I've been shocked at how many people don't seem to think the COVID virus is real or very serious.

There are a number of nutty conspiracy theories floating around social media that downplay the virus. Some claim that mask mandates are just a prelude to the government implanting microchips into people; others promote home remedies to "cure" the virus.

Are people really that dumb?

Guess I shouldn't be surprised. Back in March when the virus first hit, a number of public leaders downplayed COVID, compared it to the flu and said that the public was overreacting.

Even the nation's top leaders downplayed the virus, largely due to political and election concerns, the public's health be damned.

Consequently, the virus has become a political issue in addition to a medical issue. In a hyper-polarized political environment, the virus is just another litmus test of political loyalty. If you support mask mandates, you're an evil socialist who wants to control people, according to some pundits.

It's all stupid. It's time reasonable people speak out and push back against all those who think we still live in 2019.

•••

I'm angry about COVID.

Last week, it took a cousin of mine. Jimmy was just a few years older than me and was the family jokester among my 20-plus first cousins. He was the cousin who worked to keep traditions and reunions alive in a family that has become scattered all over the country.

I know others who have died of the virus, too, people taken prematurely from us by something that we can't see or feel, something that didn't even exist a year ago.

Despite all the death and sickness, a lot of people continue to act as if nothing is going on and even become angry if asked to wear a mask.

There was a recent incident at Banks Crossing where a man was asked to wear a mask in an outlet store. He got angry and came back the next day and set fire to a mask outside the store's front door.

That isn't the only local law enforcement report we've seen of people becoming confrontational about being asked to wear a mask in public.

To be clear, nobody has a "constitutional right" to come into a private business and spread germs. If you're asked to wear a mask, put one on, or leave the building.

Don't be a jerk.

•••

And don't be a jerk when the world doesn't always conform to your wants.

Last week, Jefferson canceled its annual Halloween Walk in town due to the large number of people and crowds involved.

It didn't take long for some people to go on social media to complain about the decision, acting if their child would be scarred for life if they didn't get to do the city's Halloween walkabout.

Dumb.

Jefferson made the right decision. There's no need to have 2,000 people piled into downtown to get candy in the middle of a pandemic. To do that would be negligence on part of all who participated.

This year isn't normal. Nothing is normal.

We've all had to change our habits and lifestyles due to the virus.

We've all had to make various degrees of sacrifices for the greater good.

Halloween candy just isn't worth dying for.

•••

The real rub here is that few people give a rat's behind about the "greater good."

We're a nation of individualists. We celebrate individual fortitude and independence.

If there is a singular American icon, it is the lonely cowboy, the rugged man of the West who doesn't need anybody or anything, except a good horse and his six-shooter.

Individualism may be ingrained in our nation's cultural DNA, but it doesn't do well in a pandemic when we need people to work together and to think beyond their individual concerns.

The greater good is to do everything possible to limit the spread of a virus, including limiting contact with others and wearing a mask when around people.

Maybe it's time we Americans become a little less selfish and a little more thoughtful.

•••

Of course, the big news over the last week was the stunning revelation that President Trump and many of his White House associates have COVID.

It would be easy to say, "told you so." The president downplayed the virus, mocked those who wear a mask, disputed his own medical consultants' advice and openly flaunted advice against having large crowds in confined spaces.

That it caught up to him might be a kind of karma.

Or it could be that we will all get the virus sooner or later; it was just his turn.

But the president getting COVID is a warning that nobody, not even the president, who has the best security in the world, can escape the impact of this deadly virus.

Acting macho, like so many people I've seen in public spaces, won't stop it.

Saying it's overblown won't stop it.

Spreading conspiracy junk on social media won't stop it.

The virus doesn't care about you, or your political party, or your personal beliefs.

We're all subject to getting COVID, getting sick and dying alone in a hospital with a tube down our throat.

If that's not enough to make you think about acting for the greater good, then what the hell would motivate you?

•••

I know; I'm tired of the virus, too.

I'm tired of not eating out at my favorite restaurants with my wife and a good bottle of wine.

I'm tired of postponing vacations and travel because getting on a plane is just too darn risky.

I'm tired of wearing a mask that makes my glasses fog up.

I'm tired of not going to see plays and shows that entertain us.

I'm tired of the emotional toll the virus has taken on our lives, the isolation and the fear.

•••

They buried my cousin on his birthday last week.

He became a number on the roster of over 200,000 who have died since March.

But his life, and all the lives being lost, were more than numbers.

We should not forget them.

Mike Buffington is co-publisher of Mainstreet Newspapers and editor of The Jackson Herald. He can be reached at mike@mainstreetnews.com

(1) comment

Cheryl Brownstein

Beautifully written and absolutlely necessary. Thank G-d when I was growing up not one politician tried to turn the Polio epidemic into political gain. Thus, we got a safe effective vaccine. And the county didn't divide over whether it was a "hoax" or not. Too bad 45 caught a Democratic Hoax. Mighty powerful that hoax.

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