The Always-Unverifiable Pandemic -- SO VERY VERY BAD! -- Evaporates into Thin Air.
For the last two days I’ve felt an uneasy sense of grief, or of a heavy pressure on my heart. At first I could not figure out the cause of it.
Nothing unusual was wrong in my personal life. My loved ones were safe and well, thank God. The battle for liberty was ongoing, as it has been for over two years, but I was used to the rigors and stresses of that. What was the matter?
I was just driving with Brian over Taconic foothills, and through the vast early-Spring expanses of the beautiful Hudson Valley. The sun was shining. Daffodils, creamy-white and bright yellow, displayed their trumpets shyly in shadowy recesses under old ash trees with wide-spreading boughs. The lighter-yellow forsythia dotted the roadsides in a riot of buzzy color.
We’d just been talking to a realtor acquaintance who described how the area had changed when the city people fled their Brooklyn apartments at the start of the pandemic, to sit out the crisis in the gracious, creaky old farmhouses that they could purchase for a relative song.
We’d driven through reopened businesses flush with newly transplanted money. An old railroad car diner had been revamped and now offered curated organic-beef hash, and tasty, if ironic, egg creams.
We drove past little 1960s ranch houses with some land around them, now being redone with costly cedar shingles and white trim, for the farmhouse look that the ex-Brooklynites liked. Sotheby’s signs were out on the lawns already, in preparation for the lucrative flipping.
On driveway after driveway of the ex-Brooklynites, of the former weekend people — (and I confess that I too was once a weekend person, but something has happened to me in the last two years that has changed me even more than my change of home address) there were now Ukrainian flags. Not American flags. No one cared or even asked about the town halls being closed for the past two years. Tyranny overseas was more pressing than the rights that had been suspended just up the road.
Otherwise most things were almost back to normal! Almost pre-2020 normal!
The masks had recently come off. Hudson, New York, and Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the two cities nearest us, and also, by chance, both left-leaning, had also been two of the maskiest and most coercive of places when it came to pandemic policies and pandemic cultures. Now businesses were being allowed to reopen.
(I’d been fired from my Great Barrington synagogue because I’d dared to invite people over to my house at the depth of the pandemic — if they had wanted, as adults, affirmatively, to join me — to watch the Zoom Friday Evening Shabbat service together. Shocking behavior on my part, I know.)
As if a switch had been flicked, now the cruel moral judgments, the two-tier society, the mandates, the coercions, the nasty looks, the desperate masked children with their laboring breath, the loneliness, the desolate centrally-planned economies — had evaporated and were no more.
A memo from a political consultancy had gone out to the DNC, warning about how these policies spelled defeat in the midterms, and Pouf! — a whole retinue of “mandates” messaged as if they had been matters of life and death, a raft of Board of Health demands, a plethora of social strictures, and baroque instructions on how and when to discriminate against one’s fellow Americans — vanished, like the smoke from an unwelcome cigarette on a breezy veranda. An MSNBC commentator said, in a logical non sequitur, that now that vaccines were available for kids, in-person office life would resume.
Overnight, a new concern, a new moral signifier, was presented, wholly formed: and it involved a conflict area half a world away. Now, war is always bad and invasions are always cruel; but I could not help noticing that there are wars, refugees, invasions and conflict areas around the world, and that only this one — this one one — demanded the attentions of my irksomely cultish and uncritical former tribe. I could not help noticing that the dozens of devastated conflict areas and war zones being totally ignored by the ex-Brooklynites — from Ethiopia, where there have been 50,000 deaths since September, to Sri Lanka, with its catastrophic food shortages, to Mexico’s drug war, which has led to 300,000 deaths, to Afghanistan, where women are being rounded up and people are being shot in the street — do not involve white people who look like the ex-Brooklynites; and for various other reasons, are not attracting a lot of television cameras.
You’d think the ex-Brooklynites, with their expensive educations, would bear those complexities in mind.
But no; the ex-Brooklynites are so easily led, when it comes to anyone invoking their particular moral high ground.
When they are directed to pay attention to one conflict out of dozens, and ignore the rest, no matter how dire the rest may be, they do so. Just like, when they were instructed to present their bodies uncritically to an untried MRNA injection and to offer up the bodies of their minor children, they did so. When they were asked to shun and to discriminate against their blameless neighbors, they did so.