“The ‘New Abnormal’ Lexicon”

by H. S. Brett

Flattening the curve. Social distancing. Coronavirus. Covid-19. These phrases and words are brand new to our collective lexicon. Three months ago, this “coronavirus” had suddenly become an epidemic in Wuhan (another word most of us had never heard of), China. I remember watching news reports of the quick construction of coronavirus hospitals in 10-12 days in late January because the virus was rapidly killing thousands of people half a world away.

Like millions—perhaps billions—of others worldwide, the past few weeks I’ve lain awake at night, worried that my beloved husband who lay sleeping beside me, with his myriad of preexisting conditions, might succumb to this scourge. I’ve worried that my husband might be unknowingly spending the last weeks of his life sleeping beside me, that in a day or a week or two weeks’ time he would get the dreaded symptoms and I’d rush him to the nearest ER. Or that I’d get a phone call from a frantic family member or friend telling me a beloved is in the ICU, that “it doesn’t look good.” I’ve worried about my sisters, my brother, all in their mid-sixties, all with their own health issues. I’ve worried about my friends, their families. And of course, I’ve worried about myself. I’ve had a pacemaker since 2012, and like a lot of Americans, I don’t eat right, don’t exercise like I should. I’m fifty-seven and like many others, I’m vulnerable. In many ways, we’re all vulnerable.

Friends, what has become of us? Who are our leaders? Shouldn’t they have known—as weeks became months and thousands died and the virus rampaged into South Korea and the Middle East, then across Europe and beyond and throughout the United States–that something much more sinister than a horror flick or Stephen King novel had erupted in Wuhan? It’s hard to believe they were as caught off-guard by Covid-19’s destruction as they claim they were. If they didn’t know, why not? Why would they trust the communist government of China to accurately report on the virus’s outbreak, its deadly effects? And

after recent pandemics of MRSA, SARS, H1N1, and Ebola—why hadn’t they adequately prepared for another one, just in case? How could they have been so blindsided, so lacking in forethought, PPEs (another new term those of us not in the medical field never knew until recently)? And were they really blindsided by this pandemic, or did they simply delay their responses due to political and economic reasons? Is this the best they could have done to protect the 2,256,844 (and counting) infected worldwide, the 154,350 (and counting) across the globe who’ve perished due to coronavirus? How could this “invisible enemy” cross continents and oceans, ravaging the vulnerable everywhere in just three months’ time when our leaders are elected to protect us?

Friends, we must fight back as best we can, with what we can. Of course, we can donate money to charities and masks to hospitals, make phone calls to elderly folks who belong to our houses of worship to see if they need anything. We can utilize our words in their highest form, through prayer: “Dear God, Protect us all. Heal the sick. Comfort the bereaved. Bless the souls of the deceased.” It’s what a lot of us are doing these days: sharing our funds, our supplies, our prayers, our words.

Undoubtedly, it’s a scary time, and for many of the vulnerable, a lonely time. Unless we’re centenarians, we’ve never lived through anything like this. We wonder when we’ll return to “normal,” or if we ever will. It’s not the “new normal” we’re living in now, it’s the “new abnormal.” Nothing’s normal about Covid-19 and its deadly repercussions. Nothing’s normal about the 22 million in the US alone who just five weeks ago enjoyed a robust economy and are suddenly unemployed, many of whom are joining thousands on food lines for the first time.

But we have words and a new lexicon. We have our emotions. If you’re outraged that our “leaders” have not protected us as you feel they should have, sooner than they did, let them know. Write to your politicians. Send letters to your newspapers. Whether you’re a published author or a private diarist, share your feelings, your fears, your frustration, your anger. When we share our stories, we share our humanity. Across continents, oceans, borders, and beliefs, we’ve all got stories to tell, minds and hearts that are undoubtedly full of words spilling over, needing to be shared. Friends, feel free to share them here. Share them everywhere.

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