A couple of years ago I gave the parents’ address at my youngest son’s graduation ceremony at Fulton.
OK, it was actually 2014 and that same son is still in the same school district.
No, it’s not that he never graduated, he’s actually a teacher, well .6 of one — on his way to becoming a whole teacher one day soon.
I was thinking lately of how ripped off I would feel if I was “gradding” this year and this coronavirus thing actually cancelled my grad, and aftergrad, and stag, and breakfast, and walk across the stage, and even the parents’ address. OK, maybe not the last one.
But what I really wanted to point out is that the speech was about how grad was about leaving the bubble of high school for the real world (eventually anyway).
“Tonight is an end but it’s also the beginning of a bold, new chapter where you get to write the book more than you ever did before,” I said and wrote (it’s so lazy, and arrogant even, to quote yourself but as the philosopher and former Canuck Todd Bertuzzi once said: “It is what it is.” Thanks Todd).
I went on to reassure them and say it’s OK to be anxious about what lays ahead and to let them in on a secret – “even though it seems like everyone else knows what they’re doing and, you, well maybe not so much… we’re all winging it.”
Fast forward to 2020 and I may have been more right than I even thought possible. I may have had a slight inkling that society, i.e. us, was flying by the seat of its pants through this thing called life but nothing to the extent that’s proving true thanks to this darn pandemic thing.
How the heck in this modern age did we let a submicroscopic infectious agent literally destroy our way of life in a matter of days? Aren’t pandemics, depressions, mass hysteria, stock market crashes, snake oil salesmen and doomsday scenarios straight out of the black-and-white history books when people didn’t know so much about stuff?
After all we have science, we have the internet, we have a modern, complex society, we have pharmaceuticals, we have computers, we have indoor plumbing, we have cellphones, we know the Earth is round and not to sound too cocky but we might even find a cure for this “death” thing in the not too distant future.
All true but apparently no match for the coronavirus, at least so far as the death toll grows and the economic future of our planet falters.
Why didn’t we see this coming? Apparently Bill Gates and some scientists did, but, hey, the stock market’s up, global warming’s a few years off and Netflix is the best thing since cable, so why worry?
Well, because of factors like global trade and travel, a corrupt, totalitarian regime in China, an ignorant, incompetent, reality-show president who’s more worried about ratings than his fellow man (Clorox injections, anyone?), a World Health Organization that may or may not be compromised politically and a media landscape that’s so fractured by partisanship and technology that Fox’s facts are pretty much a world apart from CNN’s truth and don’t even get me started on Facebook or Google.
They say conspiracy theories come about when people’s perception of the world is altered significantly by an event or occurrence – hello 2020.
So as we wing it through self-isolation, trying to sift out the wrong from the right, the biased from the balanced, and the superstitious from the science, all the while remaining six feet apart, our leaders are trying to do the same.
Are we doing the right thing? When can we safely go back to “normal” and does that still exist?
Should I cut my own hair, or let my wife do it?
All answers to be determined in due time but one thing’s for sure, it’s a humbling experience for all of us on planet Earth.
Glenn Mitchell is a columnist and former editor of The Morning Star.