Covid Memory Gaps

Lawrence “Mack in Texas” Hall (Rated G)

A child in the second grade who has built himself (the pronoun is gender-neutral) a good vocabulary, reads little chapter books, is more adept than his parents at working all those little electronic boxes that light up and make noises, is making the first rudimentary efforts at team and solo sports, doesn’t have to be reminded to feed the dog, and can tell you why Randolph Scott is far cooler than Buzz Lightyear might be missing this part of his development: he doesn’t remember a time when there weren’t face masks and nervous and sometimes angry discussions about Covid, immunizations, symptoms, isolation, and what’s not available at the grocery store this week.

And yet, fifty years from now he might not remember the Covid at all.

Does anyone remember the Hong Kong ‘flu of 1968-1970? Some 100,000 Americans died from it and perhaps 1,000,000 worldwide  [1968 Pandemic (H3N2 virus) | Pandemic Influenza (Flu) | CDC] yet it is now forgotten. A child who was seven in 1972 is now 58, and the Hong Kong ‘flu doesn’t exist for him.

Despite books and films and archives of source materials, history sometimes disappears, often by accident.

When I’m wheezin’ on the treadmill I make the dullness of exercise go better by watching DVDs of The Bob Newhart Show, Gilligan’s Island, The Prisoner, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and other oldies, all products of the era and all without any mention of Viet-Nam, Laos, Cambodia, freedom marches, or the Civil Rights Act – to young moderns these things simply don’t exist.

In The Bob Newhart Show Bob makes a few oblique references to being in the Army during the Korean war but otherwise Korea, too, is invisible in pop culture.

Certainly the news of the era can be found by digging through the InterGossip, but the reality is that a child or adult finds Hogan’s Heroes more interesting and more available than The Mills of the Gods (1967, The Anderson Platoon (1967), Winter Soldier (1972), Hearts and Minds (1974), and others.

News broadcasts and documentaries from the 1960s and 1970s are not censored by that mythological Deep State (shudder); they are freely available. They are also freely ignored.

Last year a few fictional television series made some effort to be timely by having the characters in masks, but this was only briefly. When in fifty years a new generation watches old episodes of N.C.I.S., L. A. Law, Hawaii 5.0, or anything else in production now they won’t see masks or be aware of anything Covid.

This is not some sort of plot or conspiracy; it’s just that guns and explosions make more interesting television than face masks and nasal swabs, even when a disease such as the Hong Kong ‘flu kills more people than some wars.

As for our seven-year-old, someday he will be free not simply of masks but of hearing about masks. We can hope, however, that he will not forget the challenges of some of his formative years. Vaccinations for this and that in this nation date back as far as the war against England [How Crude Smallpox Inoculations Helped George Washington Win the War – HISTORY] and will continue, but I look forward to making a bonfire of the masks.

Nota Bene – I am the only man in America who doesn’t know a thing about the Covid.

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