Life on Lockdown is a recurring Tuesday feature. As with everything else on this website, you are not obligated to read it.
We are all searching for peace of mind right now, comfort, escape from a world turned sideways. One way some people are finding it is with the trappings of Christmas. A few radio stations have gone back to Christmas music, if only for a weekend or a few hours here and there. People are putting their Christmas decorations back up. Various cable channels have been running Christmas movie marathons. I enjoy the trappings of Christmas as much as anybody, but I confess I don’t get the appeal. Santa’s not showing up at the end. And even if he does, anything he brings us other than a vaccine is more junk we don’t need.
Some people have turned to baking bread. It’s a creative act, and as creative acts go, it’s more involved than many but less difficult than most. In addition, the smell of baking bread can be comforting, nostalgic, make your house feel like home, or be enjoyed simply because it’s pretty great. For this, I do get the appeal, as I am a bread baker myself—not from scratch, but I’ve worn out five bread machines over the years. Only now I can’t get a damn bag of flour at the grocery store.
Rolling Stone reported last week that sales of musical instruments, gear, and software are at record levels right now. This means that long about the year 2027, we’ll be reading People magazine cover stories about the hot young stars who learned to play and write music while they were out of school on COVID-19 lockdown.
Maybe if I were baking bread or learning to play the guitar, I’d be spending less time drinking alcohol. It’s not just me: beer, wine, and liquor consumption is way up around the country since the lockdown started. (So is home brewing.) Although there are killjoys warning that increased drinking is a dangerous habit to get into, I’m pretty sure that anxiety is the greater risk to my health than alcohol right now.
A not-insignificant percentage of my anxiety is self-inflicted, as I spend way too much time on social media, day and night. Twitter and Facebook have always been bad, but now, scrolling them is like sipping a cocktail of battery acid. It’s long been my belief that the world really went to hell starting about 10 years ago, when social media gave idiots a megaphone that smart people can’t turn off.
Like bugs around a light bulb, these idiots cluster in the responses to any post by a responsible public official regarding safe-at-home policies. Scroll two minutes and you’ll meet the following:
—The constitutional expert. Can quote Alexander Hamilton but doesn’t know who he is beyond the guy on the $10 bill.
—The epidemiologist. Entire knowledge of infection rates and virus curves comes from reading replies to tweets by responsible public officials.
—The “what-about” guy. Says things like, “We’ve had as many virus fatalities as we’ve had from traffic accidents or the flu. Why don’t we shut down the economy for those?” Thinks he’s a savant with numbers despite having dropped Advanced Algebra after three weeks.
—The defender of free enterprise. Tweets at the governor, “you are a communist who wants to cripple our business community.” Cannot define what communism is, but knows it’s bad. Has a distinct inability to think more than two days into the future; fails to understand that people don’t spend money if sick and can’t spend money if dead. Does not necessarily own a business; if he does, he’ll continue to work at home after reopening “because I have a family.”
—The fearless fighter for freedom. Proclaims on all platforms, “Only liberal pussies are afraid of a little virus. Get outside and defend your liberty!” Considers himself a spiritual descendant of the French Resistance, but his working knowledge of World War II comes entirely from watching Hogan’s Heroes. Will be social media-famous one month from now when screenshots of his derisive tweets go viral next to a screenshot of his obituary.
I wonder how we would be perceiving this crisis, and reacting to it, if we weren’t repeatedly exposed against our will to social media trolls, ignoramuses, bigots, fanatics, and ill-informed louts of all kinds. Not to mention the kind of dopes who write about the crisis on their personal websites.