Since we turned our clocks ahead yesterday, March 12, it feels like an appropriate time to reflect a bit on the past two years. Many books will be written about the shocking and unprecedented things that’ve happened during the time period between Daylight Savings Sunday 2020 and now. I’ll share some of my thoughts and experiences here, and invite you to share whatever you’d like in the comments section. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged or written much at all. If you’re anything like me, your world has shrunk significantly during the pandemic. But now that it looks as though we might be moving into a more “normal” phase–or at least getting a bit of a respite from non-stop stress–it’d be lovely to reconnect.
I went to Costco the morning of March 8, 2020. The “novel coronavirus,” had been in the new for weeks, but I wasn’t particularly concerned about it. I knew how sensationalistic media can be. Yes, the virus was terrible and dangerous, but I fully expected it to be squelched soon. After all, we were living in the 21st century, with sophisticated science and medicine. Plagues were in the past and fodder for dystopian novels. Right?
Perhaps I should’ve been more alarmed by the atmosphere inside the store, though. For a place with a reputation for being wildly busy on weekends, shoppers were in scarce supply. And there were zero marketing representatives handing out free samples in the grocery section. People must be sleeping in, I decided. It wasn’t until that evening when I learned that many attendees of the recent Biogen conference in Boston had become ill with COVID-19 that the lights in my head went on. Later that week, the world shut down.
Of course, some people were more in tune with reality than me. But even if predictions about the pandemic terrified you in early 2020, did you ever think we’d still be dealing with COVID now? Or that almost 500 million people worldwide would become sickened by it? That over six million would die? That it would affect every human being on earth in one way or another?
Two years after the virus was first isolated, I still have trouble processing it all. Some days, I wake up expecting to find that COVID was just a bad dream.
Equally difficult to process is the way it so quickly became politicized. Who’ll ever forget when Trump told Americans that COVID wasn’t a serious cause for concern, and that he wanted the country reopened by Easter, 2020. Those of us who despised Trump were well aware of how dangerous his lies were. But watching him deny the seriousness of COVID’s threat in hopes of retaining voter support was a new, surreal low. The leader of the free world–an individual with no background in either science or medicine–was blatantly rejecting advice about a deadly virus from people who’d dedicated their lives to science and medicine.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t wish he was somehow right. Who wouldn’t have wanted COVID to melt away like springtime snow and disappear forever? But science and fairy tales are two different things, and Trump–who’d been well informed about the science and knew how unpopular the truth would be to his voting base–chose the fairy tale approach.
Unfortunately, that approach only worked in the minds of people who wanted to believe it and/or didn’t get particularly sick, die, or lose a beloved friend or family member to COVID. But Trump–together with his flunkies and sycophants–had already committed to minimizing COVID’s threat, and the mere thought of apologizing or admitting they’d made mistakes was anathema to them.
It’s no wonder Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (written in 1961) rose to the top of bestseller lists when the pandemic began and remains a strong seller today. Doublethink and brainwashing are alive and well in 2022, thanks to Trump and his associates.
Things only got worse after Trump lost the election to Biden. That’s when he and his MAGA sympathizers doubled (and tripled, and quadrupled) down on the Doublethink. I guess that’s what you do when you realize your career will end the moment the world sees you as a naked “emperor.” It must be exhausting to feel you have to continue denying basic and obvious truths, like the effectiveness of vaccines against severe illness and death. Although science also tells us brainwashing will do that do a person.
It’s hard to identify the worst part of it all when we’re reeling from so much pain and loss. But conspiracy theories that blame innocent individuals like Dr. Fauci–who’ve desperately been trying to save as many people as possible from COVID–for all sorts of patently untrue atrocities is right up there at the top. It’s chillingly similar to the way Putin tells Russian people that Russian troops in Ukraine are trying to save Ukraine from fascists. Doublethink.
In closing, I’ll say that I hope Americans who’ve been seduced by Trump’s Doublethink start recognizing they’ve been duped. And soon. It’s okay to make mistakes, and apologizing goes a long way in this world. Trump himself might want to give it a try. Maybe he can redeem himself–at least partly–and restore the United States to a place where honesty and science are once again recognized as true pillars of freedom.
Thank you for reading. I hope you’re doing okay. These pandemic years have been tragic, strange, divisive, lonely, shocking, confusing, terrifying, and a whole lot more. But the days are getting warmer here in the U.S. Longer, and sunnier too. Here’s to better times.