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EDITORIAL: Our rush to 'normal'

The Dispatch Editorial Board
Principal Michael Snedden welcomes students to York Suburban Middle School as they return for the first time in six months following the COVID-19 shutdown, Wednesday, August 19, 2020. Sixth and ninth grade students started a day earlier than the rest of the district due to moving up to bigger schools.
John A. Pavoncello photo

COVID-19 is here to stay and we can thank our rush to recapture "normalcy" for prolonging the national disaster. 

Working parents are tired, and the shortcomings within the country's child care infrastructure all but required students to return to classrooms

Infection rates in U.S. college towns have exploded as universities — especially big, underfunded state institutions — had to choose between revenue and public health.

Patrons are flocking to Lincoln Speedway in Adams County, where spectators and owners alike want to party like it's 2019. 

Pennsylvania's governor, politically bruised following his shutdown orders in March, has adopted a hands-off approach in recent months as his angst-ridden constituents do their best to ignore basic medical advice and their responsibility to their neighbors.

And the country's ruling political party wants to talk about anything other than 180,000 dead Americans ahead of November's presidential election. 

After decades of rejecting scientific evidence deemed remotely uncomfortable to anyone in power, Americans were primed to flub this moment.

Now, South Western School District is closed for a week because of an outbreak after reopening just days ago. And it won't be alone. 

York Hospital is shuttered to most visitors after August brought a new wave of cases to York County.

Lincoln Speedway is offering tributes to Barry Skelly, a 79-year-old vendor at the track who this past month died of the coronavirus, without mentioning his cause of death.

Leaders of the state's high school athletics leagues have, somehow, convinced themselves that children can play tackle football amid a global pandemic that's sickened more than 25 million worldwide and killed almost 900,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

It's becoming increasingly clear that a sizable proportion of Americans either hope to wish away COVID-19 or are willing to sacrifice others if it means getting their "normal" lives back.

If nothing else, the coronavirus has offered the U.S. a mirror from which to reflect on itself. The view isn't pretty.

We're a selfish, petulant people who lack the basic skills required to glean fact from fiction and straight-talk from snake oil. 

We inhabit a zero-sum world where the most reasoned pursuit of the common good is rejected should it require a modicum of individual sacrifice or discomfort.

We're a Hobbesian nightmare: Nasty, brutish and gate-crashing Walmart in Springettsbury Township because it requires patrons to wear masks. 

And that's perhaps the saddest aspect of our collective desire to "return to normal," a goal that, in reality, probably isn't feasible, anyway.

"Normal" America was an economically broken, politically corrupt gaggle of 330 million that, by and large, rejected civic duty and venerated cynical self-interest.

And, seemingly, everyone can't wait to get back to it. 

John Dahl of State College protests statewide shutdowns during a Reopen PA rally in Harrisburg Friday, May 15, 2020. About one thousand protesters participated at the rally in front of the capitol building. Bill Kalina photo