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I don’t know about you, but I’m deathly sick of hearing about COVID. I never thought I’d miss celebrity gossip, but at this point, it’d almost be a breath of fresh air. I don’t want to open the “Life and Work” section to find half the stories are about masks and vaccines. Why can’t we stop obsessing over the pandemic? Now I’m not talking about “returning to normal” in the practical sense, but about the weight this topic continues to hold over our minds.
There are the obvious reasons of course: media companies want to make a buck. Politicians won’t let a crisis go to waste (especially when it boosts their image and control simultaneously). Fear and uncertainty still rule our mindset and it is human nature to analyze and discuss in an attempt to regain control. We have all suffered heavy loss and want to be heard as we work through various traumas. Overall, a global pandemic of this scale has not been seen in our lifetime and likely (God, we’re begging you), will not be seen by us again. A story of this scale isn’t a flash in the pan like Ebola, though we hoped it would be.
All of these reasons seem negative: money, power, attention, fear, grief, shock. So my weariness is compounded by thinking there’s no point to these discussions. Yet I’ve started to wonder if I’m missing some potential good.
When chatting with friends, sometimes one of them will go off on a topic. It’s easy to get frustrated and zone out, or just nod and smile until they stop talking at you. But when I pause and really look at them, their energy or agitation, their body language and tone of voice, I’ll start to notice something else. They need to be heard. There is something behind the surface that they need to express. The times that I’ve asked questions and teased out their underlying emotions have led to incredibly intimate conversations which strengthened our relationship.
Talking about COVID has become the new, “Hi, how are you – fine, busy, yeah.” No one actually cares about your answer. Everyone has been impacted. We all know the anxiety, irritation, and loss. Yet because we’re dealing with our own burdens, we don’t want to hear about the problems of others because we want them to listen to ours.
Perhaps we’re missing a perfect chance to really sit down and ask our neighbor, “How have you been doing? How has COVID impacted you?” Asking once isn’t enough. No one has asked me that since the first year of COVID, and I realize I stopped asking that too. But it’s not as though the devastation has ended. Maybe we should check in with each other again, or get group therapy – oh, and newsflash: Facebook is not group therapy.
Looking back at history, catastrophes have majorly impacted the trajectory of cultures. Did the people living through WWII, the Great Depression, and the Cold War get fed up with seeing nothing but stories about the chaos? I’m sure they did. Yet in hindsight, we are not surprised or perturbed to see a slew of reporting, artwork, and societal changes in response to these shattering events.
As a child, I remember getting sick of watching movies about nuclear warfare. It annoyed me that people still cared so much because it implied I should too. I didn’t want to constantly think about a nuclear apocalypse. Then I turned around and watched endless TV featuring terrorists as supervillains. I don’t understand how growing up under the shadow of the Cold War affected my parents any more than they understand how terrorism and the digital frontier uniquely shook Millennials. Yet now every generation has lived through COVID. No one wants to be defined by disaster, but perhaps we’re missing a chance for some shared compassion and understanding. If we start from a common experience and see how different generations react similarly or differently, we open the door to discuss other events that have shaped the American people, for good and ill.
We have an opening to practice compassion, but also to take a hard look at ourselves and the state of our country. But we’ve been living in denial. Perhaps the person expounding endlessly upon COVID has a healthier mindset than I, since I don’t want to admit that things have changed. Perhaps we’re still dancing around the elephant in the room, the myth that nothing can shake America. Despite all the climate and economic dooms- dayers, we don’t really believe we’ll fall. If we did, we’d stop raising the debt ceiling, and find some Jesus.
For many of us, COVID was the first time we ever had to ask the question, “will I be able to get food tomorrow? Will I be able to keep a roof over my head?” It was for me. As a society living in the top tier of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, suddenly we were plunged back into a scramble for survival, and we didn’t know how to handle it. The thought that the supply chain might collapse is horrifying, both because most of us don’t have the skill set to grow our own food and create our own goods, and because when our country stops feeling untouchable, so do we. As an individualistic society, perhaps we care more about how our society reflects back upon us. I create a perfectly stable middle-class utopia, therefore I am excellent, superior, and stable.
“God himself could not sink this ship.” No one can sink me. Yet now, we’ve been shaken by a moment that reminds us that we do not truly rule the world. Every human is born thinking or wishing that they were the masters of the universe and the ultimate masters of themselves. In first-world countries, this is more of a reality than a delusion, yet still impossible. But we don’t want to return to God, so instead, we see a desperate outcry across the country as we scramble to piece our own image back together. “You fear the sword, and the sword is what I will bring against you, declares the Sovereign LORD” (Ezekial 11:8 NIV). America fears economic collapse, and is that what God will bring against us?
It’s easier to write fluff stories about masks, and ones that blame the other political party for practical problems than it is to face our own mortality. We’ve all heard “the strongest defense is a strong offense.” Often verbalizations, behavioral problems, and power bids have nothing to do with you, and everything to do with an individual’s internal crises.
While the never-ending stream of COVID stories may force us to face our underlying issues, there is as great a chance that they are helping us suppress them. We have to make that choice. Talking does not equate to communication.
What do you want others to hear in your words? And are you truly listening?
Caylah Coffeen is a Millennial in Huntsville, AL who knows how to think and speaks up for the sake of truth and a future as bright as the stars. Her column appears every Friday in 1819 News. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.