What a Confusing, Scary Mess? Where Do We Go from Here?

Divided We Fall

We were living in a divided world before anyone ever heard of Covid-19. The split seemed like it just happened, but it was really a slow boil. And eventually, we found ourselves at odds over politics with family, friends, and colleagues in ways we never expected to happen.

I’ve heard the same lament spoken in nearly the same terms by those who support Trump and those who think he is the worst president in history. It goes like this, “I can’t understand why some people who are otherwise educated, well-meaning, and intelligent can come to the conclusions they do about…” These folks are dumbfounded that others can’t appreciate or share their views. And that was before the pandemic.

Now, we have more reasons to distrust what we see or who to believe when it comes to this virus. You have governors and mayors enforcing rules to shut down businesses and stay at home. You have the president flip-flopping with tweets to liberate Michigan while publicly admonishing the governor of Georgia for his decision to open the state when a day before he supported him. Not to mention the leader of the free world opining on injecting disinfectant as a Covid remedy yikes! All this noise only makes everything more confusing and scarier.

Covid-19 Is an Insidious Silent Assassin

It is obvious Covid-19 is a killer for some, especially those at high risk. But not being at high-risk is not a guarantee it won’t kill you. It’s a bet that it could kill you or someone you know that most reasonable people won’t take. That’s because you don’t know. There is also the potential where you ignore the warnings and get Covid but don’t have any symptoms. Instead of getting sick, you become a carrier and a silent assassin who unintentionally affects others who are at risk.

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My wife, Mary, and I are being careful because we know if one of us gets coronavirus, the other will get it too. By the time we figure out the first of us has been infected, the other will already be infected as well. I know when I walk the streets, drive in a car, or fly in a plane, there is a risk that something bad can happen that maims or kills me. It’s a risk I’m willing to take because the odds are infinitesimally small it will ever happen. By contrast, the estimate is airline passengers within three rows of a person with active Covid infection are 80% -100% likely to get infected. No one with half a brain would put themselves in that position intentionally.

Covid-19 is not a death sentence. It’s not a guarantee you will get sick enough to go to the hospital. The mortality rate is nearly 6% in the US. I usually like 94 of 100 odds in my favor. I’ll take that all day long in Vegas or the stock market. But when I’m betting my life or long-term health, or just getting sicker than I’ve ever been and being intubated in a coma to pull me through, I don’t like such odds at all. As such, I’m staying at home as much as possible.

Circumstances Drive Decisions Now More Than Ever

I’m neither young nor feeling invincible, although I once was and would probably be aching to go the beach if this happened in my younger days. I’m also not unemployed with a family to feed with worries about how to make ends meet. Any of those things would bring down my guard about Covid. It’s so different I’d be the first to admit I can’t relate. As such, it’s hard to judge others or to tell them how to live their lives, especially in the land of the free USA. Nobody likes to be told what to do by anyone, and having their government force the issue makes things worse.

As scary as Covid seems, most of us don’t know a person who knows a person who knows someone who died from it. You can see the ER docs and medical personnel who are exhausted and begging people to stay home, but then you look around in your hometown unless you are living in a hotspot like New York City, and you can’t relate.

It’s Like Watching the Aftermath of a Tornado on TV

It’s like watching the news coverage about a tornado that blew through someplace thousands of miles from where you live. You are horrified at the destruction and feel sad for the loss of lives and property, but it has zero effect on you. It’s impossible not to feel detached from the situation when you have lost nothing from it.

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Covid-19 compares to a natural disaster. That is, it’s a pure tragedy when it slams a local community, a nursing home, a meatpacking plant, an aircraft carrier, a cruise ship, even a prison, or anywhere people are housed in close quarters. For those people, it feels like a tornado in the way it disrupts life or takes it away. The big difference is tornados are random natural disasters, while Covid is creeping along to hit everywhere eventually.

It’s Hard to Believe Anything Is Truly Unstoppable

What I’m saying is Covid is like a silent tornado that is indiscriminate. It’s coming for you unexpectedly, and you can’t stop it. As with tornados, humans have no protection against it. You can read reports of how it devastates groups that gather at choir practice, or a large dinner party. Events such as that are so innocent in normal times. Places and occasions where you would never think a virus is let loose to run rampant quietly.

The solution of staying home is the only thing that is keeping the spread from running like wildfire everywhere at once. Since we have no natural defenses and the disease travels, it’s not a matter of will it affect where you live. It’s a matter of when it arrives. It’s easy to see how some feel secure because there is a current low rate of infection in their locale. But that lowering of the guard only helps the disease to propagate faster when it comes. And make no mistake, it’s happening everywhere eventually.

Because Covid is not at the same level everywhere at once, it’s possible that with enough accurate testing we could anticipate what locales could be wide open, and which need to hunker down until levels subside. Even with that, it’s going to be very difficult for many to feel comfortable being in close quarters at concerts, ball games, or other live events. We’ve got a lot of figuring out to do before such things are possible.

The Cure Is Nearly Worse the Disease

A huge problem is the cure is nearly worse than the disease. Staying at home and closing businesses creates an economic pandemic of equal disastrous proportions. The result is our leaders are forced to make the most godawful Sophie’s Choice they will ever face. And we as individuals must also make drastic choices about how we will react to the information we have about coronavirus and the decisions our leaders make.

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There are no easy answers for anyone. There are no guarantees that any choice is the right one and that it will work out as we hope it will. I’ve made my decision. It is based on gaining as much knowledge as I can about the coronavirus. At the same time, I can’t blame others for making a different choice. I hope they make it based on valid information.

