We are living through a plague and things are very serious and we all need to sacrifice and endure in order to survive. We owe it to ourselves and to others to follow all of the protocols, wearing a mask, social distancing, and abiding by lockdowns and other rules from government and the medical establishment designed to prevent transmission of Covid-19. I am obeying them all and I hope that you all do too.
There has been, in these plague years, the emergence of a particular kind of creature. Though I had never encountered them before they appear to be an opportunistic parasite, one that was waiting in stasis for years to emerge into a period with the proper combination of desperation and moralism. This creature feeds on the unprecedented opportunity to lecture. It looks out and all it sees are people who are not as serious as it is, not as careful as it is, not as dedicated to protecting every life as it is. We have all failed in its eyes. I will call it, I guess, the Covid realist, for that is surely how they see themselves.
For the Covid realist, no amount of pessimism about the virus is deep enough. No amount of adherence to the rules is strict enough. No surrender to the inevitability of more and more restrictions is complete enough. With the Covid realist you learn quickly that the only correct response is to nod along more deeply with every new, more pessimistic thing they say. Every utterance becomes a referendum not only on your apprehension of where we stand relative to the virus but on whether you are willing to accept the harsh, brutal truths of the Covid realist.
The Covid realist religiously follows the Atlantic‘s pompous, self-impressed, imperious coverage. The Covid realist says, “you think you’ll be able to see your friends after the vaccine? Fat chance!” The Covid realist tells you that, when you’re feeling upbeat about the medical advances, the virus could always mutate. The Covid realist wants you to know that you’ll never see the lower half of a stranger’s face again. When you say that you’re looking forward to going to a basketball game next fall the Covid realist says, “Ha, good luck.” The Covid realist thinks that imagining holding a birthday party a year from now is not only deluded, but irresponsible. The Covid realist does not just want to regulate your behavior. The Covid realist wants to purify your thoughts.
The existence of idiots who resist masks and dismiss the virus as a hoax is lamentable. But while making up your mind to be the opposite is better than that alternative, it is also a way to make yourself into a cruel person, cruel and self-satisfied and righteous. It is a way to trade on other people’s misery to attain some sort of momentary social standing in an exchange which should never have been a contest in the first place. The restrictions we are enduring as a response to Covid are devastating. The human costs of lockdowns are immense. People die due to lockdowns. People miss their last opportunities to see their loved ones during lockdown. Children and teachers struggle through compromised schooling. Battered wives and neglected children are forced by the circumstances of lockdown to stay in dangerous environments. And the things we are locked out of, the restaurants and bars and museums and ballgames and concerts – these things are the stuff of life, the stuff of human social life, the kind of things that we endure the grind for.
Let people feel things. Follow all of the protocols strictly. Advocate for others to do so, even stridently. Be pessimistic in your assessments when you feel it’s appropriate. But let people feel things. Including optimism. Including investing great hopes in the vaccine. Including planning ahead for better futures, like ones where they don’t have to visit their parents through a window or where they can walk around in a park without a mask. This fucking sucks. It hurts so bad. I am surviving but that’s what it is, surviving. To be a Covid realist is to say to most everyone, “you are failing, even at this, at surviving.” Don’t be one.