaust, and more that another Trump term would be the final blow to the foundations of our democracy, we sit here biting our nails over how close the final count will be.

Stepping back and looking at the big picture, though, this is probably the best possible scenario for America. If Biden pulls out a slim win, the immediate authoritarian threat of Trump is removed—but we will still be forced to confront our national and social demons. A landslide win would have been comfortable, which would have made it far too easy for too many of us to say, "Oh, that Trumpism thing was just a fluke. A blip. An anomaly. The country's really okay." Clearly it was not, and clearly we are not.

That's not a reality that's easy to swallow, but it's reality, and we need to face it head on.

When nearly 70 million Americans are willing to overlook hundreds upon hundreds of examples of indecency and incompetence—any one of which would have spelled the end of an elected official in a normal timeline—in order to avoid paying a little more in taxes, or to fulfill their xenophobic fever dreams, or to "protect the unborn" (despite abortion rates dropping the most under Democratic presidents), or to "protect the 2nd amendment" (despite zero evidence that Democrats were planning to do away with it), or to "save the us from corruption" over a toothless story about his opponent's son (despite Trump's corruption being rampant and out in the open), or to "save freedom" because they see being required to wear a mask during a literal pandemic as tyranny, or to see themselves reflected in Trump's own delusions of narcissistic glory (that's an actual psychological thing), or simply to "stick it to the libs" like we're all stuck in junior high school, no, we as a country are not okay.

And make no mistake—this is our country. It's the America of the moment, and in many ways, the America we've always been. Most Black Americans—who by the way came out 87% for Biden, by far the most of any racial demographic—have been telling us this over and over. The demographic vote split was largely predictable, with the only broad groups tipping for Trump being men (+1%), people over age 65 (+2%) and white folks (+14%). Women, every other racial group, and every other age group tipped for Biden.

So the one hopeful takeaway here is that the U.S. is growing less white and the older generation is on its way out. But we have to keep doing the work to make sure that the white supremacy we've inherited gets dismantled instead of passed on, and we have to keep fighting the good fight against misinformation that leads to a shocking percentage of people to believe in kooky, dangerous ideas of reality like QAnon.

Progress is usually a two steps forward, one step back process, but sometimes it seems like two steps forward, three steps back. Even if democracy prevails, we have a lot of work to do to make this country what it should—and hopefully can—be.

It'll be hard and it'll take time, but we'll get there eventually. We have to keep believing that.

The airline industry was one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, as global and domestic travel came to a screeching halt last spring. When the pandemic was officially declared in March of 2020, no one knew what to expect or how long the timeline of lockdowns and life changes would last.

Two weeks after the declaration, Delta pilot Chris Dennis flew one of the airline's planes to Victorville, CA for storage. He shared photos on Facebook that day of empty planes neatly lined up, saying it was a day he would remember for the rest of his life.

"Chilling, apocalyptic, surreal...all words that still don't fit what is happening in the world," he wrote. "Each one of these aircraft represents hundreds of jobs, if not more."

He added:

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The airline industry was one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, as global and domestic travel came to a screeching halt last spring. When the pandemic was officially declared in March of 2020, no one knew what to expect or how long the timeline of lockdowns and life changes would last.

Two weeks after the declaration, Delta pilot Chris Dennis flew one of the airline's planes to Victorville, CA for storage. He shared photos on Facebook that day of empty planes neatly lined up, saying it was a day he would remember for the rest of his life.

"Chilling, apocalyptic, surreal...all words that still don't fit what is happening in the world," he wrote. "Each one of these aircraft represents hundreds of jobs, if not more."

He added:

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."