The inevitable cruelty of getting back to normal – COVID-19

So, we’re all stocked up, or as much as we can be without joining the hordes of hoarders. We’re starting the first day of our first week of social isolation. I’ve gotten over my first and second waves of anxiety. I’ve accepted the fact that we’re going to see a lot of deaths from COVID-19. I expect that future investigations will discover that there have already been many deaths from this disease that were unrecognized because no one had a way to test for SARS coronavirus 2. We’ll likely be able to trace a spike in pneumonia- and heart failure-related deaths starting back in early February.

Much of the economy is on hold, and I expect that we’ll be in a recession for at least the next year as a result. But I’m gradually growing less afraid that we’re going to see a worldwide depression. But that change from my earlier fear doesn’t gladden my heart much. The change is due to thinking back on previous threats and how we’ve incorporated them into our lives. As financial commentators phrase it, we ‘price it in.’

What I’m suggesting is that faced with the threat of worldwide economic depression, massive job losses, & all of the fallout that comes with a downturn, people will just start living their lives again. Yeah, I’m proposing that we will just start accepting a 1, 2, or 3% death rate from C19.

At first, the news of so many deaths will captivate our attention, and 80 or 90 out of every 100 news headlines will be about the toll the pandemic is taking. Then gradually you’ll see it diminish to a scorecard at the end of the news broadcast, the way that the TV news when I was a boy would report the day’s casualty and KIA numbers from Vietnam.

People will return to work. People will start going to clubs & bowling alleys and church services.

And we’ll keep getting sick, and a percentage will die, but the economy won’t shut down.

I’m basing this prediction on past behavior. In the 1960s, 55,000 Americans a year died in car wrecks. During the peak of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 90s, more than 200,000 people a year died. In the last decade, gun deaths have been a major killer in the US. In 2017, there were more than 37,000 shooting-related deaths. Every year, there are between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths from influenza, and we can’t even convince some people to get vaccinations.

Eventually, I expect, we’ll develop some herd immunity and the lethality rate will drop.

But the really sad — and even cruel — reason that we’ll go back to business as usual is because the highest percentages of deaths from C19 are likely to be among the elderly, the poor, and folks who have preexisting conditions. Those people are already handily ignored by the more fortunate among us.

‘Bigotry’ vs ‘Racisim’

If you’ve ever wondered why some folks differentiate between the apparent synonyms ‘bigotry’ and ‘racism,’ here’s why I make that distinction: Anyone can be bigoted, but racism is built in to our social structure.

My guess is that most adults have some strain of bigotry in them, controlled or not, recognized or not. This isn’t to excuse ourselves. I believe that I have a responsibility to recognize my own bigotry and to try to overcome it. I hope that most people feel the same way.

Here’s how bigotry is defined:

  • n. The attitude, state of mind, or behavior characteristic of a bigot; intolerance.
  • n. The character or mode of thought of a bigot; obstinate and unreasonable attachment to a particular creed, opinion, practice, ritual, or party organization; excessive zeal or warmth in favor of a party, sect, or opinion; intolerance of the opinions of others.
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Here’s how racism is defined in the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition:

  • n.  The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.
  • n. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.
  • n. The belief that each race has distinct and intrinsic attributes.
  • n. The belief that one race is superior to all others.
  • n. Prejudice or discrimination based upon race.

Based just on the dictionary definitions, you could say that racism is a particular sort of bigotry.

However, when I talk about racism in America, I’m usually talking about institutional racism or systemic racism, where things like laws, social norms, corporate regulations, habit, convenience, and tradition lead to discrimination against Black people (see also: systemic misogyny).

Systemic racism is based so much in the foundations of American life as to be invisible to white folks here. I’m guessing that it’s a lot less invisible to Black folks.

This kind of racism can lead to situations where individuals with no ingrained racial bigotry can unknowingly support highly racist structures. These individuals would probably be outraged if anyone pointed it out to them. “I don’t hate Black people,” they might say or think. “How on earth can anyone call me racist?”

I used this example recently when discussing this topic with an acquaintance. Imagine a law firm where every lawyer is white. You look at the corporate bylaws, and see that there is nothing obviously racist there. You listen to the conversations among the lawyers, and none of them say obviously bigoted phrases. So; where is the racism?

Then you look at the hiring practices of the firm. They tend to select recent graduates of certain colleges. Those colleges in turn select students mainly from certain high schools, which all tend to be exclusive private schools in wealthy towns. The hiring managers also rely heavily on recommendations of current and past members of the firm.

The entire selection process may as well be a ‘white filter’ that leads almost inevitably to the situation you see in the firm; no diversity at all. The various levels of this filter (town, school, college, legacy hires) were very likely set up by bigoted people with very strong biases toward helping along only white students and white graduates and white job candidates, possibly so long in the past that no one now remembers them. But their influence is as strong as the concrete and granite foundations of the elite schools they founded.

If you’re ever confused by something about racism you see on social media, for instance seeing someone write that ‘Black people can not be racist,’ when you’ve personally known bigoted Blacks… It’s likely that the writer is using the word ‘racism’ the way I’m defining it in this post.

Fruit and nut oatmeal bars

I made these today and I am almost certain that I’ll want them again, so I’m writing up my notes before I forget what I did.


  • 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (tsp) baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Half cup sugar
  • Three fourths cup of old-fashion oatmeal (retain for later)
  • Half cup of honey (or skip the sugar and use a full cup of honey)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Good dash or two of cinnamon
  • One and a half cups of cooked steel cut or pinhead oatmeal
  • Half cup chopped walnuts (or preferred nuts)
  • Half cup raisins (or other dry fruit)
  • Half cup chopped prunes (optional)


Cook the steel cut oats as per the instructions. While the oats are simmering, you can work on the rest of the recipe. I found that I had to let the oats sit a bit to absorb excess water; you may want to try reducing the amount of water a bit from what the instructions say. I’m very much a newbie in the kitchen, so if you’re a quick worker, you may want to start the oats a bit earlier so that they’re ready when you need them.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.

Measure a half cup each of nuts and raisins; chop prunes to make a half cup. Set aside for a moment.

In a larger bowl, mix the eggs, oil, cooked oatmeal, honey, and vanilla. Set aside.

Gradually add the dry mixed ingredients to the larger bowl, stirring well to blend them with the wet ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Once your batter is smooth and well mixed, fold in the fruit and nut mixture.

Add small amounts of the dry old-fashioned oats to the mix until it reaches a firmer consistency; it will flow all over the cookie sheet otherwise.

Prepare your cookie sheet as you normally would (we use parchment paper, which makes this super easy), if you’re planning to turn any of the batter into cookies. I made a dozen medium cookies and still had plenty of batter for the bars I was aiming for.

Use a tablespoon or medium cookie scoop to portion out the batter onto a cookie sheet (9-12 cookies per sheet). Bake for about 13 minutes, or until the cookies start to firm up and begin to brown.

While the cookies are in the oven, pour the rest of the batter into a 9-inch round or square baking pan. When the cookies are done, take them out and put the baking pan into the oven. Cook the bars for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the center dry.

Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool. Store them in an airtight container, or freeze for later.

When the bars are cooked, cool the entire cake for at least 20 minutes before cutting into bars. Wrap the bars individually for ease of taking for your lunch or breakfast.


NOTE: I adapted this recipe from one on “Real Food Real Deals:”