By Daniel Dunaief
While for now, the pandemic is officially in the rearview mirror, according to the World Health Organization, it’s worth considering what we can and can’t blame on COVID-19. For starters, here are a few things that aren’t the fault of the pandemic.
— A favorite sports team’s defeat. Every team had to deal with COVID-19. The pandemic didn’t affect my team’s best athletes any more than any other team’s stars.
— The weather. It’s going to rain, and it’s going to be too hot and too cold. That happened before the pandemic, and it’s going to happen afterward. Global warming, if anything, might have slowed slightly as more people stayed home each day.
— Unrequited love. Authors throughout history have found this topic particularly appealing. A would-be romantic goes out into the world with a proverbial heart filled with affection and admiration. Cupid hits that person with an arrow, creating a wellspring of dedication and devotion toward someone who doesn’t return the favor. The pandemic might have made it harder to know where we stood with each other, but unrequited love will continue to cause problems and lead to sad-but-relatable romantic comedies.
— Bad grades. We all have moments when we don’t study enough, the right way, or even the right material. The pandemic might have made it harder to focus or to care about theorems or memorizing dates, but it’s not the fault of the virus. It might have been tougher to concentrate in those early days, with dogs barking, parents yelling into Zoom calls, and people dropping off food at our front door.
— Anger in Washington. This is one of the easiest to dispel. Did you pay any attention to the vitriol coming out of the nation’s capital before 2019? It’s not as if the parties suddenly decided fighting each other was more valuable than getting anything done or compromising. The words under the Washington DC license plate shouldn’t read “taxation without representation,” which refers to the fact that residents pay taxes but don’t have federal representation. Instead, it should read: “Grrrrrrrrrrr!”
— Biased journalism. As a member of the media, I understand the frustration with the written and spoken words on TV and in print. The left hates Trump; the right hates Biden and ne’er the ‘twain shall meet. The pandemic didn’t pour gasoline on that dumpster fire. Media organizations staked out their territory prior to the pandemic and have remained more faithful to their talking points than many people do to their own marriage vows.
Okay, now, what about the things we can blame on the pandemic.
— Mental health strain. While the pandemic may be gone, we haven’t wrapped our arms around the mental health impact. We spent way too much time on our phones, making us feel simultaneously connected and disconnected while the pool of frustration continues to get deeper.
— Educational gaps. Students will never get back those days and the lessons they missed during the pandemic. Classes condensed their syllabi, lowering requirements and expectations for each class and for graduation. Students of all ages missed lessons and assignments that might have inspired them and that would have helped them reach previous educational requirements.
— Social graces. A first-grade teacher recently told me that their school still can’t bring all the first-grade classes together. When they do, the students argue about resources and space. Prior to the pandemic, students from several classes could easily play together. Hopefully, that will change as the students age and fill in gaps in their ability to interact.
Even as we hope to move past the pandemic, we can’t ignore the difficult reality, forcing parents, teachers, children and members of society to relearn lessons about acting and interacting. No, we can’t take cues from Washington, but maybe we can overcome deficiencies exacerbated by the pandemic.