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Commentary: The most influential season in the last 120 years

Steve King
Suburbanite correspondent
The Suburbanite

My kids’ eyes would glaze over when I told them about my mom saying that the distinctly remembered the day they “ran electricity” out to their little farm near Sistersville, W. Va., in the early 1920s.

My kids had no idea what “ran electricity” meant. It was impossible for them to envision.

But to my mom, her 10 brothers and sisters and their parents, they understood it fully. It was a big deal indeed. It was shocking – probably literally and figuratively, while electricians learned on the fly – how much that affected their lives not just then, but for years to come. It changed everything.

A century later, the coronavirus has done the same thing, changing everything and shocking us in a way that, in the here and now, is almost completely negative but may end up being somewhat positive if it forces us to make needed changes in the way we think and act.

Whatever happens from here on out with the coronavirus, though, it is already a foregone conclusion that COVID-19 and the pandemic it has caused is the most influential and impactful non-military event that has affected this country on the home front not just this year or this decade or even this century, but rather in the modern era, say since 1900.

Nothing else comes close, not even electricity.

It is the biggest story of every day, even before the day starts. It is the 800-pound elephant in the room that has garnered our attention 24/7 since mid-March – five long months ago, for goodness sake – and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, it seems to be gathering steam, destroying everything and anything in its path, whether it be schools, summer functions and holidays or sports. Just line that, gone in an instant, being chewed up and spit out.

We can’t see the coronavirus – it’s the silent killer, as it were – but it can see us, and track us down – all of us, no matter who or what we are -- like easy prey even when we put down our guard – our masks – for even a few brief moments at just the right, or wrong, time.

I’m guessing that Time magazine’s annual “person” of the year for 2020 is already the coronavirus. Everyone – and everything else – can go home. The competition is over.

The new normal? It doesn’t really exist anymore, for it changes not only by the day but by the hour when some other aspect of our lives we never thought about has been transformed.

Indeed, get the word “normal” out of your heads for a while, even a long while and perhaps for good. For what was, isn’t anymore. It has been shoved back into a corner, possibly never to see the light of day again.

So, then, the coronavirus is the story for all-time. But the most significant sidebar story will be about how we defeat it and adapt to this new world it will leave behind.

The species that can’t adapt to changes will not survive. It – we -- would become like electricity, a real difference-maker back in the day but now not making any difference at all.

Let your own eyes glaze over with that thought.