The Great Pandemic: A Documentary
Wisconsin countryside flashes past. Music on my car radio breaks for a public service announcement. “Wear your mask. Wash your hands.” It feels like the opening scene for a future film titled The Great Pandemic of 2020.
As I imagine it, the documentary flips through late-winter headlines to show growing apprehension about a virus from far away. It shows toilet-paper-laden grocery carts, empty shelves, checkout lines of masked shoppers six feet apart. The camera moves past closed restaurants to an armed horde at the Michigan state capitol toting Confederate flags.
Between hectic hospital scenes, we hear excerpts from interviews and speeches: a nurse exhausted, Fauci calm and factual, Trump saying the virus will vanish like a miracle. We see parents working from home, children studying in the kitchen. Spring and summer scenes fade into election season: packed MAGA rallies, Biden masked in an empty room, postal bins overflowing with ballots, socially distanced voters. A series of autumn headlines shows rising hospitalizations and deaths, with a dire warning not to gather for Thanksgiving. A turkey producer bemoans a glut of large turkeys and too few small ones to meet the demand.
Will the film end with the start of vaccinations, or will it recount twists and turns we can’t yet predict? What would you include if you were writing the script for The Great Pandemic of 2020?
12/14/2020 11:22:10 am
On my positive thinking days I would write an ending where vaccines are widely available and effective. People would continue to take precautions, but could again be out and about with other people. Summer would see neighborhood parties and worship services with lots of people and singing, and 4th of July fireworks with crowds on a hillside might be my finale.
12/14/2020 09:29:52 pm
Pat, what a happy thought! Fourth of July fireworks on a hillside would be a wonderful finale - and even if people are spaced a bit, they're outdoors and celebratory. Something to look forward to. By summer it might even be safe to sing together, especially if it can be out on the church lawn. Perhaps a hymn that puts the focus on care for each other, or how we are all one?
12/14/2020 06:26:49 pm
For me, it would have to somehow become a zombie apocalypse.
12/14/2020 09:32:43 pm
Connie, because a zombie apocalypse is all that could really live up to the craziness of this time? Or as a warning to future viewers, or a commentary on the futility of hoping for "normal"?
12/23/2020 07:17:20 am
Makes sense. For me it's an occupational hazard of being a historian. It's also a way of paying attention to what's going on while adding a bit of distance or detachment. Your "superstitions" are pretty justified, I believe. I am curious about what will happen next, and like to let imagination play. In 2020, my imagination keeps falling short of what actually happens.
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I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.