Enough of COVID-19 inanity

As a journalist, I appreciate the job our TV news folks are doing to keep us informed during these trying times. But, honestly, they’re starting to wear me out.

It apparently hasn’t occurred to them that, with only one story to report, they’re bound to repeat themselves. So, at the risk of being the only nasty guest at the happy party, allow me to list the things I’m really tired of hearing.

Please stop telling me to “hunker down” and “shelter in place” and practice “social distancing.” Covid-19 is a highly contagious virus. I understand that – I’m not an unruly second-grader needing constant admonitions from an exasperated teacher.

Quit reminding me that if we “trust the process” we can “flatten the curve” and “reopen the economy.” I don’t even know what the process is, and since we’ve been inexcusably negligent on testing, I don’t believe we can even find the curve, let alone figure out how to flatten it.

Don’t keep calling it a “milestone” when a new high is reached for number of people tested, number of people who’ve contracted the virus and, especially, number of people who have died. It’s just ghoulish, OK?

And start denying airtime to empty jibber-jabber purporting to predict the future. Gov. Eric Holcomb recently tried out, “We’re still in the woods, but we can see the clearing ahead.” That’s lame, but not as bad as “light at the end of the tunnel,” which I actually heard twice on the same day. It got old during the Vietnam War and has not improved.

I would especially like to ban two phrases that have really overstayed their welcome:

The new normal. When people say this, they sometimes mean “things are different from what we’re used to,” and sometimes they mean that “even after this mess is over, things are never going to be the way they used to be.”

Either way, it’s a stupid thing to say. “Normal,” like “average,” is a moving target.

Every time you add something new to the mix, you change the average. Say you’re computing the average height of 10 people, and it comes out to 5 foot 7; you add or subtract a person, and the average changes to 5 foot 6.9 or 5 foot 7.1. Would you go on and on about the “new average”? No, because it means absolutely nothing in the real world.

Neither does “new normal.” My normal on one day is not the same as my normal on another day because I don’t do the same things every day. And your normal is not the same as mine or anybody else’s.

But people keep saying it, and it’s shorthand for what they really want to say, which is, “Life is really awful right now, and nobody knows how to make it better, which means life is going to stay awful, so deal with it.”

It is a depressing, defeatist attitude, and I want nothing to do with it Reject the new normal.

And, finally, the worst of the worst:

We’re all in this together. Well, we are and we aren’t.

It’s true that we’re all afflicted with the same fear, but we’re each facing it alone, hunkered down and sheltered in place while we practice social distancing. This banal expression of solidarity, after the first few dozen times, sounds suspiciously like “misery loves company,” especially when uttered by evening news anchors who are sitting 10 feet apart. The next time I hear it, I swear I’m going to call one of them up and say, “In it together? Fine, come on over. We’ll share a six-pack, then I’ll take a little nap while you clean my house.”

Hearing the phrase now makes me feel like I’m at a funeral.

As a shallow youth, I hated funerals because they seemed like a cynical enterprise to suck money out of the grief-stricken. But as I got older, I began to see their useful purpose.

When a loved one dies, even if it was totally expected and we thought we were ready for it, there is a sudden hole in our lives that leaves us numb and reeling. The ritual of the funeral – friends and relatives mouthing inane but comforting sentiments like “So sorry for your loss” and “I promise it will get better” – helps us cope with that initial, paralyzing heartbreak.

“We’re all in this together” is that kind of inane but comforting sentiment. And that was fine to get us all over the immediate agony of loss. But now it’s as if the funeral is just going on and on. Funerals are supposed to be brief and cathartic, not endless and excruciating.

The old normal is dead. Got it. Let’s bury that sucker and move on. The world still turns, and time doesn’t hunker down for anybody.

Leo Morris is a columnist for The Indiana Policy Review and as opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Contact him at [email protected].