Perception Matters

Watching the inauguration coverage today, and it’s naturally different to see how this one is looking compared to the ones I’ve watched in the past. The spartan attendance, the chairs that are spaced out, and (most notably) the masks, masks, masks.

I’ve tried to see the argument made by Trump and Republicans against masks, at least at significant events. The desire to “appear strong” and project a sense of normalcy even in the middle of a global pandemic. But I really believe that was a misguided effort, because like it or not, this time is different than other times. On my way way to work this morning, I listened to an interview with a funeral director in California. They discussed what was different now compared to usual times.

He’s got a three week minimum waiting list to accept new bodies. (I can’t think of a nicer way to say it than that.) He has to turn down hospitals that are overrunning with the deceased. I get that some are still trying to insist this is overblown. That COVID has a 98% recovery rate, so why are we making a big deal about it? But even with all the quarantining and social distancing and mask wearing, we’re still having hospitals needing to bring in refrigeration units to store bodies until they can be buried. No part of that is “normal.” Over 400,000 people in the US have died. Over 2 million across the globe. But I’ve been making that argument (along with many others) for months and months. I’m not sure what else can be done to persuade people who don’t want to be persuaded.

Which is why things like seeing this different inauguration feel significant for me. Seeing all those masks and all those social distancing measures help visibly show the nation that it’s okay for this to be different. That it’s okay to wear a mask. What I’m seeing in the inauguration is very much in line with what my life has been like at the university since September. And the great thing in the fall was that I saw we could still have classes and still have some semblance of normalcy, even with all the changes.

Anyway. Just some of the thoughts going through my head as I watch today. I could say a whole lot more, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

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