For us, the pandemic started March 13. We went out for pizza. No masks then, but no hugs or handshakes either. Seated well apart. Talking about the coronavirus, I opined that we might get together again in a month or so, when things eased up. I thought we’d have a clearer picture on how long this thing might last.
More than three months later, a clearer picture has indeed emerged: It’s not as bad as we feared. It’s roughly 20 times worse. All these monotonous weeks since, hunkering down, avoiding crowds and stores and freedom-loving mouth-breathers brushing past in the Publix aisles, and we’re not just back where we started; we’re several steps behind. Daily covid cases in Florida today were pushing 10,000 for the second day in a row. To think we were freaking out not so long ago when the daily number reached 1,000.
We only go to stores where they mandate masks. Around here that’s down to Costco and Trader Joe’s, although yesterday Trader Joe’s seemed to be shrugging it off.
Most of us were wearing them, but there’s always that proud few, strolling around bare-faced with barely concealed smirks. They have contempt for those of us who chose to mask up, and our feeling for them is mutual. Odd how this has come to seem a statement of political philosophy. You’d never guess we were all Americans. Yet another thing for which Trump bears responsibility, whether he accepts it or not. It didn’t have to be like this, and yet here we are.
I recently finished “The Splendid and the Vile,” an account of Churchill’s leadership during the German bombing campaign against England. You wonder how it would have been if about 36 percent of British people had refused to abide by the blackout rules, insisting on their personal freedom to hold torchlight parades on the nights when the Luftwaffe was en route. That’s about where we are now. It’s way worse than when we started, yet a surprising number choose not just to ignore the pandemic, but bend over for it.
We may be doomed as a country. Trump might be out of office in January, but the people who put him there, the ones who have cheered him through every terrible act — they’ll still be around. So will Putin’s people, gleefully goosing them from the shadows. There will be more Trumps. And way too many Trump sycophants.
You think they’re deplorable now? Just wait until a sane person is back in office, someone who believes in coherent governance. Already the steaming sewers of the internet are bubbling up conspiracies that make Pizza-gate look like the Federalist Papers. Trump has taken America’s normal supply of nuts and ignoramuses and weaponized them big time. He, and they, will not go gentle into that good night.
Then again, we are not dead yet. The latest polls suggest decency is making a comeback, so there’s that. Probably best to ignore the polls, and the trolls, and keep our own counsel on this. November 3 won’t be the end of this terrible time, not by a long shot, but maybe it can be the beginning of the end. Think of it like D-Day: a hard battle, and the start of an even harder slog to Berlin. OK, that’s enough of the World War II analogies.
Meantime, maybe we should remind ourselves that Trump and Putin couldn’t have prevailed in 2016 without Facebook and Twitter. If only there were some way to rob all four of them of their chaotic power. We laugh or rage at all the clever political memes, but those things never change minds; they only inflame them. My personal credo is to never argue on the Internet, and never read the comments. Above all, I try to remember that the highest and best use of social media is the sharing of cat videos. It’s the one thing that can truly unite us.