I write to you from my home when I would ordinarily be at work. But all the school districts in my immediate area are closed until April 6th. Indianapolis Mayor, Joe Hogsett, ordered all of the schools in Marion County (home to million people) closed and has banned any large gatherings. Our state’s fabled high school basketball tournament has been canceled. When the state of Indiana cancels our high school basketball tournament, you know it’s serious!
So here I sit with not much more to do than think and write.
The last time in my memory that the world seemed to shut down like this was in the days that followed the 9.11.01 terrorist attacks. In the wake of that awful event, at least one good thing came of it; we all seemed to put politics aside and leaned on one another for support. In some of our darkest moments, it felt pretty good to be an American. With the Corona Virus madness, I don’t sense that kind of unity. Instead, everyone is spending more time on social media and pointing fingers of blame or complaining about how things are being handled or how people are reacting to it. Maybe social media has stripped away much of our ability to unite.
But I’ve been sitting here alone thinking about this new buzz phrase: Social Distancing. I had never heard the term until the last few days as we’ve been instructed how to best keep ourselves from spreading, or being susceptible to, the Covid-19 virus–don’t get too close to people–don’t touch them–avoid crowds–and so on. It’s such a benign, sterile little phrase; social distancing. I guess that’s the point. But it occurs to me that social distancing will come much easier for some than for others. People like me, for instance, will hardly bat an eye. I have been cultivating my social distancing skills since my teens. I am predisposed to self-isolation. I am, by nature, extremely introverted. Because of a natural shyness and some acquired insecurities, I have to work hard not to be socially distant. If I always gave into my first instinct, I’d be a virtual recluse. I’ve been known to be a thousand miles away while sitting in a room full of people. I’ve also been known to flee from a room full of people at the slightest hint that we might be expected to mingle with people we don’t know. It’s something I’ve battled my whole adult life. I’ve gotten much better, but it’s still a daily struggle. Social distancing will be a piece of cake for me.
But there are many on the other side of the spectrum from me who crave a large social network. I fear they may be crawling out of their skin after a few days of practicing social distancing. Yet, in some ways, I believe the age of Trump has prepared most of us for this new phenomenon.
Who among us, on either side of the political aisle, has not been “ghosted” by old friends? That’s another new term to me. It’s the process by which you slowly realize that you have been cut out of the life of a former friend or circle of friends. The term ghosted seems to have gained widespread popularity in the Trump era. It’s little wonder considering the unparalleled level of polarization that Trump brings to the national table. If you aren’t sure if you’ve been ghosted or not, check through your social media friends list and look for some of the names you haven’t heard from in a while. There’s a good possibility that you won’t find them because they’ve ghosted you. And I don’t want to come off as too pious here, I’ll readilly admit that I have ghosted my fare share of folks, too.
There may be no place that’s been better prepared for social distancing than American churches. In the age of Trump, there has been an almost visible layer of spiritual lysol hanging between politically progressive and conservative church-goers. Both sides see the things the other side supports on social media and both are incredulous that people who calls themselves Christians can see the world like that. Once in a while, someone will break through the spiritual lysol barrier and call out the other on some post or another (that’s a quick way to get ghosted) but usually, they just shake their heads in disappoinment and scroll on, opting for social distancing instead.
Yes, in the last four years, I’m afraid we’ve all recieved pretty good training for social distancing.
These are strange times, indeed.
Here is a song I wrote about social distancing. Give it a spin if you like.