Back to Normal 03/13/21

There’s something about mid-March rain smell in Oklahoma that brings so many memories back. It feels like a time for celebration, even though the skies are gray and the weatherman threatens flood.

It feels like there’s been a shift in the public consciousness. Donald Trump no longer being president has a lot to do with it, I think. So does the rollout of the vaccine. For a while I was worried that people would be permanently scarred by the year-long fear campaign, and surely some people will, but mostly those scars will be borne by the youngest of our society, the children who barely got to live before they were told they were going to die.

Those fears seem less likely now, but something frightening has taken its place: that the panic and hysteria can be turned on and off like a light switch. People really will whip themselves into a 24/7 frenzy about something, and will just as quickly quiet down once they get what they want. It looks very much like a temper tantrum.

And that, to me, is really disconcerting. Rational thought went out the window in 2020, the ability to be level-headed, assess risk, and put things into perspective. All gone. I didn’t think a new face on TV would be enough, but the temperature that I’m taking from people in my orbit (a small sample size, of course) seems to suggest that it really was that simple.

Light switch.

I’m going to choose to look on the bright side of all of this, because with that light switch getting flipped, people seem to want to get back to some version of normal, which is what I’ve been wishing for for the past 12 months. They want to laugh, to look at art, to read books and watch movies. Overall, it’s a win.

But I’ll never forget this past year. Not for the whole rest of my life.

What the past year has taught me is just how fast a population can devolve into witch hunts and hysteria. All it takes is a clown in office and the threat of infestation. It had been a while since we were really afraid of some outside force invading our space, whether that’s our neighborhood or our bodies. It’s not lost on me that “leaked” cell phone videos that came from China showing people displaying what we can now see are very un-c*vid-like symptoms were what really seemed to trigger the Western world.

There’s some latent xenophobia going on with the whole thing. Even the conservative c*vid deniers got in on the action. The sinophobia was too strong to resist. How does one say that the v*rus is both fake and that it was made in a Chinese laboratory? Strap in, friend. They’ll find a way.

I’m happy to see that my friends are getting their vaccines, and that it’s helping them to return to some sense of normalcy. Whether or not they work, or whether they’re safe long term, well, I guess we’ll find out. The trick about measuring the effectiveness and safety of a thing over time is that it takes time to do that, so we won’t know. You’re all adults. You can make your own risk assessment. My position on that hasn’t changed. And, at the end of the day, if I have to take a vaccine to travel or go to shows or even to make my friends comfortable around me, then I’ll do it. I’ll just hold out for as long as I can, which probably won’t be very long. It’s odd, how social pressure works. It’s odd that at the end of it I won’t have a practical choice as to what I put into my body. The decision has been made for me, pretty much.

“You could always go live in the woods, or stay inside all day, or not do anything you enjoy for the rest of your life.” Yeah, it’s not a choice at all.

My sincere hope for everyone reading this is that you never find yourself on the wrong end of a zeitgeist. I’m not going to pretend that it really hurt me in any way. I still work, I still have my family and my friends. But mentally, it’s difficult to feel that alone all the time. It’s even more difficult to read people who share your opinions and find out the other things they believe! Strange bedfellows doesn’t begin to cover it.

But there’s a lesson in all of it. I learned this year that I’m just one guy in a huge world, and there’s not much I can do to change that. You ever watch movies that take place in the Dark Ages, and you think damn, it would really suck to be at the whim of a king, to really have no choice in your life? Well, I’ve got bad news for you: you really don’t. We are tossed around by the large forces that control things, or try to control things, anyway. God help you if you’re not smart enough to shut up and go along with it.

In that helplessness, however, is a lot of power. It shifts your perspective to what you can control. And you render unto Caesar the rest of it.

Stay safe, and stay healthy out there. I’m going to enjoy this rainy day, and remember what all these new familiar smells mean.

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