The term “20-20” is supposed to mean excellent vision, but who out there celebrating the start of a new decade four months ago saw this coming?
The year 2020 has exposed us as being as nearsighted as Mr. Magoo, that old cartoon character that kept bumping into everything and talking to potted plants.
Those “experts” who did warn us about the perils of pandemics did so in an extremely general way. Nobody in the last several years warned us that sometime soon every non-essential business in the country would close, that our schools would be shuttered, that virtually all sporting events, both amateur and professional, would come to a screeching halt, and that people would die in numbers that made previous viruses look like head colds.
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Prior to this year I always took pride in giving good handshakes. I learned from the nuns and Jesuits growing up to reach out my hand first upon meeting a new person or an old friend. I was taught to grip all the way until the bridge between the thumb and forefinger reached the same spot on the other’s hand, and give one firm pump. That was the way to shake a hand. I did it every time and never forgot it. Now we’re being told that shaking a hand could lead to our death or the death of the person we’re greeting. How weird is that?
If tomorrow I saw an old friend in a public place and he or she came up and hugged me, whereas a couple months ago I’d appreciate the act of affection, now I’d wonder if my friend had lost his or her marbles. It’s unimaginable.
Because I scribble for a living and write about any number of different subjects or issues, I’ve always been a news junkie. I read a print newspaper or two every morning, follow stories online, and watch a variety of news programs in the evening. I’ve never gotten trapped into the world of reality television, and couldn’t name a single housewife or survivor or naked-and-afraid jungle camper in the dozens of mind-numbing shows that have taken over so much nighttime programming.
But after this past five weeks of lobotomizing isolation, I can barely stand to watch the news at night. There is no place I’ve found that reports balanced news without a political slant. If you love Donald Trump, you know exactly where to go. If you can’t stand him, there are a couple channels that will feed your hatred.
The same holds true for our two local newspapers. One leans far right; the other far left. You know which is which. Their opinion pieces seldom vary in posture from one day to the next. I would imagine if some reporter or columnist at the right-leaning paper wrote a scathing review of the President or other Republicans, he/she would have to find a new career. Either that or apply to the other paper and explain the reason for crossing over to their side of the river.
It’s likely that at both papers as much time is spent in editorial meetings each morning in strategizing how many spitballs to hurl at the opposition as to prioritizing the most important stories to cover.
One could take the bright side of the situation and say that those of us who are isolating have less tough decisions to make until the air clears. The number of subjects up for debate with our loved ones has become limited. The most pressing issues we discuss in our home are: “Would you rather have chicken noodle soup of clam chowder for lunch?” There is no argument as to which restaurant we’ll eat at tonight, or which movie theater has the best feature playing. Not even a debate with my adult son over which sporting event to watch. The only games showing on ESPN were played a year or a decade ago, and that to me is watching paint dry. No thanks.
One matter we can all agree on is that first responders and health care workers in this country deserve every ounce of love and respect we can lavish on them. To report day after day to give care and treatment to people carrying this deadly virus is being deployed to a battlefield for only the bravest among us.
I’d like to hug all of them and shake their hands, but of course I can’t.