If we’ve learned nothing else since the pandemic started, we have learned new things about our selves and our fellow citizens. In this Boomer Opinion piece, BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive director Greg Dobbs looks at the good, the bad, and the amusing.
We are nine months into the pandemic. Nine months and counting.
By my count, this twilight zone began back in March, on the disquieting date of Friday the 13th, with the nation locked down and the death toll shooting up. Nine months. As it turns out, time also flies when you’re not having fun.
And speaking of time flying, can you believe that Congress impeached President Trump only one year ago? After the year we’ve just had, it feels more like two.
But if we and those we love haven’t fallen fatally ill from the coronavirus, and haven’t plummeted into the plight of poverty, certain fruitful lessons in this unnerving year of 2020 have been learned. Some about the pandemic, some about politics. Some good, some bad. And some just amusing.
Like shaving. Overrated, totally. So are suits.
And, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon. For the first time— and I never thought I’d say it— I’m grateful for all the choices. Because maybe one out of twenty is worth watching.
We have heroes where we never saw heroes before. In schools, hospitals, police precincts, grocery stores. “First responders,” “essential industries,” and “frontline workers” take on whole new definitions.
And we have adapters we never might have imagined. Like restaurateurs— those who’ve survived— who have reinvented themselves to safely feed us. A friend of mine is a developer who, in the early days of restricted dining, had to convince city officials to let restaurants put their tables out on the sidewalk, let alone on a protected part of the street. Now, no one would stop that. (And no city would forgo whatever tax revenue it brings in.)
Another positive lesson learned: even isolation is okay if you share it with someone you love. Or for some, even just like. Far better to bear it together than alone.
A more negative lesson though: although I’m not going out nearly as much as I used to do, the credit card bills aren’t a whole lot lower than they used to be. Amazon’s stock is soaring.
And a lesson affirmed that’s much sadder and more serious: life can be a really raw deal. Since the dark dawn of the coronavirus, I’ve had five different friends, five, who have been diagnosed with an unrelated plague. All had been careful to protect themselves from the pandemic. But for them the culprit is cancer, not Covid. The lesson is, all the care in the world won’t protect you against a disease that doesn’t discriminate.
For me, the best lesson from the pandemic is about people. By and large, most are pretty smart. Each of us has had to find our own level of risk tolerance, but most, at least in my orbit, have found one that lets us avoid the most precarious risks while not going crazy in self-imposed captivity.
But the bad lesson is, being born smart doesn’t necessarily mean you’re actually smart. Exhibit A: the recently-resigned White House advisor Dr. Scott Atlas, who even Stanford’s Hoover Institution has all but disowned. Exhibit B: a doctor educated at Columbia University named Jane Orient, invited to be lead witness at a Senate hearing to tout the dangerously unproven drug hydroxychloroquine as a tool against the coronavirus and to diss scientifically vetted vaccines as “reckless.”
But there’s more good news about lessons learned too: most people are pretty respectful. It might mean wearing a mask to minimize the chance that they pass on the virus if they have it but don’t know it. It might mean waiting for the next elevator when someone’s already on the one that stops. Or moving aside on a sidewalk when someone’s coming the other way.
But respect is not universal. Case in point: even after the president himself was sidelined with the coronavirus because he was incessantly careless— along with the First Lady and cabinet secretaries and White House aides and ultimately his own lawyers— Trump and his enablers kept pretending there was nothing to worry about. Like the rest of us, they don’t always know whether or not they’ve got the virus themselves, but by flying in the face of sensible and not immensely inconvenient guidelines, they put all of us at risk. A risk with consequences of life and death.
And there’s another lesson about the meaning of flat-out stupid. Like the commissioners in Weld County, Colorado, who have defiantly refused to comply with statewide curbs to stem the spread of the pandemic, insisting that they will rely on people’s “personal responsibility” instead. The trouble is, this county— where they opt for personal responsibility over shared responsibility— ran out of ICU beds. Something tells me, personal responsibility isn’t working.
Meantime a state health official from Wyoming, just north of Weld County, callously referred at a public event last month to the “so-called pandemic,” characterizing vaccine development as a conspiracy by China and Russia to spread worldwide communism. What?!? He has yet to tell us if these two habitual foes are furtively plotting together.
And speaking of stupid, another lesson reaffirmed is that there’s a sucker born every day. Can you believe that since the election, Trump-adoring Americans have sent more than $200-million to his new PAC and his reelection campaign? Someone should tell them, he has spent less than $10-million of their money in his desperate crusade to undermine democracy and overturn the election. The rest? Unaccountable.
And can you believe that some of the loudest bygone voices for the Constitution now are trying to all but trash it.
And that some people still buy the bilge that America’s record rates of Covid have come as a result of more testing? Someone needs to explain to them that with some 3,000 deaths a day now and 300,000 to date, not a single one came from a test.
So the last lesson we’ve learned is this: The Twilight Zone is not just a fanciful fictional series on television. It is real. It is all around us.