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From Pan(dem)ic to Pandemonium

by | May 13, 2021 | Drama

We’ve been through it, haven’t we? We’ve collectively been through it in ways that probably almost none of us ever once envisioned. Who knew? But what a wild ride; what a peculiar and often tragic set of events. Over 500,000 American lives lost. Much of the nation shut in at home for months. Missed births, missed birthdays, missed funerals. Lives turned upside down. Lives that will never be the same. They can’t be. Not after all of this.

But time never stops. We are approaching half our nation vaccinated. Today, the CDC lifted the recommendation that vaccinated people wear masks. Folks are using terms like “turned the corner” with regularity. It certainly seems like the worst of it is well behind us in the rear view window as we speed away from that awful chapter in our individual and collective lives.

So now that so many of us will be unshackled, unfettered, unmasked, what’s next? What should we expect? What could we predict?

We just saw a taste of it with the Colonial Pipeline debacle and resultant gasoline hoarding. Panic. Sort of like a person with shell shock, post traumatic stress syndrome, many are primed to blow a fuse, just on the edge like Mr. Furious in Mystery Men. Don’t push them too far. Don’t push them at all. They’re a powder keg.

It makes sense to expect a lot of people to be shell shocked after what has happened. It makes sense to expect people to operate oddly, out of sorts, less than logically for the next while. Based upon post traumatic stress syndrome, perhaps a long, long while.

The other side of the powder keg person is best epitomized, to my mind’s eye, by that iconic Alfred Eisenstaedt photograph from V-J day of the sailor in Times Square planting a big kiss on the dipped, lovely young lass. As I recall the story, these two did not know each other when that kiss was unleashed on the world, yet they will go down in history as the pictorial definition of excited exuberance. Rather than being the people who readily explode in anger or panic, sometimes violently pushing people away from them, people exploding with excited exuberance will behave manically, pulling people toward them. So deprived of contact, of touch, of closeness, a whole lot of closeness will now go on. I mean a whole lot.

I suspect that pretty much every one of us falls somewhere on this spectrum.

This past year has been a time of forced quietude, solitude. This coming year and perhaps for quite some time thereafter, this will be a time of abject aggression for some and excited exuberance, pure pandemonium for others. Much of it will be blatant, perhaps gaudy – in your face, but all of it intense, insistent, even desperate like a man who was certain of drowning coming up for a great gasp of air.

We can caution against angry conduct. We can caution against manic conduct. But this is probably a necessary phase in our collective and individual psyche that is going to have to play out for each of us and for all of us. There is probably very little that we can do about that.

So fasten your seat belts, fellow riders.

-Michael Manely

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