I hate this.

We’ve got so many important things to ponder on this year’s first full day of spring, and you can find all that being reported elsewhere in this edition — not to mention pretty much everywhere else you turn. But let’s reason together. We can’t let this get totally out of hand.

We’re seeing plenty of things not to like about COVID-19, besides, of course, COVID-19 itself.

I hate this.

I’ve been thinking about the term “social distancing.” While I understand the need to keep separation between one another, I wish they had come up with a different term. To me, social occasions describe parties and other gatherings where people are enjoying themselves, like church socials. Following protocol by maintaining a minimum distance is contrived, and that’s hardly being social. What we don’t need during our self-imposed isolation is “social” distance in a broader sense. Even though we understand the intent, I consider “physical distancing” a more accurate term.

Fortunately, people have been socializing at a distance for generations. It happens whenever we communicate in indirect ways. Consider what happens when you post on a social media platform, write a letter, or make a phone call. There’s plenty of socialization happening there, and people are still keeping their physical distance, thank you very much.

Regardless of what I think, though, “social distancing” is the term we’re using. Yes, it’s nitpicking, but it’s what a writer does when he has time on his hands.

I hate this.

I have lots of company when it comes to reacting in baffling ways to the COVID-19 threat. Faced with a situation over which we have almost no control, folks go into pre-hurricane mode. Toilet paper was the first commodity to disappear. There was an ample supply 10 days ago. Then, shoppers started loading up TP as though it was firewood in a snowstorm. Hand sanitizer went next. I have yet to understand why canned beans were in demand. Did people believe that stores would close for weeks on end, and supplies would be unattainable? Our own panic made it reality, but it didn’t have to happen.

I hate this.

When the possibility of the spread of a new virus began to emerge, the general public seemed unconcerned. Frankly, I was too. For some Americans, it was a culmination of the distrust of the national media that has unfairly sullied many quality journalists with the disdain that a very few famously biased pundits truly deserve. I like to think news consumers have a higher regard for their local newshounds, and I hope that’s not wrong. Regardless, public health professionals lost precious days when the general public first didn’t believe, and then didn’t heed, reports of growing danger. It’s human nature to try to be optimistic. It’s human nature to not believe drastic action today might avoid even more drastic action in days to come. More people will become sick, or die, because of our sluggishness.

I hate this.

Today, we are where we find ourselves. Generally convinced now that the early warnings were true after all, we’ll do what must be done. Chief among my fears is that what we’re doing is too little, too late. With options for entertainment, travel, shopping, and congregating eliminated, we’ll busy ourselves by pointing figures — sharing our conclusions about who’s to blame, what should have been done sooner, and why so many didn’t take it seriously enough. But even if some or most of that’s true, we can’t go back six weeks and change anything. It’s past time to pull together, setting aside political maneuvering and agendas.

I hate this.

Perhaps some people I know, and love, will become sick. Perhaps a few will die sooner than they should. I wonder if I’ll become a statistic. I wonder how we’ll be affected by periods of economic hardship, closed churches, and “social distancing,” and what permanent damage to society will occur. We’ll struggle and get through this, but so much is unknown.

I hate this.

 

Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at tgifcolumn@yahoo.com.