‘Strange days, indeed” sang John Lennon in what would be his last musical statement in 1980.
Yoko Ono said after Lennon’s murder that “John felt the world had lost its course.” We’ve circled the sun 43 times since, and his prophetic words seem to resonate even more today. These are, indeed, strange days.
I thought as a boy in the 60s during Vietnam that those had to be the strangest times. Yet, my life as a suburban, Midwestern kid was not altered in any way I can think of. We still played in parks, had sleepovers, and went to the store without risk. A war with great risk to brave soldiers seemed waged on television and only entered my sheltered reality on the evening news.
It’s a different sheltered reality today. We may call this the “post-COVID” era, but it’s really an extension of how that reshaping of old patterns is here to stay. From supply chains to how we feel about going to the office or staying home, and the benefits we receive, or don’t receive, have changed our business and social landscapes.
We cannot compare our present sacrifices with the trials of Vietnam, Iraq/Afghanistan, or World War II. In fact, a mistake is made when we use the analogy to “war” to define the viruses that now mutate with regularity. War has two sides; each is the enemy to the other. A virus has no enemy; it exists without an agenda; it simply replicates in order to continue.
We may view this nearly invisible, yet sinister, microbe as our enemy, but in doing so we lose sight of its advantage: That it doesn’t care. Yet we must.
COVID-19 and every mutation or new viral strain has no axe to grind, no destiny to fulfill; it has no purpose. It will not know when it is defeated. Or care. And so, with such a dispassionate enemy, who is at war?
If there is a war, it is a war within our society. COVID revealed our vulnerability. It revealed the inadequacies in our system of health care. Not the health care workers, mind you, but universal access to care that a country needs to survive.
COVID revealed poor governance. How can the strongest nation on earth have been caught so off guard? We’d known about coronaviruses for over 50 years. Our government was first briefed on this contagion in November of 2019. How did we allow arrogance to dictate policy? Or lack of policy.
Fevered nationalism led to deadly roadblocks in science and our protection. The belief that greatness is achieved simply because we are Americans caught us with our pants down.
I’m as proud as anyone of the best stories of American heritage. I am proud of the accomplishments of human beings living under a charter of freedom and representative democracy. I am dumbfounded, however, that we allowed forces of nationalism to lay waste to the momentum of progress forged from education and science.
COVID revealed dysfunctions that we should have already attended to. How can we not have a health care system that provides for everyone, as fully as possible, without regard to income or identity?
How can we uphold democracy if we do not understand the parameters of freedom with regard to protection? Some Americans claim their freedom is compromised because they aren’t free to compromise the freedom of others to feel safe.
Yeah, that makes my brain hurt, too.
Mask? No mask? Vaccinate? Somehow we politicized protection and subverted ideology to replace caution. Yet for some reason I still believe we will endure. Evidenced by the fact that we are enduring. My hope is that lessons are learned that alter our course again and move us toward a more cooperative, educated, and health protected society.
Strange days, indeed.