OP-ED: Zombies, cicadas and UFOs: There’s nothing we can’t handle after this year of COVID-19

Tricia Bishop
The Baltimore Sun (TNS)
Cameron Tringale takes photos of the cardboard cutout golf fans after hitting his tee shot on the 18th hole during the second round of the Genesis Invitational in Pacific Palisades, California, on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

They’re not locusts, but they might as well be. Billions of beady-eyed cicadas digging their way out of the soil in 15 Eastern states this spring — after 17 years of creepily tunneling around underground — definitely feels like a biblical-type plague on the horizon. A plague on top of the plague we’re already in, that is.

The insects aren’t even the only thing we have to worry about emerging from the ground after this long, bleak pandemic winter of our discontent. The walking dead are also making a comeback this year, or so we’re told. Nostradamus, that 16th century French astrologer who made predictions in poem form for fun, prophesied a zombie apocalypse in 2021, according to those who are in the know about this sort of thing (aka: internet posters).

That explains why the Zombie Preparedness guide developed by the Centers for Disease Control is making the rounds again online. Yes, you read that right — “again.” It turns out there’s been a Zombie Preparedness page on the CDC site since at least 2011.

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But while the self-described “tongue-in-cheek campaign” (which includes such helpful advice as “pick a meeting place for your family to regroup in case zombies invade your home”) got some attention when it debuted a decade ago, its time is clearly right now.

Whether it’s murder hornets, mask mandates, pantless office meetings (until Jeffrey Toobin ruined that) or hundreds of people storming the Capitol on a belief that Satan-worshipping pedophiles were undermining Donald Trump’s presidency, there has never been a more surreal year in modern American history.

Since the first COVID-19 lockdowns one year ago, we have been hit with one unbelievable scenario after another. We don’t even flinch at news of the weird, anymore.

Swarms of insects are set to invade the outdoors, you say? The one place where it’s solidly safe to socialize? Of course they are! Actual locusts have been wreaking havoc in some African countries, destroying crops and livelihoods for months now. Crunching cicadas beneath your feet is nothing compared to that.

Shuttered schools? Yawn.

Ballpark seats populated with cardboard cutouts? Shrug.

Donning plastic face shields and hazmat suits to take a flight? Yeah, yeah.

Capacity limits at Target? People brawling over toilet paper? Virtual funerals, weddings and divorces? Monoliths appearing and disappearing in scenic locales? The Pentagon releasing video footage of UFOs? A “firenado” in California? Mystery seeds mailed from China? The return of the “Christmas star” after nearly 800 years?

Been there, done that.

In the past year, we’ve weathered targeted attacks on the U.S. mail and our democratic election system; watched a white Minneapolis police slowly choke the life out of a Black man on video; seen our U.S. Capitol overtaken by face-painted conspiracy theorists; and, most tragically, endured the COVID deaths of more than half a million people in this country and five times that number worldwide.

What’s a zombie apocalypse after all that?

This past 52 weeks has toughened us. We don’t scare as easily anymore, nor are we as shocked or rattled by small things. We’ve been through big things, and we now know we can roll with a lot more than we ever though possible.

We’ve collectively become more resilient over the past year, even in the face of death, adapting to survive and occasionally even thrive. Take the Kenyan startup (aptly named The Bug Picture) that began harvesting the swarming locusts as protein rich farm feed. Or the thousands who took to the streets to protest police brutality and secure real reforms in state legislatures. Or the first person to come up with the coronavirus pinata. Or the restaurants that turned their parking lots into fresh food markets. Or the rainbow makers who splashed colors in their windows to brighten the view for others.

It’s been a year unlike any other. Getting to today, with three vaccines in circulation and case counts falling, is an achievement. Take a moment to remember that. Then plan your zombie evacuation route. If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that you never know what’s possible.

— Tricia Bishop is The Baltimore Sun’s opinion editor.