“Pick up my guitar and play, just like yesterday. Then I get on my knees and pray, We don’t get fooled again.” — Pete Townsend
There are moments when things seem to occur to me in bunches. They are relatively small moments. One moment came at my campus when we held our Fall Festival for the first time in two years. Usually, we have a car that kids get to buy tickets for the rights to smash with a sledgehammer. That didn’t happen this year.
At Sunday mass, it finally struck me how we have been saying that altar servers would be returning soon. We were told that in August. It’s now November. There are still no altar servers. My daughter’s school canceled its homecoming dance and they have gone through an entire football season with no pep rallies.
It’s when you add all these moments up and realize that the world might never go back to the way things were. It’s similar to the taking off of shoes at the airport. It’s just a small change that serves as a reminder that things will never fully be the way they used to be. That’s a relatively small thing that only comes up in isolated and focused events. COVID seems to be effecting more than that. Beyond the death, illness, and economic devastation, it is the little things that seem to be the not so gentle reminder that life might never be the same ever again.
When I was a kid, I loved to read choose your own adventure books. I used to read them about sports. There was one in particular where you got to coach a team in the Super Bowl. So, I pulled the quarterback to see what would happen and then went back and didn’t. I’m sure every kid that had that particular book did the same thing. Kids are fascinated with the idea of seeing where things will go if you make a different decision.
Life doesn’t work that way. We don’t get many second opportunities to make a different decision. It’s looking more and more that COVID is not a thing that happened to us, but something that is happening to us. The distinction might seem like a fine one, but it is simply a reflection that the decisions made in December, January, and February of 2019 and 2020 are still impacting us today. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say the decisions not made.
I had lied to myself and told myself there was no way of knowing how bad this would become, but it is a lie. As a nation, we saw how bad it got during the Spanish flu. Moreover, we saw how much grief and loss we avoided during H1N1 and Ebola. We’ve seen pandemics handled badly and we’ve seen them handled well. We know exactly what happens when you idly sit by and do nothing. We knew exactly what to do and our leaders did what they do best. They fumbled the ball and tried to tell you none of it really happened.
This wasn’t a bad hurricane the government failed to clean up afterwards. This wasn’t a tax cut gone awry. This wasn’t a war that seemingly went on forever for no reason. Those are bad enough and those impact entire generations or regions of the country. This impacted every region. This impacted every generation. This will continue to impact all of us. We aren’t going “back to normal” and the sooner we realize that the better.
In the backdrop of all of this, the man that did all of this won’t go away. Not only does he not have the sense of shame to hide in his isolated greenside bunker, he continues to say he won. He says he will win again. The architect of the single biggest health catastrophe in our nation’s history won’t go away. Like the societal changes due to COVID, I guess he can’t. Maybe nature will do us a favor on both counts.