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With vaccines becoming more widespread, I can understand feeling a sense of optimism about life in lockdown states returning to normal. I am here to burst that bubble.
I live in one of those locked down states, Maryland, in one of its most blue areas, Montgomery County. It’s astounding the degree with which this COVID adherence has fallen along party lines and it’s created an astounding dynamic. Here in Maryland, practically no kids are back in public schools in-person (we’re last in the country for in-person learning) and suddenly teachers are comparing themselves to babysitters and test proctors. Deeming public school teachers useless and non-essential sounds like a conservative talking point, but it’s somehow morphed into a liberal one as well. Women are dropping out of the workforce in the millions and we haven’t heard a peep from feminists about how detrimental school closures are on working women, the pay gap, etc. That pet issue has just become moot because discussing the tradeoffs flies in the face of the new reality they have decided to adopt.
I was hoping that with more widespread vaccinations of our most vulnerable populations, the sense of hysteria would dial back even just a little. Then I took a trip to my local Trader Joe’s today and that hope was completely dashed. I looked around and realized that I was the one and only customer, the one and only person in the entire store, not voluntarily in two masks. Double masking is a punchline in real America, but a reality here.
The other day I was texting with a girlfriend considering a move to Florida because of the hysterical nature of where she lives, Brooklyn, New York. She grew up in a very Hasidic household and has since dialed back her religious observance because of how suffocating she found her community and surroundings. Her perspective was jarring and worth sharing. She told me, “People and institutions jumped into COVID restrictions like a new religion. Everyone is afraid of each other’s shadow. I cannot live among doomers. It’s not just about the restrictions; I cannot live among the people who want them. I didn’t leave a fundamentalist religion to get an even more self-righteous one imposed on me.”
It’s trips like today’s to the supermarket that makes me apt to agree with her. I don’t think this new religion is going anywhere anytime soon, no matter what advances we make with vaccines or herd immunity. This is life now for many blue state residents, and we have to make a choice if we’re willing to live with it (or not).