Some broadcast alternate theories and some are conspiratorial too. They tap into our worst fears and most deep-seated mistrust of our leaders, our media, and experts on the virus. Maybe some have good intentions, but it’s easier for me to think they are hell-bent on wreaking havoc in a time when people are most vulnerable to their misguided, if not evil intent.

You don’t have to believe in alternate theories to disagree with me that staying home is the best route. You might be desperate to get back to work to save your business, your home, or your family’s well-being. And how do I respond to your needs like that? I don’t freaking know. Such uncertainty is yet another negative point of internal strife brought on by coronavirus. It’s human nature to wish for confidence in the decisions we make that affect our lives. As if we were not living with enough strife already.

There Are No Crystal Balls

Where we go from here as a society and a nation is anybody’s guess. I can say that a serious lockdown started for me on March 11 when I decided to avoid going to a live concert. I’d seen Tinsley Ellis perform a year ago at the Musical Instrument Museum in its magnificent 295-capacity theater. He is the most underappreciated blues guitarist of his generation. Coming just days after losing my best friend suddenly to a stroke, I was so looking forward to seeing him play again. As such, it was a super hard decision to make because I knew the odds of being infected that night were slim. I believe they are mostly still slim around here in the greater Phoenix area. That’s what makes abiding by staying home rules so hard to live with.

The thing is if I’d gone to the concert and ended up infecting Mary and she had a bad time or worse as a result, could I have lived with myself? I can’t afford to have such regrets. Maybe that’s the adult in me making decisions instead of the rowdy unruly kid I was in my 20s. I don’t know how I would have reacted in my 20s to Covid. I hope I would be responsible, but there was enough of a free-spirited rebel in me that I can’t say for sure.

Living with just six weeks into the stay home lifestyle, with the prospect of months even years to put Covid behind us, is mindboggling. Yet, this is my new normal, which is similar but different from yours. And whatever life is like in the months and years to come, living in the post-Covid era is sure to be much different than it was before. It may take generations before people don’t carry wounds and fears brought on them by the coronavirus.

I’ll end this by saying I open my heart to send out best wishes to all who are affected or will be affected by Covid-19. I can’t tell you how to live your life. I hope you make the choices that will cause the least grief and strife for your family, your business, and your community.

Please take good care because, in the end, you’re all you’ve got, baby.

Thank you for reading this far down on this post. It’s as much a cathartic rant as anything. Please know, I appreciate you and hope you cope as best as possible in these most trying times. I’ll get back to art marketing next time.

The Guide to Art-related Careers
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  1. Thank you for your thoughtful analysis of the situation, Barney. I agree that there are no easy answers, and no perfect decisions. I only know one person personally who had the virus. She was high risk being a smoker in her 50s with serious health issues a year ago. But she recovered with no hospitalization necessary.

  2. Barney. A fair rant for sure!. It’s so hard having an enemy we can’t see. Fortunately, most artists can work from home, although I know many whose shows have been cancelled and galleries are closed. I do see art being sold online, so that’s good news.

    I’m in Arizona now because we bought a house here in February and I flew here to fix up some stuff. I was planning on flying back to New Hampshire. My husband is back in New Hampshire. We both decided to stay put and not fly. He’s packing up to put the NH home on the market, so it’s likely I’ll never return to New Hampshire and haven’t seen my husband on 2+ months. I miss him, but we are safer isolating apart. We do get to talk on the phone daily. We actually talk more while apart than when we’re together.

    that all said, there are daily blessings I can focus on. Too many to list here.

  3. Well said and thank you. We are all in this together and must think of others as well as ourselves like no other time. Hang in there and stay well everyone!

  4. Well written as always Barney! You are a true creator in many fields. Let me point out a plus to sheltering to in-place. For artists this can mean more time at the easel, the drawing board or the favorite digital program. I’ve been casting about for something to fill the hours each day that I’m no longer at the Y. I’ve no idea when they will open again or when I’ll feel comfortable about not picking up something that may jeopardize the health of other residents in the Assisted Living Facility that is home. I’ve considered starting another book, but if there is any possibility for sales, I should become proficient at using “social” media to promote. The problem, for me, is that I start to doze at about the second paragraph into the instructions. Two possibilities down. Some years ago when I was still on the road as an art rep, a side hustle I had fun doing, and some modest success, was drawing gag cartoons for magazines. The long hours on the road gave me time to think up the gags and ‘picture” the pictures. Back home sketching what I thought up was fun, too. Nowadays, instead of sending off batches of sketches, crossing fingers and waiting, hoping for a “yes” then reshuffling and repackaging the rejects for a go at another magazine, I see I can scan the sketches and submit digitally. Sooo… I’m gonna try to get back in the groove and see if my sense of humor can find a home outside of these four walls. Wish me luck!

  5. Barney, you took the reasoning straight down the middle of the road. I am more afraid of giving it to someone else and killing them and having to live with it then getting it and dying myself.

  6. You spoke my heart Barn .. some days I’m a couch potato and other days I’m in my studio trying to be creative or helping a friend deal with a meltdown on the phone wanting to hug the fear out of her and can’t . My tourist town had thousands of people on the beach this weekend & most had no regard for anything Covic .. do I go to the small IGA for my needs now ?! I want to wake up & have all this over but fear the war has just started .. it was a fine rant my old friend .. keep well & keep in touch

  7. Thanks for this heartfelt summation of the storm we are all going through. We are all not in the same boat, but the storm doesn’t care…

  8. Thank you for giving voice to our contradictions and concerns, Barney. The one tool we all have at our disposal right now is to care for one another.

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