As our worlds collide over the coronavirus, the surreal 1933 novel of that name by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer comes to mind. The novel “When Worlds Collide” portrayed the surreal phenomenon of another world crashing into earth. Old earth did not survive, but a new earth did.
What will be the outcome of our collision?
No microcosm captures our dilemma better than the collision of President Donald Trump’s world and that of his top health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci. Trump’s political world has abandoned caution, with the President and allies calling for America to fully re-open NOW! Fauci’s science oriented world continues to urge caution with Fauci and other experts saying wait on further research, preparation, and testing before easing into re-opening.
We see resonances of this play out here in Mississippi as some totally ignore the cautious behavior recommended by Gov. Tate Reeves and his health advisors while others, particularly the elderly and those with impaired immune systems, hunker down fearfully at home convinced the deadly killer will strike when they emerge.
As our worlds fully collide as much re-opens in the coming days, what will be the outcome?
The potential for a catastrophic collision concerned conservative Republican Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana. Instead of a collision, he suggested, we need a merger. We should avoid either/or, he said, and choose to straddle both, with caution weighted slightly higher than re-opening.
Meanwhile, the pending collision engenders the surreal, as did the 1962 novel. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines surreal as “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream.”
Dealing with both sides of this spectrum must seem surreal to politicians. On the one hand they are called upon to provide resources to fight the virus and aid those impacted by it. On the second hand they are called upon to quickly return things to normal by eliminating or drastically reducing restrictions. On the third hand, they cannot accomplish either fully. They do not have access to sufficient resources to meet demands nor will things return to normal quickly whatever they do.
How surreal is it to see conservative Republicans in Washington throwing trillions, yes trillions, of dollars of deficit spending at the pandemic? These are the same conservatives who lambasted President George W. Bush and then President Barrack Obama for spending fewer trillions on TARP and other Great Recession bail-outs. The U.S. Treasury said it will borrow $3 trillion to fund already approved coronavirus related rescue packages. Trump, worried about his re-election, says he’s willing to spend trillions more to get the economy back on track.
How surreal is it to pull into a drive-thru virus testing center? As you pull up, sci-fi looking personnel outfitted in hazmat suits stick a long swab through your window and up your nose to get a specimen to test.
How surreal is it to have shortages of toilet paper? To wear masks into banks? To have no live sports on TV? And so on.
How long will the surreal be with us? Some say it will forever reshape our reality, much like the outcome of When Worlds Collide.
“For everything there is a season … a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing” – Ecclesiastes 3:1,5.
» BILL CRAWFORD is a syndicated columnist from Jackson.
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