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Ferolie

I like to joke that March 11 was the day Rudy Gobert shut down the world.

That reference to the French NBA All-Star whose very public contraction of COVID-19 – back when that was not yet a household word – is a mild exaggeration of his role in a sudden, frightening change in life as we know it.

We all have different memories of that week, but the moment I found out the NBA had suspended its season indefinitely – perhaps costing the Bucks a title – was the big shock. It made it all real and very uncomfortable for me.

Looking back at what seems like eons ago, we now know a massive adjustment in our lifestyles was inevitable. The notion that we would be back to normal in a couple of weeks is as darkly comical as Gobert thought he was being that week, when he touched every microphone in a press conference to mock some people’s panic.

One basketball player didn’t cause this all, and neither did Republicans, the Chinese government, Bill Gates or bar-hopping college students. This was climate change, not a heat wave.

And how well we adapt to this new world will depend on whether most of us put aside our anger and frustration and work together to accept our new reality.

Whether you believe what we’ve been through the past year is irreversible and catastrophic or temporary and inconvenient is probably similar to your outlook on the likelihood that most of us will eventually contract some variant of this coronavirus.

Either way, it’s clear our lives never will be the same.

At minimum, some of us never again will go to the grocery store without a mask or step out in public without hand sanitizer, and we’ll do much of our shopping for basic necessities online. In many sectors of society, such as the healthcare industry, some COVID-19 protocols might be permanent.

Video calls, for both work and happy hour, have become an integral part of our lives. Many of us will never work full time in an office again.

Like most people, I was wrong about a lot of things early on when it comes to COVID-19. But one suggestion I made almost exactly a year ago still appears to be coming true: It’s our boll weevil.

Just like that 19th century bug infestation that forced the South to turn its cotton-centered economy on its head, this transition has come with pain, and for many people, much, much worse.

For my family, COVID-19 disrupted the hugely successful cancer treatments my wife’s mother was undergoing in Mexico and almost assuredly began her rapid, possibly irreversible decline in health.

More than a half-million Americans, and millions around the world, have died. Many more have been seriously scarred either by the disease, the shutdown or the recession that has accompanied it all.

Nobody really is unscathed, except possibly the fortunate few who were in a position to profit handsomely from the change in our economy, and most of them likely have had personal losses of some sort.

But just like the boll weevil, our coronavirus crisis has ushered in a new era, and the permanent changes it has brought are something kids will study in school for decades.

Among the good results are that it’s created some equity by forcing us all to be early adopters and making schools provide access to the necessary technology and internet for video. It’s also likely had a permanent reduction in vehicular traffic and greenhouse gas emissions.

It still mostly sucks, and as tempting as it has been to demonize everyone who disagrees with our priorities, nobody is really to blame. It can be hard for many of us to accept that.

For the first few weeks of the crisis, when we seriously thought hunkering down would make it disappear, we heard the phrase, “We’re all in this together” so much it became nauseating. It then became an ironic sore spot when numbers kept rising and we couldn’t agree on how to handle it.

While I certainly never want to relive March and April of 2020, there was still hope those days that we come out of it more united. That feels like fantasy now, but there’s still a little hope for it once the worst of this is over.

When the pain and rawness subside, we can either try our best to understand one another or we can stay angry and hurt and point fingers.

It’s our choice.

Jim Ferolie is the general manager of Unified Newspaper Group.

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