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Virus Without Borders: Chapter Seventy-Five


Whiplash; Some Thoughts




The American political system has come down with a case of long Covid.


 -Alexander Burns, Political Memo, The New York Times, 7/31/21




How are we doing this week, how are we feeling? Not so good. The parking lot of my apartment complex is empty, everyone traveling and visiting and hugging and breaking bread together in faraway locations, and no mechanism to mandate vaccination or masks in the private sector. But my son-in-law's parents are not traveling from the UK, nor is his sister and her family. A reminder that this is still a global pandemic. On we go.


We're all exhausted by the restrictions, of course, and skeptical of the dangers of Delta if we don't know anyone who is afflicted. Nothing to do with me.  Really? Fully vaccinated friends headed for Boulder to see a new grandchild are navigating the conundrums with care. Do we wear a mask to protect this baby, or not? How will babies grow up only recognizing their grandparents' eyes and eyebrows? Though seemingly humorous, this is not a joke. Remember those experiments with motherless monkeys? They became attached to mannequins. What does this tell us? That attachment is vital and always possible, but can be odd and sad. We—humans and apes and other sentient beings—will  grab onto anything, anything at all to survive.


Am I supposed to applaud the ingenuity of mannequins and robots? My own personal Bank of America robot, Erica, just wrote me a very personal email suggesting we get together for a heart-to-heart talk about my finances. Not interested.  This writer insists on real-time connection. Mask-free real-time connection. Not telehealth. Not labyrinthian customer service, dial 1 or dial 2. Dial? Who dials anymore?


But we've got the Olympics to distract us. Simone Biles, for example. What an athlete, what a person, what a back story. Human to the core despite the intense sometimes robotic training and sacrifice of that training, despite the sexual assault, she has survived and thrived. And there  is even an announcement today that she will compete again this week. Bravas are not enough. I envy the editor or ghost who will mentor and shape her book. Or has she already written one? Oh, I just checked, she has. Well, maybe she'll write another in a few years' time.


Simone reminds me of myself—if that is possible. When I was about ten-years-old, I, too, reveled in the release and joy of athleticism; I told my parents I wanted to be a competitive ice skater. They obliged. My stepfather took me to Wollman rink early in the mornings before school for training. But books and school were just as important to me, and to my highly educated parents, so after falling asleep at my desk for a month or two, I quit, or they persuaded me to quit. I did have choices, however: I chose to not compete. In other words, I did not require--or latch onto--an athletic training to survive. I was not a baby monkey in search of surrogate parenting. Are Olympic athletes symbiotically attached to their trainers who push them and push them relentlessly? Just a question.


In order to do one thing, one often has to sacrifice another. I still had plenty of sport in my life—tennis, track, field hockey, basketball, softball, volleyball, swimming—and loved it all. To this day, I get up from my desk at regular intervals and move around athletically, if only for a hike, or to take the compost to the Village compost pile, or swim laps and laps and laps. I only know a few writers who can sit at their desks for hours and hours.


So what is happening today, as I write? I've got a Zoom call in a few minutes. I have read the headlines and await announcement of boosters, as do all of us who got our shots early. A mask is in the back pocket of my shorts again, and I look forward to hearing about any ingenious protocols my friends devise to bond with their new grandchild. How is it possible to remain distanced from a baby? Beats me.






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Virus Without Borders: Chapter Seventy-Four



"Civilization" and Our Discontents


Homo homini lupus est.


      A man is a wolf to another man.


-Latin Proverb



The doctor from Montana tried to persuade me that the gentle, non- judgmental approach was best with anti-vaxxers. It was a Sunday, she'd just been to church with her ailing mother, they were so relieved to be meeting in person again, and I was on my morning walk when we stopped to talk.  Best to say, calmly, "I'm worried about you," she explained.  So I decided to try this approach with a young man who works at the gym. He was  behind plastic, wearing a mask again, and so was I. I'd seen him walking around talking to people without his mask so I never for a minute thought he wasn't vaccinated, yet somehow suspected he wasn't based on previous conversations. So this morning, with news of break-through infections, and my own instinct to get masked-up again, I asked him directly. After the confession, came a litany of, "I spoke to my doctor and we think I don't need to get vaccinated," etc.  Excuse me? Who is this doctor?  But I didn't say that. I  held my breath and tried the recommended gentle approach: "You're a very smart man. That decision surprises me."


I didn't wait  to hear a reply. I saw his face, though, and hope my disappointment in him hit home. He'd asked me for some mentoring help, which I provided willingly. Now I'm done.


The refusal to get vaccinated—not  the hesitancy, but the blatant, outright refusal—feels  passive-aggressive to me, an "I'm going to show you" attitude, a "fuck you," attitude. I hope I am wrong about this because the psychological implications are dire. The rageful behavior of some of our citizens, many of whom are armed, worries me. Gentle admonitions won't help with these folks. It's time for mandates everywhere. This is a public health emergency.


I can't believe I'm writing this post, that I've returned to Virus Without Borders, but I know two people in England who've had Covid recently after getting their second shots. Not breakthrough infections, exactly, as the Brits did a twelve-week wait period before the second shot, so more than likely antibodies had weakened, but bad enough. Entire families had to go into quarantine, trips to see loved ones were cancelled—my son-in-law's parents, his sister and her family. And here in the US of  A,  people are traveling everywhere, gathering. Much too soon. The CDC are standing by their recommended protocols—no masks  for the vaccinated needed indoors—and  not tracking breakthrough infections. What is going on?


Dear Readers, the euphoria of early vaccination has worn off as I await announcement of a third shot, or a booster.


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