SCOT BELAVIA: Riffing On The Pandemic

Remember when we were hopeful about what the pandemic could do for humanity? It was just for a week or two, a sliver of time early on. This was after Easter and before George was killed; after #NotMyPresident-ers resigned themselves that their president had said he hoped it would end by Resurrection Sunday not that it would and before they found something more worthwhile to march against.

I remember an animated video going around then with a British, or maybe Australian, narrator talking to the present from the future. He called our moment in that time “The Great Change” or “The Renewal” or something else naïve, a title that only someone who didn’t know the future would optimistically suppose would come of all this.

He thought that after it, having spent so much time with no more than ten family members, we would prioritize our lives and humanity as a whole would refocus on the things that matter. I don’t want to speak in retrospect on how right or wrong he was; maybe we needed his encouragement at the time.

It’ll take years to figure out what we learned, if anything. How did quarantine affect babies’ and kids’ social development? What impact did CDC policies have globally? All the what-ifs and so-what’s of innumerable political events. These are sociological questions. Anything that’s transformed the individual, in facing so much death and discord around us, will stay at the friends and family level, is my guess.

If change does precipitate into the rest of society, it’d be subtle and historians will see us, their ancestors, as a monolith and take the decisions made by the majority (or the loudest) and chalk it all up to the pandemic. “Well, you’ve got to understand, it was a different time then. They had a global pandemic going on.”

I’m personally interested to see what my kids or grandkids will be taught from hindsight. They’ll come home having to interview someone who went through it, like I once called up my great-grandma to ask her about the Great Depression. I imagine I’ll have to set the record straight from what they’ll learn. But more likely, it’ll have been a blur, like the Depression was for Gramma Mary.

These days, I have a visceral reaction to the word ‘unprecedented’ and I do my best to avoid the word ‘pandemic’ as well, both in my reading and writing; so thank you for reading this one. But the pandemic has changed us and we can’t exactly say how yet because it’s still changing us, even after the fact.

– Scot Bellavia





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