This crisis is funny, curious, confounding, and sad, all at once

If you take notes— as BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs does— you can look back and see developments during the coronavirus crisis that are funny, curious, confounding, strange, and sad, all at once. And ultimately. as Dobbs writes in this Boomer Opinion piece, maddening.

Plenty of jokes have made the rounds about the crisis we’re in, and that’s healthy.

Like, I just saw my neighbor, homebound for two months now, talking to his cat. He thought the cat actually understood what he was saying. I went back home and told my dog about it. We had a good laugh.

But other things are not so funny as they are curious. Or if not curious, then confounding. Or strange. Or sad. Sometimes, pathetically sad.

Greg’s “new” look.

Like my beard, which is funny-curious (or maybe, pathetically sad?). When I decided on the fateful day of Friday the 13th of March that I’d stop shaving until the world turned right side up again, I expected that if I were still at it by now, I’d have a beard bushier than Paul Bunyan’s. I don’t.

I also expected that by staying at home, I’d be at a loss for things to do. But I’m not. Between long walks and long reads and long stints at the computer (and sometimes at the stove) before TV at night, I’m only at a loss for enough time to do them. (Thank goodness it doesn’t take up precious time to grow a beard.)

It’s curious that although most of us are at home far more than we ever thought we’d be… we’re still not flossing our teeth.

And that when we used to talk about “the good ol’ days,” we meant 60 years ago. Now we mean 60 days ago.

It’s strange, getting a credit card bill without a single charge for gasoline for an entire month. And strange, still inexplicably finding a store’s shelves stripped clean of toilet paper. A friend wrote that he used to spin the roll of TP like he was the host on Wheel of Fortune but now, he spins it like he’s cracking a safe.

It’s also strange that we’re washing the bottles and cans before we put our groceries away. I always washed the apples but this is the first time I ever washed the applesauce too. And, that when we’re walking toward a stranger and one of us swerves to create more space between us, the other one doesn’t take it personally.

It’s strange, to me anyway, that while I covered many wars and natural disasters where no one had to tell me that something horrible was happening, we’re now going through a global calamity but the enemy is invisible and everything looks so normal. When I see road and public works projects going on as if nothing has changed, I have to stop and remind myself, “Well of course, the whole world hasn’t come to a halt.” Which is a good thing, because the business bailout programs and unemployment systems couldn’t afford it.

It’s curious that in one way, this pandemic has become a great equalizer. Everyone is affected: young and old, rich and poor, educated and illiterate, black and white, female and male. Yet in another way, it has made some gaps wider. A lot of us have been stuck at home, but some have more money to cope than others, and some homes are a whole lot easier to shelter in place than others.

It’s more confounding than curious that because we’re at war with an enemy no one has seen before, our lives are in the hands of experts who are on the same learning curve we’re on. Which has resulted in what one commentator calls “the fog of war.” Should we all wear masks? The answer was no… until it changed to yes. Is six feet enough for social distancing? Sure… until ten feet became even better. If we’ve been infected, are we immune from reinfection? Yes… but maybe now, no. Are kids bulletproof? We thought so… but not any more.

President Trump abruptly turns and walks out of a press briefing after being asked to support his claims.

It’s also more confounding than curious that until the president cut off those daily televised coronavirus task force briefings because they made him look bad (to be clear: he made himself look bad), virtually every briefing was broadcast in full, even though much of the content was just Trump’s tall tales and self-loving boasts and bitter rants. As my old friend and colleague Ted Koppel said last month, “Training a camera on a live event, and just letting it play out, is technology, not journalism.”

Which reminds me: it’s either funny, or frightening, how quiet Trump’s supporters were last month when he said of presidential power, “The authority is total, and that’s the way it’s got to be.” Just imagine if President Obama, in his quest to have his way, had said anything even remotely similar. They’d have rammed their way through the White House gates.

It’s sad that when the president’s own valet tested positive for the virus, Trump reportedly asked in frustration why his valets hadn’t been ordered to wear masks. This is the man who goes bare-faced himself on public visits (too busy entertaining “dictators, kings, queens”), clueless that the presidential pulpit comes with presidential responsibilities.

Refrigerated semi-trailers used as morgues outside a New York hospital.

Pitifully sad is that in less than three months, the death toll from coronavirus in the United States already exceeds American deaths from the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, combined! Estimates say that before this coronavirus war is over, you can throw in Korea too.

What’s maddeningly sad is that our malignantly misinformed, moronically myopic, mendaciously amoral leader said not long ago, “We have it totally under control.” True, as Senator Lamar Alexander observed at this week’s hearing, “Even the experts underestimated” the scale of this crisis. But eventually they recognized it, while Trump persisted in ignoring it, and it was his oblivious assertions, not anyone else’s, that retarded the nation’s response to the pandemic, at the cost of countless American lives. What’s funny, in an awfully sad way, is that this man thinks he is even remotely qualified to run for a second term. And that anyone else thinks so too.

My dog agrees.

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