When the proverbial waste byproducts make forceful contact with the oscillating instrument, you learn new things about old friends (and acquaintances). The COVID-19 pandemic and consequent response to same has been one of the most prominent global hitting-the-fan episodes in most of our lives.
As amazing (and frightening) as the reactions of various government entities has been, it’s also been interesting and eye-opening to see the responses of individuals I thought I knew. While there has been some predictability based on party lines, there have also been some unexpected revelations and some hidden character quirks have come to light.
The macho self proclaimed libertarian defender of the second amendment turns out to be a shrill advocate of government shutdown and forced mask-wearing. The seemingly sheepish obedient life-long rule-follower comes out loudly in support of civil disobedience in protest of the violation of constitutional rights under the guise of “quarantine.” The long-time germophobe with a compromised immune system nonetheless pipes up as an unlikely outspoken voice in favor of opening the world back up. Some of my liberal friends are suddenly sounding like conservatives and some of the conservatives are now talking like liberals.
Fear, uncertainty, and doubt change us — or maybe just bring to the surface the underlying personality traits that we suppressed before. When perspective changes, sometimes opinions do, too. And we find ourselves suddenly aligned with former mortal enemies, at least temporarily. It’s a disconcerting feeling, to have to rearrange all the puzzle pieces in our minds when the picture on the box morphs into a completely different scene.
Life is nothing if not an ongoing learning experience. As with science, nothing in it is ever “settled.” Alliances that formed on the basis of yesterday’s reality fall apart in the midst of today’s new abnormal. Players switch sides; some take their balls and go home; teams that were formerly aggressively competitive turn tail and run; the unknown second string rookie picks up the bat and hits a home run; the favorite stumbles and the long shot wins the race.
A month ago, as this “situation” (what else to call it? “Crisis” has been overdone. “Pandemic” even more so) ramped up and I found myself at odds with the majority of my friends on Facebook, who were (understandably, at that point, I guess) more concerned about safety than freedom, I “snoozed” people left and right (the Facebook feature that gives you a way to “turn off” a friend’s posts for a month and not see any of them in your news feed during that time. It’s less permanent than unfollowing and less drastic than unfriending, and allows you to temporarily take a break from a particular person).
My news feed shrank down to less than a fourth of my total friends list. It was a way to maintain my sanity, preserve the relationships I cared about, and avoid spending all day, every day, in futile arguments.
Now the 30 day “big sleep” has ended and familiar faces are popping back up but I’m a little surprised and more than a little pleased to find that many of them are singing a totally different tune. And that is music to my ears. (Of course, some others are still proclaiming that the sky is falling and we’re all going to die, and those get to take another nap).
I respect the rights of all my friends (and everyone else) to hold whatever opinions they wish, but I am happy to see, as they reemerge from social media slumber, that so many of them have gotten over the paranoid pandemic paralysis and are thinking for themselves again and seeing through the smokescreens and questioning what doesn’t make sense and remembering the sacrifices that were made for the freedoms that we’re losing and are standing up to say to those who want to take them and those who want to give them away, “wait a minute … maybe not.”
Maybe there is hope for the future. I guess I’m not all alone in the wilderness with only a handful of distant voices of support after all.