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If I Could Turn Back Time

Think I’d like to go, back home, and take it ea-sy – Neil Young “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”

What does a post-Covid world look like? The mind wanders after one concludes that he probably isn’t going to die, at least not today. “New Normal” has become an increasingly relevant phrase over the past year, but what was the ‘old’ normal? Way back when, it wasn’t uncommon to see those who weren’t intimately related shaking hands or even embracing on the street. Cities like New York and San Francisco teemed with people, buildings were full, and bustling commercial neighborhoods with five-day workweeks were common. Yoga classes met in person, people crammed into crowded basketball arenas, and those entering commercial establishments while masked were regarded with suspicion (as opposed to the other way around.) There were no markers on the supermarket floor instructing us where to stand and outdoor eating was a pleasant option for warm weather. Parents sent kids off to school and went to their jobs or catered to matters best handled when the house is empty. Governors and mayors stuck mostly to ribbon-cutting, budget-signing, and the occasional forest fire. Generally speaking, they didn’t wield such sweeping, authoritarian powers.

So what are the odds that some of this new normal has seeped inside our brains? What are the odds that going back won’t be the cakewalk that some envision?

Minds are malleable. It’s been proven in countless hypnotherapy sessions and in Germany during the ’30s and ’40s. ‘Normal’ is a relative concept, susceptible to such things as age, weight, sexual orientation, and what cable news show you watch. Such a delicate process is self-identification, it can be radically altered by local riots or by your football team signing a new quarterback. I used to be that guy but, you know what? .. now I’m this guy. Get used to it.

An effective vaccine produced in record time may be a modern miracle, but it doesn’t turn back time. (Think Cher, significantly past her prime and busting a move in a see-through leotard on a battleship.) The unempowered and the powerful tend to move decidedly in opposite directions and never more than under circumstances like these. Jeff Bezos’ wealth was halved in a divorce, only to increase exponentially during a pandemic. That’s but one minute example of how a pesky microbe changed the world. Entire political movements were swayed, careers made then ended, and what used to pass as science was, both rightly and wrongly, held in doubt. Friendships were shattered and new alliances formed. The CCP and Communist China scooched over to the driver’s position and adjusted the seat to better reach the pedals. An overstatement? Too much? We’re about to see.

Oldsters tend to revert to the small when the larger picture shifts. They look after themselves and their own and shore up the homefront in anticipation of more radical change. If you have money you tend to guard it, if you have children you tend to protect them. Those with neither sometimes reach for more radical markers like tinned food and guns. This may seem counterproductive in the face of global crisis and urgings to consider ‘the other.’ But people react to the messenger as much as the message and tend to grow weary if constantly flogged. Selfish? Untrusting? Hey, we’ve been going about in masks for a year and have seen our basic liberties stripped. We’ve been pitted against one another in previously unimaginable ways. Think not? Roll the footage. Maybe it’s been for our own good .. who knows. But to be in a place where even the questions are disallowed seems unhealthy. Like that old Twilight Zone episode “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street.” Twilight Zone? Anybody? OK, I’m putting my mask on and heading to the CVS for some smoked almonds.

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