A neighbor on Facebook, listing the joys of lockdown.
“No school shootings,” she begins. “TRAFFIC is gone, GAS is affordable, BILLS extended ...”
She goes on, quite a bit. Air is cleaner. “The world quieter.”
The list ends with this confident assertion: “I’m pretty sure this was God’s way of telling us to slow down and focus on what is important!!”
That old trickster, God. He does have His mysterious ways, doesn’t He? Setting the lives of millions on fire, just so we fortunate few can enjoy the warm glow and toast marshmallows on their burning homes.
Unlimbering the rhetorical bazooka I always keep conveniently slung over my shoulder, I squinted into the gunsight, seeing the tiny figure of my neighbor, smiling over her freshly-coined public wisdom. My finger tensed.
Then I sighed, lowered my weapon, and decided to demonstrate my wit and humanity in a novel fashion: by saying nothing.
Sure, I could have archly pointed out that hiding in the basement could be fun, provided you have a comfortable, well-stocked basement. But not everybody does. These are excruciatingly tough times, and if the scythe hasn’t swung in your direction, yet, the least you can do is not crow about it.
But you can’t scold a joyful person into silent gratitude. Just as you can’t shame a sad one into abandoning their sorrow as insignificant. It’s graduation time. My neighborhood is festooned with college flags, congratulatory signs, balloons, big orange and blue Illini I’s painted on lawns. Online, bursts of milestone festivity, shadowed with a definite sense of loss. No commencement. No prom. It’s not fair! After seeing a few, I considered creating a meme: a soft sepia passport photo of Anne Frank, with the tagline, “Not every teen got to go to prom.” That’ll show ‘em. Think of the retweets! Dozens!
I also held that back. I’m not the coronavirus mullah, wandering cyberspace in my long white beard and black robes, taking a reed switch to the legs of anybody who dares be too happy or too sad. I don’t want to show up at the virtual wake for high school life and castigate the mourners.
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