This week the country turns 244 years old, and I gotta say, it’s starting to show its age. There’s some wear and tear around the edges. Its residents are doing this weird step out, step back in, step out, put on a mask, avoid people, but wave enthusiastically on the street as you dive across the asphalt to dodge them kind of thing.
America is suffering from a deadly strain of virus, but it also seems to be suffering from a deadly strain of… stupidity.
For instance, a Tennessee police department posted a warning on Facebook for people to not flush drugs down the toilet lest the gators downstream ingest it and become super hyper.
Given the state of our country right now, news of the meth gators seemed almost anticlimactic. It turned out to be a joke. Jokes are fine, but keep in mind this is the one year we would all believe it! So please rethink your jokes, and the timing of said jokes. If you must, maybe use a more mythical creature, like a meth-Gorgon from the Upside Down.
Then there’s Tuscaloosa, Ala., where people are apparently throwing COVID-19 parties. They’re competitions. An infected person goes to the party, they hobnob, and then the first person who gets a positive test in the next few days wins money.
And then there’s Vanilla Ice, who was set to perform a giant Fourth of July concert in Austin. He wanted to return to the ′90s where, “We didn’t have coronavirus, or cellphones, or computers.” I’m not sure a packed arena of screaming people is the best way to return to a time without the coronavirus. Also, I spent my time in the ′90s dressed as a lumberjack with bangs of steel. Maybe there’s a reason why we can’t go back. (Side note, Vanilla Ice thought better of this when he saw the rising case count. Concert is off.)
Now that I don’t have to worry about meth gators or Vanilla Ice concerts, I’ll settle in for six straight days of torture... for my dog. Did you know we spend a billion dollars on fireworks every July? Maybe we should pool that money for dog therapy. My dog has the same reaction every year. “What is this? Why do you hate me?” Then he runs down the street naked screaming, “We’re all gonna die!”
But it’s not all stupid out there. It’s lovely to see all the masks. I never thought I would describe face masks as “lovely,” but here we are. It’s a sign of respect, not only for the awful virus (which demands respect), but for your fellow man. It’s a message that we are in this together.
I walk my neighborhood a lot. I see younger people delivering groceries to the elderly. I see people having conversations outdoors, practicing social distancing. I see people mowing lawns for others who are sick.
So, we have to wear masks. Maybe if we just start to think of it as normal, we’ll get through with our sanity, our morals, and our love for fellow human beings still intact. Maybe that’s something the Founding Fathers meant when they spoke of “a more perfect union” — emphasis on union.
I could really go for normal right now. As Jean-Luc Picard would say, “Make it so.”
So this Fourth of July, I’ll celebrate this weary country, not because it’s where I would want it to be, but because there are signs of hope everywhere. America always has been a resilient bugger.
Brodi Ashton is a New York Times best-selling author who lives in the Salt Lake City area. She’s also an occasional columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.