I never was a fan of the “hair bands” of the 80’s, like Poison, Cinderella, or Motley Crue. However, I must admit a soft spot for schmaltzy pop songs from that era, the kind you’d often hear in the soundtracks of rom-coms or teen-centric films. For example, I still love “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “Waiting for a Star to Fall,” and “I Can Dream About You” (Go ahead. I know you’re humming it.). But my favorite of all in this genre is “King of Wishful Thinking” by the English duo Go West, which was featured on the soundtrack of my wife’s favorite movie of all-time Pretty Woman.
This song has been on my mind of late primarily due to what seems to be a sort of metaphorical pandemic of wishful thinking in the middle of a literal pandemic of Covid-19. Such thinking has had and continues to result in some very real and dire ramifications for the many who have been infected by Covid-19 and who will experience long-lasting and deleterious consequences to their health. More significantly, the more than 210,000 and still-growing number of Americans who have succumbed to the disease and the one million+ deceased worldwide have simply run out of wishes.
This proclivity for wishful thinking had long infiltrated the White House and has now culminated in the President’s contraction of the viral disease that has proven often to be deadly for folks in his age bracket who possess his comorbidities. Even more tragic and possibly unforgivable is the fallout of his personal wishful thinking that Covid-19 would simply go away. I’m honestly not trying to make a political statement. Regardless of my or your attitude toward the President’s job performance, it’s undeniable that his willful naivete has led to such wrongheaded declarations as, “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle. It will go away.” That was on February 28. Certainly, he wears the crown reserved for the King of Wishful Thinking.
The sad reality is that it hasn’t gone away, and many epidemiolgists are warning of dramatic increases in the number cases as we move increasingly indoors in response to cooler weather. The President’s flippancy regarding the disease has certainly contributed to many now-deceased individuals assuming a lax attitude toward their own risk of contraction, and they have paid for it with their lives. The examples are numerous and easily found.
Currently, the NFL, as many college football programs have already, is being forced to come facemask-to-facemask with their own wishful thinking regarding their ability to ward off the virus as the number of infected employees climbs, causing postponements and cancellations of scheduled games and gamblers and fantasy football team owners to scramble. What a tragedy!
Similarly, many school districts with the bewildering support of various health departments have completed some form of new math and come up with a measure of an acceptable contraction rate (although they’ll not use that phrase or admit to making that measurement) that allows them, in seemingly good conscience, to mandate a return to full attendance despite the fact that such a return will render their own social distancing recommendations all-but-impossible in many cases, including, by the way, my own classroom. In so doing, they readily admit that there will be a spike in infections. I imagine they must sit back and wishfully pray that none of the victims who will be impaled on this predicted spike die or pass the virus on to others who die.
I’m not dismissive regarding many people’s insistence on a return to normalcy. I get it. Their arguments are legitimate and weighty. But I also know there’s still much we don’t know about this virus, and regardless of the President’s wishful prognostications, we are still a long way from possessing an effective vaccine and a sufficiently inoculated population. Nor am I ignorant of the economic pain the necessary response to Covid-19 has and continues to cause. I am, however, of the admittedly pollyannaish belief that we should always error on the side of safety and the preservation of human lives.
If, however, we lived in a society that hadn’t been allowed to so denigrate the role of government in the lives of its citizens and that wasn’t so crippled by partisan politics, this would be the sort of once-in-a-century emergency situation that would allow for the government to intervene on a massive scale and to provide the relief necessary to tide over its citizens, small businesses, and corporations in an appropriate, not a one-size-fits-all manner. But, now who’s getting lost in his wishful thinking?
In English grammar, the subjunctive is one of three moods expressed by verbs. The subjunctive mood is used to express wishes, desires, or suggestions. In its spirit I’d like to end this essay by sharing my wish that we all come out healthy on the other side of this pandemic. I truly desire that those in positions of leadership will move cautiously in the attempt to return society to pre-Covid-19 normalcy (whatever that is). Finally, until then, I suggest we all don our masks and maintain proper social distancing, even – no especially – if one happens to live or work in the White House.
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