Abcarian: What we’ve learned about ourselves in the pandemic

Has it really been two years since life as we knew it came to an emergency stop?

In the third week of March 2020, I stood on a friend’s porch and speculated that “this thing” would probably be over in a month or two.

“I think it will last at least until September,” he said.

“Oh god, I hope you’re wrong,” I replied.

Unfortunately he was.

Now, despite extraordinary advances in our understanding of the coronavirus and the development of new vaccines to combat it, here we are, still battling COVID-19 with no end in sight.

Spotted portrait illustration of Robin Abcarian

opinion columnist

Robin Abcarian

Nearly 1 million Americans have died from COVID-19. More than 6 million people worldwide have died due to this pesky virus. millions more have been infected, and many have become seriously ill, with lasting consequences that are yet to be fully understood. The Pew Research Group recently found this out almost three quarters of American adults say they know someone who has been hospitalized or has died as a result of COVID.

Our worldwide emotional roller coaster ride has taken us through many ups and downs and has given us a new lexicon: “social distancing”, “flatten the curve”, “the great resignation”, “pandemic puppies”. It also taught us that community spirit, which we naively believed to be an American virtue, was nothing more than a myth.

President Trumps shocking misuse In the early days of the pandemic, his initial refusal to take it seriously led to needless deaths and infections. How many lives could have been saved if he had acted with more urgency? This question will likely be debated for years.

His racist rhetoric about China and the source of the virus sparked a wave of violence against Asian immigrants and Asian Americans that continues to this day.

During daily televised news conferences, Trump has talked silly while public health officials were in the background visibly flinched. He undermined science at almost every turn and demonized his own experts, including the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist, dr anthony fauci, who have received death threats.

In the early days, before we understood that the virus was transmitted by airborne particles and droplets, we were rinsing down our groceries with disinfectant. We washed our hands so much that our skin chafed. We stopped shaking hands, stopped hugging, stopped kissing.

We were (briefly) told to avoid the ocean as the virus could be transmitted in the water.

The amazing, totally un-American sight of empty grocery shelves has taught us that we take our comfort for granted at our own peril.

In a minute, Costco had mountains of toilet paper; For the next minute we continued studying medieval hygiene routines.

One minute we were rushing around the house in clothes with waistbands and zippers, rushing to get the kids to school and the office on time. Next we were locked in with the family, wearing dirty tracksuits, listening to Ms. Johnson teach the fourth grade, and wondering why we looked like a cat on zoom.

A new genre of video has blossomed on social media: the pandemic freakout. Anti-mask Americans were demanding their right to bare their faces in grocery stores and restaurants, whining about false medical conditions. They blamed the school authorities imposed the mask duties of child abuse.

That trend hit an absurd local low in Beverly Hills last October, when anti-masking attacks unleashed on parents taking their children to school. “They are trying to rape our children with this poison!” shouted one protester.

Now that Russia has launched its brutal invasion of Ukraine, we are reminded of what real suffering and sacrifice looks like. Perhaps personal liberty extremists in our midst can reassure the sensible things that our health authorities have asked of us.

Given ominous images of 40-mile convoy of Russian tanks headed for Kyiv to unleash what is likely to be a brutal attack on the Ukrainian capital, is anyone really taking this convoy of anti-Mandatory American truckers in Washington, DC seriously? I mean anyone else tough republican Senator Ted Cruz from Texas?

The past two years have not been all bleak. Voters kicked the Trumps out of Washington. The despicable January 6, 2021 rioters stand trial.

In many cities, neighbors increased Banging pots and pans or playing music every night to support the legions of healthcare and other essential workers who risked their well-being every day to get the job done.

In my neighborhood in Venice, a few of us used to gather in the alley once a week to sing. We belted out “That’s Amore” in honor of the famous Italian restaurant around the corner, which is now closed. We sang “All You Need Is Love” and “Lean on Me”. Occasionally we would be accompanied on patrol by a couple of Los Angeles police officers.

My fondest pandemic memory – yes, I have one – came from the claustrophobia we felt in the early days of lockdown. I was stuck inside with two roommates, my 90 year old father and 10 year old niece. To be honest, my niece coped better with the isolation than my father, who had mild dementia and got frustrated easily.

“How long can this go on?” he would complain. “Are they trying to kill me?!”

To ease the boredom, one sunny afternoon I decided to get in the car and head north on the Pacific Coast Highway. With the wide open ocean to our left, we felt liberated.

We pulled into a Jack in the Box near the Malibu Pier.

I don’t typically eat fast food, but gorging on something greasy and unhealthy just seemed like the right amount of rebellion for the moment.

We ordered the chain’s famous tacos, mysterious meat wrapped in a tortilla, deep fried, topped with lettuce, hot sauce and American cheese. Two for 99 cents. The addictive bite has been described as “a wet casing of cat food.”

As we rode home on the PCH, my dad took his first bite.

“Wow,” he said. “They are delicious! I can’t believe I’ve lived 90 years and never had one!”

He died a few months later from a massive stroke that I’m sure was unrelated to his continued eating of Jack-in-the-Box tacos.

I know it sounds a bit crazy, but when I think about that moment with him and our little multi-generational threesome, it makes me nostalgic about the lockdown. We had some really great times together, back in those days of boredom and tacos.

@AbcarianLAT Abcarian: What we’ve learned about ourselves in the pandemic

Caroline Bleakley

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