Circles of Light

One of the definitions of corona, courtesy of the Cambridge Dictionary, begins with “a circle of light…” There’s more to it, of course, but I prefer to leave it there for the sake of clarity; clarity that even language is laced with lies.

The coronavirus bears no resemblance to light. It is an ominously dark mystery that even the most highly-educated virologists have trouble explaining to us common-folk. Despite its mysterious origin and its beguiling simplicity, the coronavirus  possesses intricately complex dark magic qualities that have the capacity to upend civilizations. I witnessed a little of that capacity unfold as I read tales of its impact on some people I know.

I have several friends, many of whom I’ve never met face-to-face, who live in and around Seattle, Washington. One of those people described the impact of the virus on her day yesterday in this way:

“Today the layoffs fell swiftly and without fanfare: we closed the cafe until further notice, laid off the Operations Manager, Marketing Administrator, evening warehouse staff, the office assistant. When the dust…had settled, just three of us remained, and I’m lucky to be one of the remaining, reduced-to-half-time, employees.”

As she approaches retirement, the circle of light suddenly blinded her to what lies ahead. As she interacted with real friends, people who live near her and interact with her through human contact, rather than through social media convulsions, she continued her ruminations about the situation:

“We have no perspective from which to draw. That part, for me, is the most bewildering.”

There again, the circle of light does not illuminate the path ahead. Rather, it conceals the way as if casting a shadow of absolute darkness, where physical and financial ruin may wait.

Another friend, whose wife is a teacher and part-time music minister, explored his conflicting feelings about going out, even to church, where most of his social interaction takes place. He’s one who spends most of his time working at home, yet even he is taking steps to isolate himself further; a wise move, especially in light of the immediacy of the threat in and around Seattle. Yet, as he correctly points out, too many of us look at Seattle as if its residents are the unfortunate ones to have to deal with the circle of light. We don’t realize the circle is expanding at the speed of…well, light; and its dark beam has the rest of us in its cross-hairs.

Last night, our country’s chief paid idiot announced a thirty-day ban on flights to the U.S. from Europe. But it’s not really all flights, it’s just the Europeans on flights. Except citizens of England are not included in the ban, presumably because they speak a form of English even the dimwit-in-chief can understand. Instead of marshaling the resources of the U.S. government to provide test kits all across the country, the moron is taking steps to cripple and very possibly kill the airline industry. His actions are putting enormous numbers of pilots, flight attendants, airline food-service workers, airport janitorial staff, airport customs enforcement personnel, taxi drivers, hotel staff, etc., etc., etc. out of work for at least a month and, most likely, much, much longer, because a recovery will not be remotely as rapid as the shutdown. The world’s most visible man-baby is doing the bidding of the circle of light, as if it were flinging accolades and flattery in his direction.

Ugh! Must get the disgusting ooze off my mind.

The NBA has suspended its season. Schools all over the country are closing. Universities are suspending in-person classes in favor of remote, computer-driven learning. The stock market and consequently the retirement funds for millions of Americans are taking enormous, unprecedented hits. Jobs are being lost or put at risk around the country and, indeed, around the world.

Italy has closed its doors; it recorded 168 deaths from the coronavirus in a single day, taking the death toll at that time to 631. The World Health Organization has finally declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Some Middle Eastern countries, including Kuwait and Lebanon and Iran, are responding to COVID-19 fears with their own draconian measures. Iran, which like Italy has been hit extremely hard by the virus, is dealing with the fact that a vice president and two ministers have been diagnosed with the virus. The circle of light is shining on political and economic infrastructures around the globe, exposing cracks in their foundations and causing mounting fear that those institutions will begin to crumble.

In spite of all that’s happening, worldwide, to cause alarm, a surprising number of people claim we’re all making too big of a deal about COVID-19. Geniuses like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity say there’s nothing to fear; they also claim the virus is a sham, just a trick to make their so-called president look bad. Hannity cited a comment from an “MIT guy on Twitter” who said, “coronavirus fear-mongering by the deep state will go down in history as one of the biggest frauds to manipulate economies, suppress dissent and push mandated medicines.”  These are the same people who will, I suspect, get infected and cheerfully, if unknowingly, spread the virus to everyone in their social spheres and beyond.

The paucity of testing has given many people a false sense of security. Quite a few epidemiologists say the virus is far more prevalent and has spread much further than we think. Because people who are asympomatic or whose symptoms are mild are not being tested, and because even the more seriously ill in some places (like Arkansas) are being misdiagnosed in the absence of COVID-19 testing, we do not really know how widespread the disease is. The likelihood, according to some health care professionals quoted in the media, is that the virus has been in Arkansas for quite some time, despite the fact that only yesterday the first “presumptive positive” case was revealed in Pine Bluff. It’s only a matter of a week or so, maybe even just days, before the numbers begin to skyrocket. Until then, though, a lot of people will continue to behave as if they are immune to a disease they do not believe is in even remote proximity to them.

Even though there are plenty of deniers, though, stores have sold out of hand-sanitizers and wipes. Even aloe vera gel, a key component of homemade hand-sanitizer, is unavailable, even online. I just wonder whether people are actually using the stuff or whether they are stocking up “just in case.” If “just in case,” it’s too late, I’m afraid.

In spite of all this, I think panic is misplaced and counterproductive. In my view, it’s prudent to follow the guidance of competent epidemiologists and go about our lives in as ordinary a fashion as possible. Maybe we simply need to stay home to the extent we can, avoid crowds, try to stop touching our faces, wash our hands frequently and thoroughly, sneeze into tissues instead of our sleeves, and otherwise behave as the health care professionals tell us. No matter what we do, though, we’ll have to wade through economic dislocations and, very likely, shortages caused by both demand and transportation-related and worker-unavailability-related delays in supply. And, rather than waiting until the incidence of COVID-19 in our immediate surroundings is high, we should start now to behave as if the circle of light was shining in our eyes.

Will I follow my own (and health care professionals’) advice? I do not know. Time will tell.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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