Thursday, June 3, 2021

A Year of Living Dangerously

A year of living cautiously is morphing into a year of complacency. A year of living casually. A year of living dangerously.


A semblance of pre-COVID normalcy returned to my life last Tuesday evening—the once monthly poker game resumed after a 15-month hiatus. All vaccinated, six friends played indoors at my house, without masks. Munchies were individually packaged pretzels, potato chips, popcorners. Even leftover Halloween chocolates (leftover from 2019—still good if you like chocolate). 


Over the Memorial Day weekend Gilda and I attended in-temple services for the first time in nearly a year and a half. We visited a museum, ate outdoors on the deck of a restaurant, had dinner inside friends’ homes not once, but twice.


A return, however tentative, to normalcy. For us. 


For the rest of American society, however, it seems memory of nearly 600,000 deaths from COVID-19 is no reason to be careful. Over the Memorial Day weekend, bars were packed with boisterous, unmasked patrons. Restaurants were full. Theme parks were crowded. Movie theaters played to near capacity. Stadiums and arenas were full of roaring fans. 


Despite warning from health officials that the pandemic is not over, caution has been discarded to vent a year of pent up demand for pleasure. 


2021 has become a year of living dangerously. 


Dangerous not just from virus transmission but from man’s seemingly insatiable need to harm others. Sheltering in place in 2020 had a silver lining: fewer mass shootings. 2021, on the other hand, has been awash in blood from the more than one a day mass shootings that have returned in a vengeance. Innocents have been annihilated and injured, along with anyone unfortunate enough to have been part of a grievance, legitimate or not, with a shooter. 


One would think that a nation bathed in blood would push to stem the evil tide. Rather, states controlled by Republicans have rushed to make gun possession easier. Texas, for one, approved a slew of laws which, in the words of Governor Greg Abbott, made the Lone Star state a “2nd Amendment Sanctuary State.” 


The Dallas Morning News reported, “Hotel guests could soon pack a gun in with their luggage. School marshals could carry one in the classroom. And firearm-criticizing companies could forget about doing business with Texas. (https://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/2021/05/30/gun-rights-in-texas-see-major-expansion-as-legislature-rejects-bills-to-address-gun-violence/).


The indecency of a return to the Wild, Wild West is being played out in less lethal actions. Long cooped up in their homes and man caves, effervescent sports fans have disparaged players, on visiting and even home teams, at a pace seemingly structured to make up for lost opportunities. 


The casual conduct of far too many makes careful planning a must for those with respect for science, their own health and that of anyone else. 


Carrying a mask at all times, wearing it when entering a store or restaurant, is still Gilda’s and my standard operating procedure. 


Pity the “poor” retail, restaurant and service industry worker who no longer feels safe because mask requirements have been relaxed in light of recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines permitting the vaccinated to go barefaced in most indoor locations. 


“The effect of the change appears to be most acute in politically mixed or conservative areas, where many people have chafed at mask requirements and vaccination rates are lower. In liberal enclaves, where public support for masking has generally been high, many customers continue to wear masks whether or not they are required.


“In mixed and conservative areas, workers said, employer policies were often the only thing standing between them and customers who were neither masked nor vaccinated. As a result, they feel far more exposed now,” The New York Times reported.


Masks and vaccinations have become part of our “normal” political discourse. How sad. 


Moreover, the historical record of our country is being whitewashed to reflect conservative doctrine. A former Republican U.S. senator says on a CNN news show, “We (meaning colonial whites) birthed as a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here,” dismissing the heritage of the hundreds of Indigenous peoples tribes living in North America, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Black slaves in the 13 colonies; a Republican congressman photographed manning the door of the House of Representatives to prevent insurgents from entering the chamber says there was no deadly riot on January 6; just weeks before the centennial of the Tulsa massacre of Blacks, the governor of Oklahoma signed into law a bill that would ban “the state’s schools from teaching about notions of racial superiority and racism.”


Oklahoma is not alone,” wrote Hannibal B. Johnson in The Times. “This bill is part of a national movement aimed at racial retrenchment, a backlash against the embrace of diversity, equity and inclusion. And this state is not alone, either, in the way this backlash threatens to prevent us from confronting and repairing the sins of the past. Though the Tulsa Race Massacre may be distinguished by its scale, American history between the end of Reconstruction and the victories of the civil rights movement is marked by bouts of mass anti-Black violence.” https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/31/opinion/tulsa-race-massacre-teaching-history.html?smid=url-share.


As a nation we have to ask ourselves, “What is normal?” Has the Trump factor so warped our senses, our sense of right and wrong, our sense of truth versus falsehood, our sense of honor? Has it become “normal” to disparage people rather than simply disagree with their ideas? Has it become “normal” to see conspiracy in every corner of our government? Will claims of unsubstantiated “election fraud” be our new “normal,” forever casting doubt on the legitimacy of elected officials?


We are living in dangerous times.  

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