One Way or the Other

Dear Reader,

Perspective is everything.

Currently, I am reading the memoir Educated by Tara Westover, about a woman who grew up on a farm in Idaho without a formal education. Tara’s family members are devout Mormons whose patriarch believes that the government is run by the Illuminati and that any reliance on the establishment, even for medical care, is sinful. As a child, Tara’s world and beliefs were small, but when she went to college the frontiers of her understanding were stretched in ways that made her head spin. Strangely, I think about Tara now in connection to the coronavirus pandemic….

As I sit in my Boston-area residence, I see the world around me at a standstill. I have not been to any sort of business (not groceries, take out, the office, etc.) for over two months. Yet, I see news articles pop up on Facebook showing waves of people on the beaches in Florida and swarms at a pool party in Missouri living completely different realities. Also, on Facebook, I see clear divides on where people stand concerning the extent of the threat of the virus. On one extreme end, I see a few former classmates from high school who never seem to miss an opportunity to share a post proclaiming that face masks are ineffective or about how the threat of the virus is insignificant. In the middle, I see a, perhaps, reasonable bunch who take precautions like wearing masks and using social distancing but leave the house and meet up with friends in open spaces (like for hikes and meetings in the park). On the opposite side of the extremes, I see…myself… eep!

I feel like a bona fide fanatic when I see that there are people standing shoulder-to-shoulder, flesh touching in a pool. Hooligans! How unscrupulously you so fragrantly brush up on each other! I also feel like a conspiracy theorist refusing to leave my house as I am still ordering the essentials for delivery and stockpiling them in preparation for worse days should the virus resurface with a vengeance. My thoughts and perceptions remind me of Tara in Educated. Tara describes how her father’s paranoia compelled the family to stock up on supplies in preparation for Y2K, including hoarding guns and jarring food for the end of the world. Tara also discusses how uncomfortable she felt to see women in tight clothing or with their shoulders exposed. Unlike Tara’s family, however, I am not under the impression that my radical beliefs are the correct ones. But, it remains that for some, one’s perception of the situation becomes the reality.

As policies in the United States diverge, it is becoming clear that although we are all residents, we are experiencing increasingly different realities. While my compatriots in Massachusetts may see the crowds in Missouri as incredibly irresponsible, our counterparts in Missouri may see the continued stay-at-home advisories as Puritanical madness.

In conversation with a few others also located in Boston, I often hear preoccupations about how the lack of strict social distancing in some places will surely trigger the infamous ‘second wave’ (when infections apparently decrease, and then increase again). So far, reaching herd immunity (i.e. allowing enough of the population [70%] to be exposed to the virus and build immunity) does not seem to be a likely option – no more than 2 – 4% of any country’s population seems to have been infected at this time. Widespread concern about the second wave (legitimized by scientists) and a relatively small rate of present coronavirus exposure (recorded by scientists) are fodder for COVID-19 believers and deniers alike.

So, where do we stand? On the brink of something horrible or on the road to recovery? We don’t know. There are very many people who can make very intelligent guesses based on data, statistical modeling, and historical analyses – but the fact remains – we just don’t know. However, I am positive that whether we recover from the pandemic swiftly over the summer or plunge into the worst-case scenario in the autumn, there will be very many people claiming that the outcome was clear and could have been easily predicted based on our given evidence…. Hindsight is 20/20 after all.

As we wait for the future to unfurl, I, as always, Dear Reader, wish you good health and happiness along the way.



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