What do the COVID-19 pandemic and the administration of Donald Trump have in common, besides all of the obvious? The answer is this: we’re trying as hard as we can to forget them both this spring, even though their dangers are anything but past.
It feels like we’ve spent the entire pandemic, from February 2020 on, talking about what we’d do after. What’s the first thing you’ll do when this is all over? Where will you go? Who will you see? What we’ve done a lot less of is talk about how we’re planning to survive, to help one another, to protect the vulnerable, and so on. Instead, we spend a lot of time trying to convince others that the pandemic is actually still happening.
And sure, it can feel like things are winding down. Vaccination rates are up, right? And Gov. Ned Lamont opened up all the restaurants, so that has to mean it’s safe!
The buds are on the trees, the birds are singing, the air is warming, and our smooth, smooth brains are busy forgetting all the other times our leaders have been wrong about reopening. The kicker here is that in the past, Lamont was usually pretty good about this stuff, so why not believe him now?
Well, because he was wrong.
Cases are still distressingly high, and hospitalizations continue to rise. Some experts blame the reopening of restaurants to full capacity, though the Connecticut Restaurant Association disputes that. I doubt it helped, though. The variants, especially the one first detected in Britain, spread a lot faster than expected and overwhelmed the progress we’ve been making with vaccines. Oh, sure, the vaccines will win eventually. But that fight isn’t nearly done yet.
Not that that makes a difference to all the people out there not wearing masks, getting together, having parties, and generally pretending that it’s 2019 again. What pandemic? That was last year.
It’s as if the Soviets decided in March of 1945 that they’d come close enough to Berlin, threw in the towel, turned their tanks around, and went home.
So, yeah, let’s cram ourselves into those restaurants, let’s crowd the grocery store, and let’s all go back to the office and sneeze next to the water cooler. If we believe hard enough that the pandemic is over, then it will be.
But prematurely pretending it’s the end of the pandemic is only one of the most dangerous alternate realities being forgotten into existence right now.
There’s a kind of fog that descends after terrible events. Maybe, we think, it wasn’t that bad. Maybe if I just put it in a box and set it down here, in the dark and dusty corner of my mind, I won’t have to think about it anymore.
But there is a painfully bright truth that we musn’t look away from: the president of the United States ran this country like the authoritarian, lying, nepotistic, corrupt oligarch that he is for four years before his ghastly, unspeakable neglect of the pandemic caused us to boot him out. And then, after he tried to illegally stay in power through lawsuits and dubious constitutional mechanisms, he riled up a crowd of his followers and sicced them on the United States Capitol.
And while yes, the insurrection was a failure, and many of the actual participants have been rounded up, all of the smirking members of Congress and loudmouthed television hosts who goaded them on haven’t suffered at all. For the now-former president, sulking in his gaudy, opulent mansion in Florida, the consequences have been few indeed. What, he got his Twitter account shut down? Oh no, how terrible for him.
Our seat of government was sacked and people died. It happened because of his lies and his exhortations. But now Republicans are happy to talk about restricting voting rights and defeating the terrible menace of trans kids instead, as if it all never happened.
It’s so easy to want to forget all about the past four years. We’re sick of it. Why tread over such well-trodden ground?
Why not just let it go, already?
Because what happened on January 6th was real, and it left one of the mightiest symbols of our democracy broken, shattered and empty. What happened during the rest of those years from 2017-2021, all of the attacks on the free press, all of the dehumanizing treatment of immigrants, Muslims, and people of color, all of the erosion of democracy and the rule of law, all of that was real, too.
We can’t just forget, even though we want to. We need to plow through those years and expose every dark thing that happened. We need to hold it all up to the light, and make sure there are consequences for anyone who helped drag this republic through the mud. If we don’t, we’re just inviting it to happen again.
But … it’s nice out. There are maskless people in the park. Let’s go grab a bite to eat, instead, and let the sunshine wash it all out of our heads, forever.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.