Every year the flu sweeps across the country and sickens thousands. Kills many more. Yet we seldom panic when the word “flu” is used. Why? Because it is commonplace. It’s expected. It’s understood.
We know that it brings runny noses, coughs, chills, fevers. We expect to suffer for a week or more. It will leave us weak, but we recover. We don’t want to eat, but that’s for a relatively short period of time.
Our neighbors and coworkers and relatives get it, suffer, then most of them get well. Only rarely does someone we know die from the flu, and those that do tend to have compromised immune systems.
So what’s new about this coronavirus? For one thing, it’s taken researches a while to try to isolate what caused it. We don’t like mystery. We like scientific explanations. We like logic.
Mystery illnesses remind us of science fiction movies where plagues sweep across the world killing millions. That makes us uncomfortable because there’s a touch of reality in there, a touch of possibility that causes us to squirm.
Americans are accustomed to catching the flu then returning to normal life. While we are home suffering, everyone else is working, traveling, shopping. We wrap up in heavy blankets and sip broth while the rest of the family gobbles down pizza, hamburgers, spaghetti.
While we’re home unable to work, work goes on, leaving us behind. We worry that the boss will discover that we are not needed. That hurts our egos as we like to believe that we are indispensable.
Across the United States, as the virus sickens more and more of us, governors and mayors are enacting rules that restrict our movement. We don’t like that. We believe in our freedoms and those are being eroded on a daily basis.
We are in love with our cars. Yes, we can still drive about, but where can we go? Not to the movies or the theater as they are closed. We can’t dine in a nice restaurant where we chitchat with friends, for they are closed as well. We can drive up to a fast food window and order take out, but we aren’t permitted to share the meal with outsiders.
Our churches are closed, so we cannot worship in the usual way. Some churches have created streamed services, but that’s not the same environment. The pomp is gone. The music is gone. The partaking of communion is also gone. Our community is broken into tiny parts.
We cannot stroll through a mall or go for a hike with friends. Even our doctors don’t want to see us, opting for phone calls instead of in-person visits.
All the things that we are used to doing, that we accept as our rights, are shuttered.
The scary part is that we don’t know for how long. Two weeks? Three? Maybe even four? No one knows for sure. This uncertainty is new.
The flu might close a school for a deep cleaning that lasts a day, but all schools are closed for at least three weeks. Education, a right that we highly value, has ground to a halt.
No public transportation is operating, so we cannot go into the city or ride across the bay. We are truly stuck.
This curtailing of our freedoms is frightening. People are hoarding food and medicine. They are even filling bottle after bottle with water, thinking that our supply is going to be cut off? Who knows.
We are told to use sanitizer but you can’t find it anywhere. We are told to stay out of stores, but what if you need food? Because of the hoarders it’s hard to find fresh food, and when you do, the prices have risen to unacceptable rates.
We are told to keep six feet of separation between us, but at the grocery store, people stand shoulder-to-shoulder.
I hope and pray that this passes quickly and that not too many sicken and die.
Let’s muscle through this together. Let’s comply, as much as possible, for the betterment of all. Perhaps if we stay home, the end will come soon.
Meanwhile, we can sing the old song about how the times are changing.