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We are going to be ‘like this’ for a while, and that’s apparently OK with many in ’Merica

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

    “How long do you think it’s going to be like this?” my wife asked of me.

    When she posed her inquiry, we were at one of our go-to eating establishments in the area, on the deck outside on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, having a beer and splitting a wrap.

    You all know what she was referring to when she said “like this.”

    What a day that was. It’s almost like, a few days ago, after one of the longest runs of hot, steamy, sunny summer weather around these parts that I can recall in many years, Mother Nature finally sent fall to our door to ring the bell. Not full-fledged fall, with leaves changing colors and falling from trees and crispy grass in the morning, but just fall’s earliest hints, in the form of cooler temperatures, less humidity and a breeze that actually refreshes you. Only in our neck of the woods can, in around two hours, we go from our air conditioning running 24/7 in our buttoned-up home, to arguing over whether we should close all the windows because it’s too chilly in the house.

    I looked around on that bustling deck home to many other people who’d decided that they, too, needed a little excursion, and the most obvious sign of “like this” was the masks. People weren’t wearing them because they were outside and weren’t required to, but at every table, within every person’s reach, was a mask. It’s crazy how fast a mask has become almost an appendage. We get up to go somewhere, and we grab our keys, phone, and our mask.

    As my wife and chatted about the current state of things, I couldn’t help but notice, perhaps, a tinge of positivity about “like this.” After all, just about everything these days that brings back a memory of pre-pandemic life is capable of triggering nostalgia-inspired tears.        

     Like, there were flies everywhere. It’s not surprising, considering we were outside and there was food all around and various drinks containing sugar. But I couldn’t help but think that if we weren’t in the midst of “like this,” customers on that deck would have been at least irked and possibly even mighty upset by the number of flies trying to put a damper on their enjoyment.

    But, given the choice between dealing with some pesky flies outside or venturing inside for some food and a beverage or two in a setting that, during “like this,” can make people feel trapped and even claustrophobic, people seemed willing to share their space with a few annoying critters buzzing around. It even became sort of a thing, with customers rolling up menus and beer lists and smacking their tables in the hopes of splatting a fly or two. If someone was quick enough to flatten one, there were even some polite cheers. If you missed, you were encouraged to keep trying.

    But “like this” is bigger than that, and I didn’t know how exactly to answer my wife.

    When your national strategy to deal with a global pandemic is to implement no discernible strategy, “like this” is what you get, and you don’t know how long you’re going to get it. Too many people in our country lack the will to take steps to slow or maybe even stop the pandemic, so “like this” is where we are and it’s where we’re going to be for a while. That means businesses that previously closed and then reopened might close again, and maybe re-reopen again. The same goes for schools and universities. You want to know how “like this” is going? Watch TV for a couple hours and monitor the commercials. How many businesses are talking about “challenging” and “unprecedented” times, but that they’re still “here” for us, and how many businesses are celebrating that they’re open again and beyond excited to welcome us all back during the “new normal”? It won’t take you long to realize that we’re just muddling along…two steps forward, two steps back.

    It takes a degree of empathy, and in our nation at this particular moment in time, the empathy meter is barely registering. We refuse to do certain things because we don’t see the personal benefit, or we at least question it, but we fail to realize or accept that our actions could help others, and that our inaction could hurt others.

    “American exceptionalism” is a popular talking point when things happen that affect far reaches of the globe. We think we’re better than everyone else, and that our ways are the best ways, even when the statistics indicate otherwise.

    With this pandemic, though, it’s almost like we don’t dispute the numbers, we just don’t care what those numbers are. We’re so free and full of liberty that we’re going to do whatever the hell we want, a shorter “like this” be damned.

    So more people will get sick and more people will die, as we hope for some level of this concept known as “herd immunity” to manifest itself, or for a vaccine to be found.

    It’s the ’Merican way.

Mike Christopherson