Lots of people dared to hope that 2021 would bring a return to normal. What is normal? Well, there’s a lot of opinions on that. For some, it’s just life before coronavirus. For others, it’s pre-Trump. For Cockburn, it would be life before the internet, or perhaps before the invention of the printing press.
Anyway, the point is that all of those hopes are useless. We may be leaving coronavirus hell only to enter a fresher hell with even worse musical numbers. On the Wednesday night edition of The Late Late Show, James Corden teamed up with Ariana Grande and Marissa Jaret Winokur to sing ‘No Lockdowns Anymore.’
For those who don’t recognize the tune, it’s based on ‘Good Morning Baltimore’ from Hairspray. But somehow, Corden’s version manages to be even more garish than the one from the movie with John Travolta in a fat suit and drag. It’s all there: jokes about bottomless brunch mimosas. Netflix’s Bridgerton. Unironic reverence for Anthony Fauci (peace be upon him).
Besides the ‘comedy’ aspect that makes Cockburn wish for a revival of Puritan bans on mirth, the entire song and dance is absurd for other reasons. For well over half the country, ‘no lockdowns anymore’ has been the mantra for several months. Texas governor Greg Abbott opened his state 100 percent all the way back in March. The Washington Post shrieked that Abbott’s decision was ‘reckless’ and ‘throwing a match on kindling.’ Yeah… about that. Florida’s Ron DeSantis banned local COVID restrictions in his state in May. Yet even now, Florida and Texas both have COVID death rates below the national average. South Dakota literally never had a lockdown or a mask mandate — and it still managed to have 25 percent fewer deaths per capita than New York or New Jersey.
But The Late Late Show blunders in another direction as well. The government lockdowns may be over (for now), but the lockdown in the head will last far longer for millions of people. Last week, Stephen Colbert released his own musical number, ‘500 Vials,’ expressing the perpetual angst of COVIDholics who, despite already receiving a vaccine, don’t believe it will work unless everybody else also receives it. Why? Um…science.
In Slate’s Care and Feeding column, a mother wrote in this week in terror over her daughter’s desire to attend an arts-themed summer camp after a hellish year of Zoom school:
‘My own kid is of course vaccinated (why would we not partake of this freaking medical miracle?) as is the rest of my family, but we are surrounded by people who aren’t. I have let her socialize with the few kids she knows whose parents have had them vaccinated, so I’m not keeping her locked up! It’s just that we are surrounded on all sides by anti-vax, science-denying conspiracy theorists. And while she would be much less at risk than the kids at camp who are not protected by the vaccine — she’s 95 percent protected, they are 0 percent protected – there is still a risk to her that doesn’t seem worth taking.’
Slate quickly agreed that the woman’s daughter should be locked up, perhaps indefinitely, in the name of safety.
‘You are not being ridiculous,’ columnist Michelle Herman replied. ‘If the camp is not requiring that all attendees be vaccinated — and, good lord, not requiring masks either — then you should not let her go.’
So much for the ‘freaking medical miracle’.
No lockdowns anymore? Hardly. Everybody may be going outside again. But for the cloistered class from Brooklyn to Georgetown and Seattle to Santa Monica, COVID hysteria and moral superiority filled a void that, with Donald Trump out of office, can’t be filled by anything else. Until that something else appears, the lockdown of the mind will continue forever.