Mad to sad, rage to resignation, warning to worrying

December 17th, 2021

Foggy Graveyard

(published in The Daily Memphian, December 10, 2021)

Like many if you, before I had to have real glasses, I had readers.

At first, I put a pair next to everywhere I liked to sit. After the dogs ate most of those and the pairs in the car had slipped between the seats far too many times, I started to wear them on a cord around my neck. The management of those glasses, as I would discover, was a tell to the people who worked for me.

Sarah, an account executive in my ad agency, showed up at daughter’s desk wide-eyed following a meeting with me one morning. “Hallie,” she said falling into a chair and leaning forward, “he took his glasses off three times.”

Evidently, the ripping of my glasses from my face and letting them fall to hang from the cord was a sure indicator that things weren’t going well.

During the last couple of years, I have ripped off figurative glasses and spit actual coffee so many times even the dogs don’t want to be around when I read the news about worldwide plaque and worldwide denial.

In our world, up and down our streets in our neighborhoods, on our TV screens and on the screens of our phones, tablets, and computers, if it doesn’t already matter to people, it’s not going to matter. I mean, come on, our General Assembly has passed laws that purposely make getting Covid easier.

No sense getting mad anymore. That’s not working. Nor is science. Or reason. Or even common sense. People are dug in. And that includes a lot of people I care about.

They won’t get vaccinated. If they get Covid, they get Covid. If people get it from them, they get it. So be it. If they have long term effects, trouble breathing, low energy levels, fuzzy thinking ... well ... bless their hearts.

If they die, they die. Probably their time anyway. Who’s getting the boat? The good recliner?

It was just the flu, or a bad head cold, or something they ate. Who’s getting Dad’s watch? How much is the house worth?

No one in authority can tell them anything. Authority is the problem. No one is going to force them to do anything. Forcing them is the problem.

People who tell them to get stuck can just stick it.

Like I said, dug in.

It seems like the The New York Times has some new sort of new graph every day – colorful, wiggly lines and bars and legends of explanation – that show the rise and fall of Covid cases and variants, of deaths and hospitalization rates, of vaccinations and correlations of all of the above – by state, by country – by age.

It doesn’t matter – not because of anything in those numbers – but because those numbers were in The New York Times. Or The Washington Post. Or on CNN. Or The Daily Memphian. They were not in an online chat room, or in a chat between parents on the sidelines of a suburban soccer field, or echoed in a siloed website, or buried deep in a conspiracy rabbit hole, or already firmly entrenched in a made-up mind.

This new variant – Omicron – first showed up in South Africa. The first case here was in California. How far is South Africa from, say, South Memphis? Does anything in California make sense? And doesn’t Omicron sound more like a comic book convention than a deadly disease?

The name of the variant before that – Delta – resonates around here. You know, like the Mississippi Delta? You know, the one that begins in the lobby of The Peabody? But, hey, if the people in Mississippi don’t care about it enough to get vaccinated, why should we?

The cynic in me, the one who sits right in the middle of my head most days, knows we might have changed the course of this thing if we had named everything differently from the jump. We could have called the virus, say, Invasion. Maybe just The Other. The vaccine could have been Patriot. Instead of needles we would be using the Sword of Faith. Variants would, of course, be called Deviants. Maybe just Them.

But the realist in me, the one who buys the Scotch and stares into the dark, knows we’ve lost this one. Instead of rising as a nation to meet this challenge, instead of recognizing what we accomplished with this vaccine, we have turned our backs on science and put our population and the world at needless risk for perceived political gain.

There is a vaccine for Covid. There is none for what’s wrong with us.

Even in my own weekly lunch group – guys who read all those sources I mentioned, guys who get pretty worked up weekly – the conversation last week never turned to the new Covid variant, to outrage over lack of vaccination. The outrage last week was over being carded before getting a drink.

Oh, the horror.

Of course, people should be vaccinated. Of course, that is the thing that has slowed and will finally control Covid. And pills are on the way. But I’ve concluded that people already know that. The holdouts are like teenagers who naturally resist being told what to do by finger-wagging, annoying adults.

They have to find out on their own about the dangers of behaving irresponsibly.

Until they do, people will continue to die from that behavior. It seems we’ve decided to live with that.

Now, what’s this nonsense of asking somebody who’s obviously older than water to show ID before they can get a beer?

I’m a Memphian, and the fog of Covid hasn’t lifted, it’s just settled in and, regrettably, so have we.


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