"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Oops! Wrong Way Down The Supermarket Aisle–COVID Rules In A Righteous, Socially Distanced, One-Way Environment

Bill Otter respected most of the COVID regulations.  He wore his mask wherever it was required – in stores and in crowded outdoor spaces – but did so reluctantly.  He understood the epidemiological principle behind the rule - masks prevented the virus from becoming airborne - but the
the Governor of New York added another dimension.  Not wearing a mask, he said, was tantamount to murder. 

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Those who went ‘naked’, he went on, were immoral, selfish, criminals who deserved to contract the virus themselves and die an unredeemed death; or, failing such retribution, should be locked up

In the spirit of the Boston Tea Party, Americans have organized themselves in peaceful disobedience.  Everyone knows that only the weak and the infirm contract and die from the virus; and rather than quarantine them and only them, the Governor and his supporters have insisted that COVID is everyone’s disease and that the young, healthy, and productive - at low risk to themselves and others  must be locked away and shut up.

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States other than the doctrinally pure have been much more open and respectful of individual rights and responsibility; and yet no great spike or second wave has happened despite the mass Black Lives Matter, Juneteenth, and general anti-American demonstrations.   If the Washington elite and its international 'scientific' establishment had been right, a catastrophic surge in COVID should have happened.

So most Americans have said screw the lock-down, and are going out into the streets, bars, restaurants, parks, and pools. The old, infirm, immunologically compromised have gotten the message and are staying at home.  Ordering in, spraying mail and Amazon Prime packages before first contact, and tele-ordering had become become ordinary; sex had not been an option for years, so the temptation to go tom-catting or hook up for a cinq-a-sept was never on the table in the first place.

So, epidemiologically speaking, it was right and fit that young healthy Americans should step out, have fun, and contribute to restoring the economy.  Yet this basic lesson never really resonated with those who have a moral dog in the fight, progressives who for months have preached ‘Masks, social distance, and staying home’ and who have made COVID response a righteous affair.

While masks are worn as protection against Corona, there was always more to it than that. The more the quarantine was prolonged, and the more the political lines of response were drawn,  the more masks became a symbol of liberal solidarity.  Wearing a mask when there is absolutely, positively no reason to do so, was a statement of profound commitment to progressive values.

Image result for Funny Covid 19 Memes

There was a viral Facebook image recently showing four masked hikers on the lower flanks of Mount Kilimanjaro – a the gently sloping, verdant foothills of the mountain.  Behind and above them far distant was the snow-capped summit.  There were no other people in the picture, nor in the background.  Just the masked hikers, standing six feet apart. We are the world, the image shouted.  Do the right thing.

Climbing Kilimanjaro: The Remote Rongai Route | Adventure in Tanzania

After more than two months of COVID hysteria, people have settled their own affairs, decided what is and what is not a risk, when to wear a mask and when not to, and to what degree social distancing makes sense.  The rub comes in those resistant progressive corners of the country whose residents adamantly and positively refuse to give an inch.  The virus is not just a disease or even a pandemic, but a Biblical plague, and our reaction to it will be so judged.  Whereas most Americans are giving each other a bye – a few feet less than six feet, a mask here and there, and an embrace – the righteous stalwarts in Upper Northwest Washington, the Upper East Side, and Hollywood and West LA are not budging.

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The Whole Foods Market in a Washington suburb was a good place to shop on a fine, warm June Saturday morning.  There were few people in the store – most customers had settled in to a take-out or delivery-in COVID mode – and the bins of vegetables, meats, canned foods, pasta, and cheese, once raided and empty, were filled and ready.  The one-way arrows, check-out waiting lines, and enforced distancing rules were still in place, but irrelevant.  Not only were there now few people in the store, but those who were shopping took a much more relaxed, tolerant attitude. Up the down staircase, down the one-way aisle, picking out pork chops from the same bin as another shopper, taking a moment to breathe without a mask was now common.

Coronavirus Response: Safeway implementing 'one-way' shopping ...

Except for those few for whom COVID had always been a morally  purposeful one.  They – the older women in sensible shoes and grey chignons – saw themselves as the all-important avant guard.  No matter how few shoppers there might be in the pasta aisle, they must follow the green arrows.  No matter how few there might be over the peppers, avocados, grapes, and Argentinian pears, they must wear masks.  It was a matter of community.

Of course most of the people who are fed up with the authoritarian lock-downs and elite dicta live far from these Eastern enclaves.  States with a greater respect for individual responsibility and a more entrenched suspicion of federal government have long since given up on these COVID aisles and masks for all.  ‘Bubba don’t play dat’, oft caricatured  and ridiculed, makes sense west of the Hudson.

“Please observe the arrows”, said one matron this Saturday morning to a wrong-way shopper on an empty aisle in an empty store.  It’s the point of the thing, after all, not the letter of the law; and so the offender smiled, backed up, waited for her to buy her tuna fish, and continued down the one-way street.

Only at Whole Foods Market: Pole & Line Yellowfin Tuna - Whole ...

This vaudeville act will soon end, and the social dust will settle; but as in all cases of difference of political opinion, rancor will remain.   There are those who say they have done the right thing for community, neighborhood, commonweal, and nation; and those who, they say, did not, and because of their dereliction cannot so easily be let into the big tent of right behavior. 

The righteous simply cannot give up their hold on righteousness – one is either for feminism, the gender spectrum, global sanity, black lives matter, socialism, and communalism or left on the margins of history. The grey-haired, masked, pissy woman on the tuna fish aisle said it all – you are are on the right side or the wrong side.  Most shoppers paid no attention to her, and knew as they reached over her for the Sockeye salmon, that she was, if not yet off her rocker, then tottering and perilously close to it.

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