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Journal of a plague year


This weekend felt more “normal” for me and I imagine many other people than any similar couple of days have for nearly 15 months. Here in Colorado mask requirements have been dropped by almost all public places, and replaced with an honor system in which people who aren’t vaccinated are supposed to wear a mask (there is of course no verification process for any of this).

Earlier this week I went to a high school graduation for a relative. I experienced a wave of melancholy during the ceremony, when I was struck with the force of the realization of how much these kids — and those who graduated last spring — have missed: the proms and athletic tournaments and other extracurricular activities that were either cancelled or sharply curtailed. (The long-term consequences of losing more than a year of in-person learning are more inchoate, and will be particularly difficult to quantify).

ETA: Commenter Sanjait makes a good point about more significant losses:

I honestly don鈥檛 care about students who missed prom, graduation and sports.

I worry about those who were impacted much lower or Maslow鈥檚 heirarchy of needs.

Kids experienced the trauma of isolation (not from missing extracurriculars and special events, but from not being able to get out of the house on a regular basis). Many have challenging and unstable home lives, and certainly many parents have been extra stressed by isolation, financial problems, increased childcare demands, and the general weirdness of it all. Kids tend to suffer when parents are stressed.

Other kids rely on school systems to keep them fed, to identify abuse, and to address special needs.

All that safety net stuff has been gone for a year. I expect that in the coming year we will start to get a measure of how deep was the impact.

I’m old and tired, and for me the pandemic has basically just been a moderately annoying pain in the ass. For so many others, it’s been something that has robbed them of key life experiences that they aren’t going to ever have.

One question to which we have no idea what the answer is going to eventually be is, what long-term effects will pandemic and the measures taken to combat it — totally necessary and indeed inadequate measures to be sure — have on children in particular in the years to come? This is something that we as a society need to take into account carefully, even assuming the vaccines are in the process of well and truly ending this nightmare.

Relatedly, the horrible news that Michael Lewis’s and Tabitha Soren’s 19-year-old daughter was killed in a car crash serves as a reminder of how fragile life, even young life, can be. Lewis is one of those writers whose personality comes through very strongly in his books, especially of those such as Liar’s Poker, that are essentially autobiographical. And of course like everyone else of a certain age I remember Soren as one of the characteristic figures of the early days of MTV, when that was a pervasive cultural phenomenon.


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