This is something that happens to other people in other times; something you might imagine, might read about – not experience. But it is real, it is happening. The plague is back. It never went away. Welcome to the future. No, welcome to the present, to the reality of an ineradicable highly contagious and sometimes fatal virus. There might be a vaccine for it at some stage, as there is for measles. There might not be, as there is not for HIV. A reliable treatment might be developed, as there is for HIV. Or it might not be, like measles.
In any event, there is a gap between what we know about our situation and what our gut believes, a gap that creates confusion, promotes outrage over inconveniences, complacency after early successes. We “know” what’s happening, but we don’t quite “feel” it. Our collective gut is still telling us normality is just around the corner. The reality has been slow to sink in because it’s beyond our privileged experience.
As you will yourself into the reality you perhaps start to understand how the millions before you didn’t understand either, didn’t read the signs, didn’t grasp calamity unfolding, were unprepared, were lost in history’s turmoil, thought their mass grave impossible even as they dug it. We’re out of practice. Mass disasters don’t happen here, not in our lifetime. The plagues and total wars and famines and deaths in the thousands and millions are confined to television screens. Even our hard times remain relatively soft in the broader, longer scheme of things. Other people’s individual tragedies have gone on regardless. In groups sometimes, in planeloads. Communities when fire or flood or landslide tear through. Bad, terrible, but this, this indiscriminate imposition … on everyone? And slowly the comprehension comes – it has always been everyone.
The single diagnosis and mass verdict, the individual execution and the genocide: Each one, one person, however many. One person facing mortality. We’re born to this. We will get used to it. Adapting is what we do best.